500,000 passports issued in first five months of this year
TDs should not to turn their offices into ‘passport processing’ centres - Tánaiste
An additional 220 temporary staff have been employed to deal with the surge in demand for passports. Photograph: Alan Betson.
TDs’ offices should not become passport processing centres, the Dáil has heard, as it emerged that 500,000 passports have been issued to date this year.
Applications for the first five months of the year are up 8 per cent on last year with a record 779,000 Irish passports issued.
An additional 220 temporary staff have been employed to deal with the surge in demand and more than 30 Department of Foreign Affairs staff have been re-deployed to the passport office to help reduce the backlog.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney acknowledged delays in some applications and said he was aware of the problems “because they have translated into political requests”.
He said “virtually every member of this House has been asked to solve individual problems for families and constituents.This an ineffective way of dealing with tens of thousands of passports each week.”
Mr Coveney, who is Minister for Foreign Affairs, said “we have to put systems in place that deal more comprehensively with people’s concerns.
“It should be possible to deal with emergency situations quickly without stalling the processing of the passport applications of everybody else.”
He added that the backlog stemmed back to the closure of the Passport Office for a couple of days during the bad weather, although it was not the only reason for the delay.
But he said all online renewal applications were dealt with within 10 days and 50 per cent within five days.
Sinn Féin TD Sean Crowe said the passport office’s communications system needed to be looked at in any review because applicants could not get information and that was why they were contacting TDs.
He had heard of families where everyone except one child had received their passport.
The Tánaiste said first time applicants required additional security measures and checks to see if they were entitled to a passport and this could take longer to process. “Babies and children applying for their first passport also fall within this category.”
Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley highlighted the case of a family in Portlaoise going to Lourdes who had applied for a passport seven weeks ago.
Fianna Fail TD Eamon Scanlon suggested that airlines flag passengers to check when they are booking that their passports are in date.
Mr Coveney agreed that communication was key. He added that “while it is useful for deputies to be able to assist in emergency situations, their offices should not be turned into passport processing offices”.
They were trying to put a system in place to deal with applications in a much more efficient way.