I have 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 23 February 2004 is 11,920.
In April 2000 the Government agreed, inter alia, to a system of delegated authority under which recruitment is carried out to maintain the strength of the force at an agreed level. In April 2002 the Government agreed to increase the approved strength of the force by 200 to 12,200.
A total of 690 Garda trainees were taken into the Garda college during 2003. The Commissioner has projected, based on the anticipated rate of retirement, that the maximum authorised force strength of 12,200 will be achieved during 2004.
I have already made it quite clear that I will not be content with raising the strength of the Garda Síochána to an historic high of 12,200 by the end of 2004. As soon as budgetary circumstances permit I intend, with the approval of the Government, to make progress towards the target of 14,000 provided in the programme for Government. Any training issues which arise, including the issue of capacity, will be addressed in that process.
The Garda College currently 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.