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not on target

Garda retention: Rise in number of trainees quitting before they qualify as full members

There are more than 300 fewer gardaí in the force compared to two years ago.

THERE HAS BEEN an increase in the number of trainee gardaí resigning before their probationary period ends, new statistics have shown.

The numbers increased steadily from 2018 to last year, according to figures obtained by The Journal 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.

The combined figures show the Government is falling significantly short of its promise to recruit hundreds of new officers each year. The target in 2021 was 800 while 1,000 new gardaí were promised in last month’s Budget. 

There are over 300 fewer gardaí in the force compared to two years ago, according to the latest figures from the Minister for Justice. 

The visible presence of the force has also been impacted, sources said, with a removal of gardaí from response policing – including foot and motorised patrols – to specialist investigation units dealing with domestic violence, drugs and cyber-crime. 

News of the reduction in numbers comes after a series of incidents associated with garda resourcing, as reported by The Journal.

Last month it was reported that widescale crime and anti-social behaviour had increased dramatically on O’Connell Street, Dublin. Retired garda Inspector Tony Gallagher told this website that Operation Citizen, a dedicated patrol in the area, was inadequately staffed. 

We also reported on problems in south Limerick where there was not enough gardaí on Halloween night to respond to serious anti-social behaviour across the Newcastlewest District while they preserved the scene of a fatal road traffic collision. 

Previously, in the summer, it was also reported that similar issues with garda staffing were being experienced in Cork city.  

In September a garda car was rammed in Cherry Orchard, prompting comment from Government and assurances of greater Garda resources to deal with anti-social behaviour in the Dublin suburb. 


The Journal spoke to several sources with knowledge of garda resourcing shortcomings in recent weeks as part of its investigation into the scale of the problem.

These sources said that there is an ongoing shortage of gardaí across various units while they told us that there are also significant problems around recruitment.

A source with direct knowledge of the recruitment process said that although 11,000 people were said to have applied in the recent recruitment drive, State recruitment specialists were finding that people were accepting job offers but not turning up in the Garda college in Templemore to begin their training.

There are no records kept for the reasons for resignation from the force, but anecdotal evidence from well-placed sources points to dissatisfaction among recent recruits with pay and conditions. 

In a Freedom of Information request to An Garda Síochána we asked for statistics on how many recruits were entering training and how many of those recruits were resigning during that training. Recruits under go for 34 weeks of policing studies in Templemore and a serve total of 104 weeks before they qualify fully as gardaí.

Following their attestation at the training college, gardaí are placed in stations where they are classified as probationary gardaí before becoming full members after the 104 weeks. We asked for statistics on how many probationers, since 2018, had resigned. 

We also asked for statistics on the reasons given by these recruits and gardaí for their resignations but no records of this exist as no exit interviews are conducted by Garda management.   

Firstly, the numbers of recruits have dropped significantly from 2018 to present. Our statistics show that in 2018 795 were recruited. 

There were 600 in 2019, 2020 saw 275, in 2021 there were 385 while this year there has been just 24.

Screenshot 2022-11-16 12.15.33 A spreadsheet of recruitment in An Garda Síochána from 2018 to October 2022. An Garda Síochána An Garda Síochána

An Garda Síochána statistics in regard to the resignations of trainee gardaí show the breakdown of gender, the median age and the median months in service. 

While they recruited 24 this year – seven of those recruits have resigned with the average length of service in Templemore being six months. 

Screenshot 2022-11-16 12.15.47 A table showing the breakdown of resignations of trainee gardaí since 2018. An Garda Síochána An Garda Síochána

The next statistics show the resignation of probationers since 2018 along with their gender, median age on resignation and the length of their employment in An Garda Síochána.

Probation for a garda is two years but this can be extended for reasons such as a recruit not meeting the required standard in their training or being under a discipline sanction. This is known as ‘blocking’ in garda slang. 

Among the recruits who resigned before becoming a full member in the almost five years covered by the data, the length of time spent in the organisation ranged from 19 months to to 26 months.

2021 was the worst year for resignations of probationers in the period covered by these figures with 51 resigning. So far this year, up to October 35 probationers have resigned. 

Screenshot 2022-11-16 12.29.15 A table showing statistics associated with the resignation of Probationary Gardaí. An Garda Síochána An Garda Síochána

In an effort to understand the broader problem of resignations across the garda force we obtained from sources a breakdown of those resignations. These statistics have been gathered from multiple sources. 

Among fully qualified officers, the number of resignations from the force by members who had not completed their standard thirty years of service rose from 17 in 2014 to 91 in the year to date. 

In 2015 there were 12, 2016 saw 22, in 2017 there were 36. Since Commissioner Drew Harris took over the top job in garda headquarters there has been an even more dramatic rise. In 2019 there were 63 resignations, 2020 saw 61. In 2021 there were 89. 

Raised in the Dáil

In October Minister for Justice Helen McEntee told the Dáil that 70 new trainees are expected in the Garda College in Templemore November and December this year.

McEntee had said that Covid restrictions had continued to affect recruitment this year while there were suggestions that applicants had failed fitness tests. 

By the end of August this year, the garda organisation stood at 14,282 – a drop of over 300 compared to two years ago.

In 2021 the Garda numbers were 14,369 while at the beginning of September in 2020 there were 14,628 garda members.

Other figures show that as many as 270 gardaí have retired from the force up to the end of August. 

Brendan O’Connor, President of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said the failing recruitment drive was impacting policing. 

“The GRA are extremely concerned with the figures, as released, and are indicative of a situation that our members are unfortunately very familiar with,” O’Connor said in a statement to this website. 

“The failure to meet recruitment targets, coupled with significant numbers of resignations has the potential to further impact on the effectiveness of the policing service, that the public can expect to rely on.

“A reduction in numbers, particularly on frontline core units, is having a detrimental impact on the welfare and morale of a diminishing pool of people. The simple facts are we continue to ask for more from less people, a situation that is not sustainable and is impacting on the welfare and wellbeing of our members,” he said.

A Garda spokesperson blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for much of the issues associated with garda recruitment. 

“In 2022, 370 Garda Trainees have been attested from the Garda College into service with An Garda Síochána. There are a further 25 Garda Trainees currently in training in the Garda College, who are due to be attested in early 2023. A further class of trainees is due to enter the Garda College by the end of November.”

The spokesperson added: “An Garda Síochána’s ability to recruit and train new Garda members as had been previously planned was heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic which placed restrictions on all educational establishments.

“Despite these restrictions, Gardaí still continued to be trained and attested during the pandemic but in smaller numbers than originally planned pre-pandemic.”

The spokesperson said that at the end of September, 2022 there were 14,258 Gardaí – they said this compared to 12,943 at the of 2016.

The Garda spokesperson said that there had been 300 gardaí assigned to Divisional Protective Service Units dealing with sexual crime and domestic abuse.

There had also been a deployment of more than 300 Gardaí working in Divisional Drug Units throughout the country “with a particular focus on street-level dealing”. The spokesperson added that there was also a significant growth in the number of cyber crime units.

“It is planned to introduce exit interviews shortly,” the spokesperson concluded, in response to a question about the resignation of probationer gardaí. 

A statement has been requested from the Department of Justice. 

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