The Minister has been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána, all ranks, as at 26 January 2004 is 11,959.
In April 2002, the Government agreed to increase the approved strength of the force by 200 to 12,200. Recruitment was carried out during 2003 with a view to bringing the strength of the force to 12,200 by 31 December 2004.
The programme for Government states that the Government will complete the current expansion of the Garda Síochána and increase recruitment so that numbers will increase by a further 2,000. While it will not be possible to increase numbers beyond the approved strength of 12,200 for as long as the cap on public service numbers remains in place, I have made clear in this House, however, that as soon as budgetary circumstances permit I will progress the issue of increasing the strength of the force to 14,000 as provided for in the programme for Government for achievement by 2007. In this context I will address any training issues that may arise as a result.
The Garda College has accommodation on a weekly basis of 400 single rooms. These are utilised on a weekly basis to cater for student and course accommodation. The student Garda "living out" programme that has been developed to cater for increased numbers of Garda trainees, enables Garda students to be accommodated off campus and within the environs of Templemore and can accommodate a further 300 students per week.
A total of 690 Garda trainees were taken into the Templemore Garda College in 2003.