Passport applications ‘off the charts’ in last three months, Coveney says

More staff to be employed at Passport Office as system comes under pressure

There were 137,000 applications to the Passport Service in January, more than 150,000 in February and more than 100,000 so far in March, Simon Coveney says. Photograph: Alan Betson

Applications for passports are "off the charts" with record numbers in the last three months, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney said there were 137,000 applications to the Passport Service in January, more than 150,000 in February and more than 100,000 already in March.

He was responding to Limerick TD Richard O'Donoghue in the Dáil on Thursday who said delays with passport applications were leading to "stress and anxiety" for people.

“The main issue that’s driving pressure at the moment is just the sheer volume of applications, it’s just off the charts in terms of anything else we’ve ever experienced in recent years,” Mr Coveney said. “We’ve had three months in a row now of record application numbers, as in the highest ever.”


Mr Coveney said there had never previously been more than 100,000 applications in a month.

He said straightforward adult passport renewals were working reasonably well but it was different for more complicated cases.


Mr Coveney said a system that could allow Oireachtas members to intervene when necessary was needed.

“In response to high volumes of applications being submitted to the Passport Office, a temporary phoneline was established in October last year to respond to [Oireachtas] members’ queries on urgent cases. That was supposed to be temporary until the end of the year but it’s very much continuing now obviously,” he said.

“This phoneline responded to over 2,700 queries in 2021, and it has already handled over 3,600 queries to date in 2022.”

He said there has been “very high volumes this week” and he acknowledged the wait time on phonelines has been “longer than normal”.

The Minister said 38,000 applications were “stuck in the system” as they were awaiting the applicant to provide further information. Mr Coveney also acknowledged that the term Passport Express service was “a bit of a misnomer”.

“It is not an express service. It’s a much slower service. It’s a paper-based service based on post, and that is certainly an outdated marketing term. We are looking to move away from that terminology of Passport Express to replace it with something else whether it’s ‘Passport in the Post’, or whatever,” he said.

Mr Coveney said more than 770 staff were working in the Passport Office, up from 450 last summer. He said this figure would rise to about 900 within the next six weeks, adding that the number of staff would have effectively doubled within the last eight months.

He said: “Ultimately we want to get to a point where everybody applies online.” Mr Coveney said more than 90 per cent of applications for passports were already online but that needed to get to 100 per cent as it was a much “cleaner, transparent, safer and faster system”.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times