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Leah Farrell
rank shortage

Garda group calls out failure to recruit gardaí as new intake falls 33% below target for 2023

Statistics released by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) show just 154 recruits entered Templemore yesterday in the latest intake, far short of the 225 target.

LAST UPDATE | 16 May 2023

A GARDA GROUP has attacked efforts by the State to recruit new gardaí as figures show that recruitment this year is almost 33% below this year’s agreed target.

Statistics released by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) show just 154 recruits entered Templemore yesterday in the latest intake, far short of the 225 target.

This follows 134 recruits at last intake in January – the target was 200, meaning the garda organisation is 137 off the 425 target so far in 2023.

Ronan Slevin, the Deputy General Secretary of the GRA, said that 1,000 recruits were promised by year end. The current Garda strength as of today is 14,036 as opposed to 14,491 at the end of 2020 so the number is falling sharply.

“Once again the reality falls far short of the numbers of recruits promised. Put simply, we are facing a garda recruitment and retention crisis which is at an unprecedented scale in this organisation.

“At some stage garda management and government are going to have to address the real elephant in the room and that is why it is so hard to recruit new gardai and keep the members that we have,” he said. 

Slevin said that in March an independent research by the GRA revealed that just 27% of the public regarded a career in An Garda Síochána as an attractive one for themselves or a member of their family.

“This must be extremely concerning for both the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice.

“Our members need better conditions, training, equipment and protection and also a better work-life balance with clearer work patterns and a safer working environment in order to recruit new gardaí and retain the members we already have.

“Our current numbers of gardaí stand at just over 14,000 so the year end target of 15,000 will clearly not be achieved and this is of grave concern to the members we represent,” he said. 

The Journal has looked at the problem of the retention crisis and found an increase in new recruits resigning. 

The numbers increased steadily from 2018 to last year, according to figures obtained by this website as part of an investigation into Garda staff retention. 21 trainees left before their two years of training ended, back in 2018.

That number rose steadily in following years and over 50 trainees quit their position in 2021, according to these figures which were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Previously published figures also show there have been just 24 garda trainees recruited this year, while 38 probationary gardaí have resigned. 

A garda spokesperson said that An Garda Síochána is satisfied that just under 5,000 people applied to become members of An Garda Síochána in the 2023 recruitment campaign, in what is currently a full and very competitive workplace market.

“The panel of candidates who applied during the 2022 campaign has not yet been exhausted and An Garda Síochána continue to process the 2022 applicants through the recruitment process. The 154 trainees who entered the college yesterday were selected from the 2022 campaign,” the spokesperson said. 

The spokesperson said that applicants in the 2023 recruitment campaign will now commence through the recruitment process.

“This provides a strong panel from which An Garda Síochána can select the best candidates and An Garda Síochána looks forward to offering positions to excellent applicants over the coming months.

“An Garda Síochána has also committed to annualised recruitment campaigns going forward to maintain this strong supply of the best candidates to enter the Garda College in order to reach the minimum number of 15000 sworn Garda members and growing further in the coming years,” the spokesperson said. 

A Department of Justice spokesperson said: “The Government is determined to build stronger, safer communities – and a strengthened Garda Síochana is central to that.

“While the Commissioner is responsible for recruitment matters, the Minister for Justice regularly engages with him to monitor the resources needed to drive Garda recruitment.

“The unprecedented €2.14 billion budget in 2023 is allowing for the recruitment of up to 1,000 Gardaí and 400 Garda staff and we are seeing Garda recruits enter Templemore every 11 weeks.”

The spokesperson said 92 recruits entered the Training College in late November, another 132 in February and another 155 earlier this week.

“For the current intake, 53 people who were due to enter the College deferred the taking up of their place immediately but confirmed that they wish to commence training in another intake.

“Combined, that shows for this intake over 200 people took up offers to join An Garda Síochana on the latest intake. This shows a steadily increasing level of recruits into Templemore,” he added. 

The Justice spokesperson added that almost 5,000 people applied to join An Garda Síochana in this campaign and said this is in line with the last pre-Covid campaign in 2019.

The Department said that at the end of March 2023, there were 14,036 Garda members across the country. This represents an increase of almost 10% since 2015 when there were 12,816 Garda members throughout the country.

“These Gardaí are supported by 3,130 Garda staff, which is over 50% more than the number of staff in 2015. This increases the availability of Gardaí to concentrate on frontline policing duties.

“It is important to note that since 2015, almost 900 Garda Members have been freed up from back office duties to front line policing because of civilianisation,” the spokesperson added. 

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