As part of an agreement with the EU and the IMF to cut of the public sector employees, the last government agreed to reduce Garda numbers to 13,000 by the end of 2014, having peaked at 14,500 at the end of 2010.
Addressing 126 garda graduates at the college, Mr Shatter said: “We have a financial envelope in which we have to operate.
“We have 14,300 gardaí in the force ... more than at the height of the troubles in the North and I have absolute confidence in the Garda capacity to meet all obligations they need to meet in the fight against crime and subversion.
“We will get back to a position where we can recruit new trainees to the force at the earliest possible date and I am hoping that we will be in a position to restart that within 18 months.”
The college still provides a variety of courses to all ranks in the force.
Mr Shatter said: “So this college will continue its vital work on garda training, and will continue to be one of the most important institutions in the force.”
On the controversy surrounding the appointment of a political supporter of his, Oliver Connolly, as a Garda whistleblower, the minister said Mr Connolly had been appointed to positions by two previous ministers for justice.
It had emerged after Mr Connolly’s nomination that he had contributed €1,000 to Mr Shatter’s election funds.
Mr Shatter, who trained in Mr Connolly’s law firm, said he was well qualified to fill the position.
“He is appointed for one reason and one reason only, his competence and expertise. If it is appropriate for a PD minister for justice in a Fianna Fáil government to recognise Mr Connolly’s expertise, if it is appropriate that my immediate predecessor some 13 weeks ago recognised Mr Connolly’s expertise, I don’t know how it can be remotely suggested that his appointment to the position of Garda whistleblower, is in anyway a political appointment. It is complete and utter nonsense.”
He said in tabloid journalism, politicians apparently have to be painted as either knaves or fools.
At yesterday’s ceremony, the Commissioner’s medal for best academic student went to Garda Laura Egan, from Terryglass, Co Tipperary; the Gary Sheehan Memorial Medal for best all-round student went to Garda Michael Baugh from Virginia, Co Cavan; and the Templemore Town Council medal for social science studies went to Garda Stephen Fahey from Sligo.