Garda numbers are set to drop as low as 12,600, despite the emergence of 300 trainee garda recruits during the year, police representatives have warned.
The strength of the force could fall further depending on the number of gardaí who retire during the year.
The effective strength of 12,600 is 400 below the minimum floor previously set by former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan.
Official figures show there were 12,816 gardaí as of the end of last November.
According to the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, the figure includes 200 gardaí who are taking incentivised career breaks. Many of those left in November and others will go next month.
In addition, 20 gardaí are being seconded to the Department of Social Welfare.
It brings the effective strength of the force to around 12,600.
Furthermore, an average annual retirement figure of 300 to 400 people is not included.
About 200 garda recruits have so far commenced training — 100 last August and 100 in November, with a final 100 being taken in next week. The 300 recruits will undergo eight months of training before being posted to their designated stations in April, September, and October, respectively.
“We have serious concerns at the strength of the force as the year goes on,” said association president Tim Galvin.
“We have lost 200 from incentivised career breaks and another 20 have gone to the Department of Social Protection. They are included in the figure of 12,816.”
He said retirements must also be factored in. “We are probably going to lose 20-30 every month through retirement. That’s an average of 300-400 per year.”
He said it could cancel out the 300 recruits, leaving the force with an effective strength of around 12,600.
“Martin Callinan said he couldn’t run the force unless he had 13,000 — it becomes critical if it gets any lower,” said Mr Galvin.
Mr Galvin said the association met Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last week and liked her attitude: “We put it to her the need to match the retirements at one end with recruitment at the other end — to address the attrition rate. She was positive about that and said she would have a look at that. So that was a good sign.”
Mr Galvin said 125 sergeants had been promoted last July, which had improved shortages at that rank. He said the knock-on effect of the recent 38 promotions of inspectors to superintendents would require the promotion of similar numbers, at least, of sergeants to inspectors.
He expects the promotion of 120 gardaí to sergeant rank this year. He said government plans to start the process as early as possible would not be implemented until July at the earliest.
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