Only a third of the country’s network of more than 560 garda stations has experienced an increase in staffing levels in the past five years, despite almost 2,800 extra gardaí joining the force over the period.
An analysis of the latest manpower figures at individual stations published by the Department of Justice shows the number of gardaí in two-thirds of stations has remained static or fallen since the lifting of the recruitment embargo in 2014.
The figures show that garda stations in the main cities and towns have been the main beneficiaries of the growing strength of the force. Garda numbers reached their highest level since 2010 at the end of last year when the total reached 14,307 officers.
A total of 192 out of 565 stations have had additional gardaí assigned since 2015, while there’s been no change in staffing levels in 240 stations.
However, 133 stations have fewer gardaí than five years ago including several large stations including Bray (down 26 to 96); Shankill (down 18 to 43); Mayorstone Park, Limerick (down 17 to 54); Rathfarnham (down 16 to 53); Santry (down 12 to 82), and Watercourse Rd, Cork (down 10 to 37).
In contrast, at least 50 extra officers have been assigned to several stations over the same period including Portlaoise, Waterford, Henry Street in Limerick, Store Street and Kevin Street in Dublin, and Anglesea Street in Cork.
Other stations to have staffing levels increased by 30-50 gardaí include Kilkenny, Tallaght, Drogheda, Letterkenny, Leixlip, Ballincollig, and Balbriggan.
As probation gardaí are initially assigned to larger stations for purposes of supervision, the deployment of new recruits has been limited to 93 of the larger stations.
Criminologist and University of Limerick law lecturer, Johnny Connolly, said as a member of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, he found it was impossible to tell where resources are needed “without demand information”.
“The commission recognised a need for a workforce plan based on accurate data which exists in most other modern police forces. I believe it is now underway,” said Mr Connolly.
Mr Connolly said there is a need for a debate on the point of having gardaí based in isolated rural stations.
“It might reassure people but it won’t have any relation to the crime rate,” he said.
Official figures show there are now 31 stations with no dedicated garda assigned to them including five stations which lost their permanent garda during 2019: Ballylanders, Co Limerick; Kilmacow, Co Kilkenny; Longwood, Co Meath; Rathmullen, Co Donegal, and Shillelagh, Co Wicklow.
At the same time, 14 other stations had a permanent garda restored last year. They included Knock, Co Mayo; Rosses Point, Co Sligo, and Toomevara, Co Tipperary, as well as the reopened station in Ballinspittle, Co Cork, which was one of 139 stations closed during the recession.
The figures also show that the large recruitment drive which has resulted in the hiring of 2,769 new gardaí since the reopening of the Garda College in Templemore in September 2014 has been offset by large numbers either retiring or leaving the force over the same period.
Official figures show an average of 227 gardaí retired each year over the past five years, with the net increase in personnel since the end of 2014 just over 1,500.