Garda on course to lose 500 members via resignations and retirements by year-end

Garda Representative Association voices fears over ‘recent trend of resignations’ which constitute a ‘real issue’

Resignations and retirements from the Garda are on course to exceed 500 by year-end. Consequently, there is now mounting concern in the force regarding the numbers opting to resign, often after just a few years of service, which has become a pronounced trend rather than a short-term problem, as was hoped.

In the first three months of the year, some 37 members resigned. If that trend continued, as expected, the number of resignations would exceed 150 this year, compared to 24 as recently as 2016

New data from Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, also shows 89 members of the force retired in the first three months of the year. And if the rate of resignations and retirements continued to year-end, the force would lose just over 500 sworn members.

New hires

That is the equivalent of half the 1,000 new recruits Garda Headquarters and the Department of Justice aim to hire this year, though the Garda staff associations do not believe that target will be reached.


“Budget 2022 promised 800 extra gardaí but delivered less than 300. Budget 2023 last September promised an extra 1,000 gardaí this year, yet we will be lucky to recruit 700-800,” said the Garda Representative Association (GRA) in reply to queries.

The association, which represents almost 12,000 rank-and-file members in a 14,000-strong force, said the “recent trend of resignations” was the “real issue”. And while those increases in recent years were off a low base, the numbers were now becoming more notable.

The GRA added while retirements this year are on course to reach about 360 a much higher number, some 800 personnel, could retire by year-end if they wished as they had accrued enough service to qualify for a full pension.

Some Garda sources were concerned numbers retiring could spike later this year and exceed 360, especially if new rosters — to which most members are opposed — are introduced later in the year by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. However, other sources believed a compromise would be reached in the ongoing rosters dispute.

Mr Harris has said while resignations were increasing, the rate of attrition in the Garda was much lower than other police forces in the US and UK and in many parts of the private sector. He added that some of the Garda members who resigned in recent years were those placed under investigation, and some convicted of crimes, but insisted there was not an atmosphere of “doom and gloom” around the work of the force.

Exit interviews

However, he believed society was changing, with a “new world of work” in which many young people did not intend to stay in the same career for life. He said that half of the 108 Garda members who resigned last year had less than five years of service completed, with 15 per cent of the total resigning during their first year on the job.

“Among those who resigned were people who believed they were cut out to be a guard, but who realised after a couple of years they weren’t,” he told delegates at the GRA annual conference in Westport, Co Mayo, last week. “Not everyone is cut out for this work.”

He added that exit interviews would commence shortly, meaning the force would have access to live and ongoing research around the reasons gardaí were resigning. Data from those interviews would be “collated ... to identify issues we can address”.

During the pandemic, recruitment ceased as the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, was forced to close. However, resignations and age-related retirements continued, resulting in a fall in Garda numbers by almost 750 in the last three years; 14,036 at the end of March compared with 14,750 at the end of March, 2020.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times