Fewer than half of all gardaí available for duty were engaged on publicly visible patrolling, according to a new Garda audit report.

The audit found that in total; just 44% of fully-trained gardaí were engaged in patrolling and high-visibility policing, in direct contact with the public, as revealed on RTÉ's This Week programme.

This is despite recommendations from the force's own Policing Plan, and recommendations from the national police standards body, the Garda Inspectorate, which have highlighted the importance of ensuring the maximum number of gardaí are assigned to high visibility policing duties in direct contact with the public. 

The figure was described by the Garda Internal Audit Committee, who carried out the report, as "low".

It is believed this is the first time such a figure has been revealed in a Garda report, and is drawn together from previous Garda divisional audits in which deployment data was redacted.

Responding to the report, the Garda Press Office said it had accepted that the pace of redeployment of Garda members from administrative roles to operational duties "has not happened at the pace it originally anticipated. Plans are in place to accelerate that process".

In terms of what the other 56% of gardaí who were not on visible patrol duties were doing, the press office said that members not engaging in patrol duties or with the public might be on other important policing duties.

"An important part of An Garda Síochána delivering a policing service that protects and supports communities is visibility of Garda members in local communities. This was impacted by the significant reduction in Garda members as a result of decisions by successive governments" the press office said.

"As recruitment of Garda members has increased so has the ability of Garda officers to ensure increased visibility and this will increase further as Garda numbers increase," the press office said.