More than 500 trainee gardaí are to be recruited next year, the Government is expected to announce in the coming days.
The exact number is being finalised in discussions between the Department of Justice, Department of Public Expenditure, and Garda headquarters.
The Irish Examiner understands the figure will be “in excess” of 500.
It is currently unclear how much above that the final number will be, with some estimates suggesting it could be as high as 800.
Garda headquarters has argued for 750 recruits a year, given the level of vacancies and retirements affecting the organisation.
The recruitment is part of a promise in the Programme for Government to bring the strength of the force — currently standing at around 12,800 — to 15,000.
The recruitment campaign factors in retirements, which the authorities estimate at roughly 300 a year, but which are set to hit a “spike” in the coming years.
Some 600 Garda trainees are sanctioned for recruitment this year.
Department of Justice documents show that Garda authorities have called for 750 recruits a year — which, subject to retirement levels, would reach the 15,000 mark by 2021.
Last April, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan supported calls from the Association of Garda Superintendents for 800 recruits to be taken into Templemore College every year.
Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is set to make the announcement in the coming days, most likely to coincide with a recruitment competition on publicjobs.ie.
It is the third recruitment campaign since September 2014, when the then-government restarted the process — the first time since 2009.
Since then, and the introduction of austerity measures, Garda numbers dropped from 14,500 by around 2,000 members — the impact compounded by severe cuts to overtime.
Increases in overtime this year has allowed the gardaí to mount operations prevented under austerity.
Along with Government funding, projections on reaching 15,000 are affected by both retirements and the capacity of Templemore.
In the last five years, retirement levels have ranged from 236 to 436 a year. There were 174 in the first half of this year alone, highlighting a looming “spike in retirements” in the coming years.
While 600 recruits, split up into batches, has been described as the capacity of Templemore, Garda sources have indicated additional space can be rented outside the college.
The authorities are conscious of ensuring the quality of training and supervision, given concerns from accelerated recruitment between 2002 and 2009.
Last July, Ms Fitzgerald said 851 Garda trainees had been recruited since September 2014 and that 354 were planned for the remainder of 2016.
She said 534 had been attested. She said the total strength should reach 13,000 by the end of 2016 — the minimum set by former commissioner Martin Callinan.
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