Garda recruitment later and smaller than anticipated

Numbers in Garda will fall significantly before new members graduate

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan. Photograph: Frank Miller

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan. Photograph: Frank Miller

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 15:14

The first class of Garda recruits for five years is to commence training in the autumn when 100 candidates take their places at the Garda College, Templemore.

The intake has been promised by the Government for several years, but a number of pledges on its timing were not honoured.

In the months before he departed office, former minister for justice Alan Shatter had suggested the intake would take place in July and that it may involve up to 150 recruits.

This morning’s announcement by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is a confirmation of the delay that the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) flagged in recent weeks.

Agsi general secretary John Redmond told The Irish Times last week that because the successful candidates would need at least one or possibly two months notice, there was no possibility the intake would take place in the summer months as had been promised.

Ms Fitzgerald has now confirmed that timeline and said the September start date is possible because the funding for the intake has been approved by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howling.

She added the Garda recruitment underlined the Government’s commitment to keep communities safe.

“It is five years since Templemore last saw new recruits entering Garda college, so the intake in September marks an important step forward, both for the Gardai, for the local community in Templemore; and for the country.”

The delay with the recruitment has been well flagged but means the numbers in the Garda force will continue to fall, likely below 12,500, due to the retirements that will take place up to early 2015 when the new class of recruits passes out.

Former garda commissioner Martin Callinan had said he would not like to see numbers fall below 13,000. They are currently already below that at 12,900.

However, acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan suggested at the Public Accounts Committee last week that the force was coping well and numbers had not yet fallen to a level that would cause concern.

She added the loss of 1,500 gardaí in recent years as a result of the recruitment moratorium and retirements had not impacted policing in any way. Indeed, it was a good opportunity for the force to plan how it could be more effective.

The last time Garda recruits were taken into the college was in May 2009. Since then, and despite a multimillion Euro expansion just before the economy fell into recession, the campus has been used for training purposes, but has been largely underutilised or empty.

The new recruits were successful from some 20,000 applicants.

“I understand that An Garda Síochána will shortly be in touch with the first batch of successful candidates to advise them of this offer and to allow them to give adequate notice to deal with any existing commitments they may have,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Since the last batch of recruits were taken into the college, the training programme has changed. Recruits will now be placed into Garda stations on a probationary basis after 34 weeks of training.

And at the end of their two years as trainee gardaí, they will graduate with a BA in Applied Policing.