The strength of the Garda is increasing for the first time as the numbers being recruited exceed those who are retiring.
Official figures show that the Garda strength stood at 12,943 as of December 2016, compared to 12,815 in December 2015.
And a further 149 probationary gardaí yesterday graduated from Templemore Training College, which, depending on retirement numbers since December, should bring the current strength to over 13,000.
Garda numbers have struggled to reach the minimum threshold of 13,000, set by the previous garda commissioner, Martin Callinan, despite the resumption of recruitment in September 2014 after an enforced break of five years.
That decision and government austerity measures saw the strength of the force drop from over 14,500 in 2010 to almost 12,500 at the start of 2016.
Probationary gardaí — which began to go out to garda stations in 2015 — were only cancelling out retirements until well into 2016.
“This is the first time since recruitment began that numbers are beginning to increase,” deputy commissioner John Twomey told the media after the passing-out parade.
“We are currently at just under 13,000 and this time a year ago we were at approximately 12,800. From now, we are growing the size of the organisation.”
He said 840 gardaí have graduated from the college since the embargo was lifted. He said a further 800 are being recruited this year, with the first tranche of 200 entering by end of March.
Last September, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that 3,200 garda were required over the next four years to bring total strength to 15,000, as pledged in the Programme for Government.
Mr Twomey announced that a new competition for garda trainees for next year and beyond would be issued in March or April, with a separate competition for the garda reserves.
Also speaking at Templemore, Joe Nugent, Garda chief administrative officer, said that 140 civilians would be recruited by the summer and a further 360 by the end of the year.
An additional 1,500 would be taken on over the subsequent three years.
The first batch of 140 civilians are expected to free up 50 gardaí from offices to be deployed to the frontline.
Mr Nugent said civilian recruitment would bring in a range of “much-needed professional skills” in areas such as IT, human resources, and finance.
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