Garda fleet to fall 25% as 730 cars put off road

There will be around 730 fewer Garda cars by the end of next year compared to 2009 if no extra money is made available in the budget

This will represent a 25% drop in the size of the fleet, falling from a high of over 2,800 vehicles in 2009 to less than 2,100 at the close of 2014.

Garda staff associations said the drastic cuts in the size of the fleet was a “huge concern”.

Figures provided by Justice Minister Alan Shatter show that Garda vehicle numbers dropped by 12% between 2009 and 2012, from 2,814 to 2,474.

It shows some divisions have suffered more drastic falls, including Kerry (-27%), Limerick (-22%), Cork north (-23%), Cork west (-22%), Galway (-22%), Donegal (-21%), and Tipperary (-20%).

And overall numbers will fall even further over the next 15 months, with Garda bosses estimating that 456 vehicles will retire between now and the end of 2014. This would bring numbers to roughly 2,018.

In a reply to Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins, Mr Shatter said an additional €3m was made available towards the end of last year which enabled the force to procure 171 vehicles. He said this brought total investment in the fleet in 2012 to €4m and resulted in 213 new vehicles being procured.

Furthermore, a specific allocation of €5m has been provided for the purchase and fit-out of Garda transport in the current year, equating to around 266 vehicles.

If this number was spread out through the year, it would suggest there might be a further 66 vehicles yet to come on stream.

Barring additional funding in the budget, this will leave the size of the fleet at around 2,084 by the end of next year, a 26% drop on 2009.

Mr Shatter said the €9m was a “very considerable financial investment in Garda transport”. He added: “I will continue to seek to identify the potential for additional funding for the Garda Fleet. This will be contingent on expenditure in other areas.”

Garda cars have to retire once they reach 300,000km for safety reasons. “We are loosing a car a day, which is a serious concern,” said John Redmond, general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

“A big problem is that those heading for 300,000kms are being shuffled around: those with low mileage are moved to high mileage stations, the result is that they are going to reach 300,000kms at the same time. Then, we will have a real crisis — they will have to be grounded.”

He said it was not a matter of putting money to one area — such as vehicles — and not another — such as recruitment — but treating policing as a unique arm of the State.

“Policing a recession is not a luxury. You have to provide an adequate level of policing.”

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