Figures obtained from An Garda Síochána show many parts of the country have experienced a reduction in Garda numbers notwithstanding a slight increase in the overall size of the force.
They reveal that Garda manpower decreased in 15 of the 28 divisions during 2015, including all divisions within the Dublin Metropolitan Region which has the highest crime rate in the country.
There were 75 fewer gardaí in the capital at the end of 2015, compared to 12 months previously, as staff in Dublin’s six Garda divisions fell by 2.1% to 3,491 officers.
The reduction in Garda manpower levels in Dublin came despite the fact that 122 of the 296 newly qualified recruits were deployed to the city in recent months.
Concerns about Garda resources to tackle gangland crime in Dublin have become part of the general election campaign following recent murders in the city.
Garda representative bodies have criticised the announcement of the establishment of a new 55-person armed support unit for Dublin earlier this week as misleading, as the officers are being re-assigned from other parts of the force.
The latest figures on Garda staffing levels show new recruits barely outnumber those who are retiring or resigning and are likely to place further pressure on Fine Gael and Labour over their record on tackling crime and resourcing An Garda Síochána.
Other areas which have seen Garda numbers fall since the start of 2015 include Cork City (-2.8%), Limerick (-1.9%), Galway (-1.6%), Wicklow and Cavan/Monaghan (both -1.5%).
There has been a steady increase in the number of senior gardaí at chief superintendent and superintendent level in the past 12 months, although there has been a sharp drop in the number of middle-ranking officers in the same period.
Figures provided under freedom of information legislation show the overall size of the force rose slightly in 2015 due to increases in staff based at Garda headquarters and National Services, which includes the crime and security section and other specialist divisions such as the Criminal Assets Bureau and Garda National Drugs Unit.
The total size of the force last December was 12,816 compared to 12,799 at the end of 2014 — an increase of 17 officers or a rise of 0.1%.
Some Garda divisions were allocated additional staff last year with the biggest increases in Kildare (+3.7%), Kerry (+3.4%) and Waterford (+2.9%). Other areas where Garda manpower levels grew by between 1% and 2% were Cork West, Kilkenny/Carlow, Clare, Mayo and Wexford.