And although numbers at senior level — apart from the commissioner — are still low, female representation has doubled or trebled in most ranks.
Figures show that while the number of male gardaí has dropped slightly in the last 10 years, the number of female gardaí has jumped by almost 52%.
A gender breakdown, supplied by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, shows:
- Females accounted for 26% of the Garda force in 2015, compared to 18% in 2005 and 24% in 2010;
- There were 3,303 female garda in February 2015, compared to 2,180 in December 2005 — a rise of 52%;
- There were 9,460 male gardaí in February 2015, compared to 10,084 in December 2005 — a drop of 6%.
Some 28% at Garda rank are female (20% in 2005). At frontline supervisory level, 16% of sergeants are female (8% in 2005) and 11% are inspectors (6%) — reflecting a doubling in representation at those ranks.
At superintendent level, 9% are female, compared to 3% in 2005 (a trebling in representation), while 11% of chief superintendents are female, compared to 6% in 2005.
Above this rank, females are not represented, apart from commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Currently none of the eight assistant commissioners are female, while the two deputy commissioner positions are filled on an interim basis by two assistant commissioners.
“I think all those figures are reflective of the intake over the years,” Antoinette Cunningham, vice president of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said.
When recruitment was kickstarted she said, back when Michael McDowell was justice minister, the aim was to have women making up a third of the force.
“With 26% of the force female we are well on the way there, we are on target, and you can see from the figures up the ranks there has been an increase in the number of women and that reflects the recruitment,” said Ms Cunningham.
She said women were not represented at assistant commissioner level and above, but added: “I think that will happen, there is no reason not to be optimistic.”
Working as an instructor in the Garda College in Templemore, Ms Cunningham said here are strict policies on bullying and harassment.
She said having a woman as commissioner sent a strong signal to the ranks, particularly to other women: “It’s the confidence it gives. If ‘number one’ is female and if that is what you want, there’s no barrier there.”