Gardaí: force stands at 14,571

An exodus of senior and junior gardaí from their posts last year has slowed down dramatically in 2010, new figures show.

This follows record numbers of departures from the force in 2009, largely prompted by members' fears that their once-off tax-free "retirement gratuity" was about to be taxed by the government.

Latest Department of Justice figures show that just 61 officers – two superintendents, 15 sergeants and 44 rank-and-file gardaí – had applied for early retirement by the end of last May.

This compares to 720 departures in 2009, which included one assistant commissioner, 14 chief superintendents, and 54 officers at either superintendent or inspector rank.

That same year, 474 ordinary gardaí and 177 sergeants also applied to leave their posts.

In a recent written Dáil response to opposition queries on the matter, justice minister Dermot Ahern said the strength of An Garda Síochána stood at 14,571 on 31 May.

"While there was a significant increase in retirements in 2009, the rate of retirement has since slowed, with some 61 applications for early retirement received so far this year," he said. "There are currently competitions being held for the promotion of chief superintendent to the rank of assistant commissioner and sergeant to the rank of inspector, which are expected to be finalised shortly.

"While the moratorium on appointments and promotions applies generally to An Garda Síochána, there have been 227 promotions so far in An Garda Síochána this year."

However, just last June, garda commissioner Fachtna Murphy warned the Dáil's influential Public Accounts Committee that if the moratorium on garda recruitment became prolonged it would have a "very detrimental" impact on the force.

He also revealed that the force had received some 15,000 applications "so far and rising" after the government agreed to allow some trainee gardaí to be recruited as a concession to the public sector recruitment ban.