JUST seven new recruits are currently in training at the new €21m garda training facility at Templemore, it has emerged.
The number of new recruits has plummeted this year after the general moratorium on jobs in the public sector with little chance of increased numbers in the future.
Another €5.5m site purchased in close proximity to the Garda College is also lying idle, the Sunday Tribune has learned.
That site was originally purchased for the development of a firing range facility but no work has yet taken place, the Department of Justice has confirmed.
The department said the Garda College was not solely used for training new recruits and also delivered other courses to serving members.
It said: "These faculties provide courses to both student and attested garda members. There are only a small number of student gardaí currently in the Garda College.
"Details of the specific number of courses and the numbers of participants in those courses during 2010 are not immediately available.
"However, in 2009 approximately 8,000 student and full-time gardaí participated in courses in Templemore."
A total of €21m was spent at the college building a new gymnasium, library, classrooms and accommodation between 2005 and 2008.
Further money has also been spent in the past two years but the Department of Justice said it was not in a position to say how much.
Fine Gael's Noel Coonan said the Templemore training base had effectively become a "ghost college".
The department said the general moratorium on recruitment and appointments in the public service still applied to the gardaí.
However, it said garda recruitment campaigns would continue to ensure there was a panel of approved candidates ready to join up.
It said that because it took several years, it was crucial to have recruits ready to start if garda numbers began to fall for any reason.
The Department of Justice said the other €5.5m site – bought at a huge premium during the property boom – was now at the "initial general planning phase".
It said: "Garda authorities, in consultation with the Office of Public Works, are advancing their plans for the property."
The 220-acre site was purchased in 2006 at a cost of €5.5m but local sources said its value was probably less than a third of that today.
It had been earmarked for a firearms and tactical training facility when the underground firing range in the Phoenix Park headquarters was closed for safety reasons.