It is my policy and the policy of the Government to prioritise Garda recruitment and training to bring the strength of the force up to its maximum authorised strength of 12,200 as soon as possible making maximum use of the existing capacity of the Garda training college at Templemore. There were 690 Garda trainees taken into the 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.
In addition the Commissioner has projected that a total of 342 trainees are required to meet the demand created by compulsory retirements and projected voluntary retirements and other discharges for 2004. However, he cautions that all projections are based on variables and are therefore subject to change. The matter of voluntary retirements will be closely monitored, particularly in the early months of this year when historically a higher number of applications are received.