Dáil hears Passport Office experiencing ‘very high level of demand’

Coveney says staff numbers at service up 70 per cent since last June

The Dáil has been told the Passport Serice’s operations were significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: Frank Miller

The Dáil has been told the Passport Serice’s operations were significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said the Passport Service is currently experiencing “a very high level of demand” with up to 1.7 million passport applications due to be processed this year.

Mr Coveney said there has been a dramatic rise in staff numbers in the Passport Office to 777, a 70 per cent increase on June of last year.

Mr Coveney was addressing questions raised by Independent TD Danny Healy Rae in the Dáil on Thursday morning, who said there are “huge issues” with people getting their passports, in particular children’s passports.

The Minister said the Passport Serice’s operations were significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and his department had conducted a major recruitment drive. He said by the end of March there will be about 900 people working in the service.

Mr Coveney said staff were also engaged in extensive training to ensure they can process complex applications. He said 99 per cent of online child renewal applications are issued within 15 days. However, first time applicants “do take a lot longer”, he said.

Approximately 40 per cent of first time child applications are incomplete which is mostly due to documentation not being submitted, the minister said.

“We are looking to bring down turnaround time for first time applicants as well as renewals,” Mr Coveney added.

He advised people to check their passports “early” and an advertising campaign is currently running to remind people.

Mr Coveney said the new passport office in Swords is in operation and can accommodate up to 140 staff.

Mayo TD Dara Calleary called for a passport centre to be opened up in the west of Ireland.