There has been a surge in the level of interest expressed in joining the Garda after the latest recruitment process was opened to candidates above the age of 35 years for the first time.
Of the total 6,381 applicants received under the 2024 recruitment round, which began last month, about 2,300 are aged between 35 and 49, who would have been ineligible on age grounds to join the Garda before now.
Garda Headquarters pointed out when the last recruitment process was held 10 months ago, about 5,000 applications were received. Since then, the upper age limit to join the Garda has been increased from 35 to 50 and the allowance payable to recruits in training has also been considerably increased.
Those changes now appear to have had the desired effect as the numbers applying to join the Garda have increased significantly, with an especially strong level of interest from those in the older cohort.
The latest recruitment process closed last Thursday.
“Garda Commissioner Drew Harris commented previously that the entry age limit increase to 50 for this campaign provided the opportunity to people who thought their chance had passed or who were considering a change of career to join An Garda Síochána,” the Garda said on Monday, welcoming the strong level of interest in the recruitment process.
Those who have applied to become Garda members must now undergo a three-stage process before securing an offer of a place on the force. This includes online aptitude tests, competency-based interviewing and fitness testing.
There was concern among senior management that this latest round of recruitment may disappoint as it came so soon after the 2023 recruitment process. Garda management and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, are under pressure to increase the strength of the Garda after sluggish growth last year in the post-pandemic period.
Ms McEntee said the response to the latest recruitment campaign had been “very strong” and she was “delighted” it was about 1,300 higher than last year’s campaign.
“I am particularly pleased at the strong response from people aged between 35 and 50. Well over a third of the applications were in that age group,” she said.
“I have always said that nothing is off the table when it comes to recruitment. We have increased the training allowance and increased the age of entry from 35 to 50. I am determined that An Garda Síochána grows to 15,000 members and beyond.”
The buoyant jobs market in the wider economy is seen as a significant challenge to Garda recruitment. Furthermore, the number of resignations from the Garda have been growing in recent years.
Age-related retirements are set to increase and remain high for the next decade because a generation of Garda members who joined during an accelerated recruitment drive 30 to 40 years ago are all nearing the end of their careers.
While the Government’s aim is to grow the Garda to 15,000 sworn members of the first time in the history of the State, numbers remained doggedly just below 14,000 last year despite recruitment recommencing after the pandemic period.
In spring 2020, the strength of the Garda reached an all-time high of 14,750. However, the pandemic then forced the closure of the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, and recruitment was halted.
Garda numbers fell well below 14,000 in the following two years. Efforts to grow the strength of the force again have been undermined by smaller classes than expected commencing training last year, as well as growing resignations and continuing retirements.
However, the fact the latest recruitment process has generate such a strong level of interest will give rise to optimism that the number of recruits entering training this year will be great than 2023. A Garda statement said the fact 6,380 people had applied to become gardaí proved “becoming a Garda is still high and it’s a job worth doing”.