The Garda authorities are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel. They informed me that the personnel strength of the force, including 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 by 200 to 12,200.
During 2003 the Garda college accepted 690 trainees. The Commissioner has projected, based on an anticipated rate of retirement, that authorised strength of 12,200 will be achieved during this year. He also indicated that 342 trainees are required to meet the demand created by compulsory retirements and projected voluntary retirements and other discharges for 2004. 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 the year when historically a higher number of applications are received.
I have already made it quite clear that I will not be content with raising the strength of the force to an historic high of 12,200 by the end of 2004. As soon as budgetary circumstances permit I intend, with Government approval, to move towards the target of 14,000 provided in the programme for Government.