Garda reservists urged to join full-time force after changes to entry criteria

Reserve Garda members - who are part-time and unpaid - will have dedicated stream in new Garda recruitment process opening next Monday

Older members of the part-time, unpaid Reserve Garda have been urged to apply for full-time jobs on the force, with Garda Headquarters emphasising to them the age for applying to become gardaí has increased from 35 to 50 years.

The encouragement from Garda Headquarters to the older reservists to apply to join the full-time force comes as more “extensions of service” than ever are being granted to retirement-age gardaí so they can continue working.

“In recognition of the training, experience and skills you have attained, a separate recruitment stream is being held for Reserve Garda members,” said the notice sent by Garda Headquarters to reservists this week. It added that serving reservists must meet three criteria to become eligible for the dedicated reserve stream when Garda recruitment is officially opened next Monday.

These include completing their probationary period, performing their reservist role “to satisfactory standard” and serving a “minimum of 120 hours per year for two of the last four years”.


Efforts to shore up, and increase, Garda numbers by offering extensions to retiring gardaí and encouraging reservists into the full-time force come as the strength of the Garda doggedly remained below 14,000 last year. That was despite recruitment having recommenced following a prolonged pause during the pandemic.

Some of the classes of recruits starting in the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, last year were smaller than the intended 200 per intake. Furthermore, resignations from the Garda surged by 50 per cent last year to an all-time high of 164.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris are both under pressure to get Garda numbers back up to pre-pandemic levels, especially given the deterioration in perceived safety in Dublin and growing anti-immigrant sentiment.

As the pandemic began in spring, 2020, Garda numbers reached an all-time high of 14,750. The strength of the Garda fell by 900 members over the next two years as recruitment stopped when the college was forced to close due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Garda numbers were stagnant last year, at just below 13,900 in both January and the end of November. However, the decline in numbers was at least halted in 2023 and the force was now expected to grow this year.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) have both claimed there is a recruitment and retention crisis in the Garda, which has been dismissed by Mr Harris.

The associations say falling Garda numbers have placed extra workloads on their members, They believe the less attractive pensions on offer to those joining the force now, and the urgent need for better training and equipment for gardaí, have all contributed to making policing a less attractive career to pursue.

However, while retaining and recruiting Garda members has become more challenging, senior sources in Garda Headquarters said they were very confident thousands of people would apply to become gardaí when the new recruitment process opens next Monday.

The same sources said the increase in the maximum age of entry, to 50 years, was important for reservists as many joined the reserve years ago and are only now eligible to join the full time Garda because of the age increase.

The recruitment competition starting next week is the first to accept applications from those aged between 35 and 50. It is also the first recruitment campaign to commence since higher training allowances were unveiled by the Department of Justice last October.

While Garda recruits were previously paid a weekly allowance of €184 during their 33-week training period, that has been increased to €305. The Garda and Government is hopeful the age-related changes to the entry criteria and higher allowances will make the Garda a more attractive career option to people in their late 30s and 40s, including reservists.

In reply to queries, Garda Headquarters said the dedicated recruitment stream for reservists – which is effectively a form of affirmative action – had been in place since 2015. It added the full details of the next recruitment drive would become available next Monday.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times