Shatter says Cabinet has signed off on Garda recruitment
Minister says new intake to start in 2014
File image of Minister for Justice, Equality and for Defence, Alan Shatter, with Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / THE IRISH TIMES
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has secured Cabinet approval to begin recruitment to the Garda and expects the first class of students to enter the Garda College next year after a near five-year break.
However, announcing the development today Mr Shatter was unable to say exactly when the new class would enter the college or how many recruits the intake would involve. He insisted the key issue was he had secured approval for the move from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin. “We are literally starting the process — we are looking at the exact numbers and they are matters to be teased out,” he said.
“We are now at the starting gate for recruitment of new members which will result in new members coming into this college in 2014, which is a very welcome development.”
The last class of students training for the full-time force entered the college in 2009. The public sector recruitment moratorium since then has seen the Garda strength fall from a peak of just over 14,500 to 13,200.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has previously said he did not want to see numbers fall below 13,200. However, because the first new class will not be taken into the college until next year, they will not qualify as full time gardaí until late next year or early 2015, with age-related retirements before then set to bring the full strength of the Garda below 13,000.
Mr Callinan nonetheless welcomed the news that the Cabinet had approved recruitment and that plans would be advanced immediately, including the advertising of posts, to allow the intake next year. “It is very welcome and we look forward to getting our newest members in here as soon as possible,” he said at the college today.
The Garda already has 27,000 applications at varying stages of progression dating back to the period before recruitment was stopped. While just 100 reservists passed out today, the strength of that unpaid and part-time force – including those in training – is now 1,269. Many of those have joined the reserve as a stepping stone towards securing a place in the full-time Garda force.
Mr Callinan was asked about the death at the weekend of Omagh bomb suspect Seamus McKenna, who died after suffering head injuries last Wednesday while repairing the roof of a school in Kilcurry near Dundalk, Co Louth. He said no paramilitary trappings would be permitted at any funerals, although he did not mention Mr McKenna by name.
From Silverbridge, south Armagh, McKenna’s burial will take place in Ravensdale, Co Louth, on Wednesday. It will create a policing flashpoint for the Garda.
Both Commissioner Callinan and Mr Shatter said the discovery of an explosives and weapons haul – which included 15kgs of semtex — in Cloghran, north Co Dublin, the week before last underlined the threat from dissident Republicans.
The find has been linked to the New IRA, an alliance of dissident groups that formed last year. Commissioner Callinan said members of that group were being watched closely by the gardaí with a view to “putting them out of business as soon as possible”.