Garda numbers drop below 14,000 for the first time in years

Government committed to achieving strength of 15,000 by 2024 but efforts hampered by several factors

Garda numbers have fallen below 14,000 for the first time in years, despite ongoing efforts to increase recruitment.

There are now 13,995 sworn gardaí. This follows eleven consecutive months of declining numbers. The strength of the force once gardaí who are unavailable for duty are excluded, is 13,756.

The Government has committed to a reaching the goal of 15,000 gardaí by the end of the year. However, it is believed a maximum of 700 new recruits will qualify before 2024, 30 per cent below the target.

High attrition rates in training, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic and increasing numbers of gardaí leaving the force early, have been blamed for the stalled recruitment drive.


To date, frontline garda strength has been increased by the reassignment of almost 900 gardaí from administrative duties.

However it has not been possible to progress this further due to the difficulty in recruiting civilian garda staff to carry out the administrative work, a meeting of the Policing Authority heard this week. Part of the problem is that the country is at “full employment”, said Yvonne Cooke, the Garda’s head of human resources.

A Garda spokesman said the force remains committed to a target of 15,000 members and that there are currently 371 recruits in various stages of training.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris told the meeting that many of those leaving the force are new recruits who “don’t settle into it well”.

“Frankly as well, some of them left because their services in An Garda Síochána were no longer needed and it was best that they go.”

Five thousand people applied for the last recruitment competition but only 300 of these entered the Garda college, 25 per cent short of the target.

Several initiatives are under way to stem the numbers leaving the force before completing training, including allowing potential recruits to try the fitness tests before applying.

“This is so they can learn early on what they might need to do in focusing on their training or healthy eating or whatever it happens to be,” Ms Cooke said.

Other measures aimed at stemming attrition which have already being introduced include videos detailing the fitness tests and outreach to candidates throughout the process to prevent them dropping out, Ms Cooke the Policing Authority.

She acknowledged other police forces are recruiting in Ireland, due to what she said is the quality of recruits available here. It has previously being reported that Australian police forces are among those seeking to recruit Irish people.

In an effort to understand why gardaí are leaving the force early, exit interviews have also been introduced, she said.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times