Almost one in four garda stations around the country had fewer gardaí to tackle crime at the start of this year compared to 12 months earlier, while 42 stations have no permanent garda attached to them.
n analysis of staffing levels at over 560 Garda stations nationwide has revealed 133 stations – 23.4pc of the total – suffered a drop in garda numbers over the course of last year.
It also highlighted how the number of smaller stations without a dedicated garda continues to grow – up from 35 in 2021 to 42 last year.
Among the larger stations experiencing reduced staffing levels during the year were the Bridewell, Cork (-30pc); Salthill, Galway (-25pc); Stepaside, Dublin (-25pc); Howth, Dublin (-19pc); Malahide, Dublin (-18pc) and Rathmines, Dublin (-17pc).
The majority of stations – a total of 326 – experienced no change in personnel numbers last year, while 109 stations – almost one in five – had more gardaí in December than at the start of 2022.
They included places like Oranmore, Galway; Lusk, Dublin; Mountmellick, Laois; Laytown, Meath; Cobh, Cork and Ballybofey, Donegal.
Across the 26 garda divisions, only nine recorded an increase in garda strength last year with numbers up almost 4pc in Kildare and around 3pc in Louth and Wexford.
The number of gardaí in Galway and Waterford was up 2pc with smaller increases registered in Laois/Offaly, Cork North, Wicklow and Limerick.
At the same time, garda numbers in Dublin South and Dublin South Central were down over 4pc.
Five other divisions – Cork City, Dublin North Central, Westmeath, Cork West and Kilkenny/Carlow – saw a reduction of around 3pc in staffing levels.
Nine other divisions had smaller decreases in garda personnel while the numbers were unchanged in Sligo/Leitrim.
The analysis, which is based on official garda figures published by the Department of Justice, shows the overall size of the force at the end of December was 14,133 – its lowest level since 2018.
The figures indicate there was an annual net reduction in manpower of 102 gardaí last year with 340 members retiring and a further 190 resigning as gardaí.
It is a decrease of over 350 gardaí from the recent peak of 14,491 serving members reached at the end of 2020.
When gardaí on career breaks, maternity leave, paternity leave, secondments and work-sharing are excluded, the strength of An Garda Síochána dropped to 13,880 at the end of last year – 145 fewer than at the start of the year.
Details of the shrinking size of the force come at a time An Garda Síochána revealed that it spent €130m on overtime last year – up €16m on 2020 figures.
The number of civilian staff also fell by over 1pc to 3,126, while the Garda Reserve fell to 325 due to a net loss of 48 volunteers to reach its lowest level since the auxiliary role was created in 2009.
Last month, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the number of gardaí had fallen “as a result of Covid-19 restrictions on training”.
However, he pointed out that staff numbers had increased by 1,200 since 2016, which had allowed more than 800 gardaí to be returned to operational duties from administrative roles.
Mr Harris repeated his desire to see the size of the force grow to its current target of 15,000 and claimed there was “a strong case” for even exceeding that figure because of “population growth, demographic change and the rapidly changing nature of crime”.
The Garda Commissioner said he was confident that garda numbers would soon be growing again as there are plans to have classes for around 200 recruits every three months at the Garda College in Templemore during 2023.
Compared to 10 years ago, more than 200 stations now have fewer gardaí than in 2013, despite the overall size of the force growing by 8pc over the decade.
Stations which have suffered a sharp reduction in garda numbers since 2013 include Mayorstone Park, Limerick (-47pc); Blackrock, Cork (-45pc); Cabinteely, Dublin (-43pc); Bishopstown, Cork (-43pc) and Rathfarnham, Dublin (-40pc). Others are Dundrum, Dublin (-36pc); Watercourse Road, Cork (-33pc); Maynooth, Kildare (-31pc); Salthill, Galway (-31pc); Shankill, Dublin (-30pc) and Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary (-29pc).
Over the same period 189 stations have received additional staffing resources with the number of gardaí more than doubling in a number of towns including Ballincollig, Cork; Leixlip, Kildare; Slane, Meath; Clones, Monaghan and Newtownmountkennedy, Wicklow.
Other stations with sizeable increases in garda manpower over the past 10 years include Enniscorthy (+67pc); Wexford (+56pc); Cavan (+53pc), Portlaoise (+51pc); Drogheda (+47pc), Balbriggan (+44pc), Ashbourne (+42pc) Birr and Kilkenny (both +41pc).
The latest figures show that the total number of garda stations that no longer have a dedicated member attached to them rose from 35 to 42 last year, including six in Tipperary, five in Cork and four each in Donegal and Waterford.
Among the stations to lose having a local permanent garda last year were Glengarriff, Cork; Myshall, Carlow; Cloghan, Offaly; Borrisoleigh, Tipperary and Bennettsbridge, Kilkenny. However, several other areas had their first dedicated garda assigned to them for the first time in many years including Ardfinnan, Tipperary; Portlaw, Waterford and Littleton, Tipperary.
In response to the latest figures, An Garda Síochána said it had reached the highest number of gardaí in its history and was a growing organisation until the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While gardaí continued to be trained and attested during the pandemic, it said they were “in smaller numbers than originally planned”.
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