The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, has responded to a report on RTE today on the retirement exposure within the Garda Síochána.

The Minister noted that the previous Government’s published plans of November 2010 to reduce public sector numbers, drawn up in the context of the agreement with the EU and IMF, envisaged the strength of the Garda Síochána being reduced to 13,000  by December 2014, the level of strength at the end of 2006. It was also envisaged that Garda numbers would reduce to 13,500 by 31 December 2011.

Responding to the report, the Minister said:

"It has been known since the conclusion by the previous Government of the agreement with the EU and the IMF, that the strength of the Garda Síochána, as part of a wider programme of reductions in public service numbers, is to be reduced to 13,000 by the end of 2014.  This is the strength that the Force had at the end of 2006.  It has been similarly known that Garda numbers were to be reduced to 13,500 by 31st December 2011. The reductions are to be achieved through retirements.  

As there are currently around 1,200 Garda members who have sufficient service to voluntarily retire on full pension, and even though it is not expected that all of these will actually retire, it is entirely sensible for the Garda Commissioner in June last, to circulate  a document to senior Garda officers to consider the possible impact in the Force of retirement in the months ahead, including plans for succession at senior management levels and to address possible variations in retirements across regions or in different ranks.

It is not in any way surprising that as part of the planning process to deal with a reduction in numbers from retirement that the Commissioner took such an initiative.

Clearly the higher age-profile of the more senior ranks leaves them proportionately more liable to retirements.  These important management and supervisory ranks will be maintained at the appropriate level through internal promotions, and I will agree the details of this with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin.  Retirement of senior Garda members always represents a loss of experience, but the Force is fortunate in having a rich resource of talented members ready to meet the challenge of senior management.  

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to accompany reductions in public service numbers with real change, the Garda Síochána are pursuing a programme of reform which will result in improvements in efficiency and effectiveness.  It is also worth recalling the clear commitment in the Programme for Government to ensure that administrative duties are carried out by civilian staff in order to free up highly trained Gardaí for preventing and detecting crime.  These measures, taken together, will mean that the Garda Síochána will be well positioned to continue its excellent work in preventing and combating crime.

Insofar as there will be a reduction in Garda numbers, this reduction will be effected as an important and necessary contribution to meeting this State’s obligations pursuant to the EU/IMF agreement and in effecting necessary reductions in public expenditure."

1 September 2011