TDs seek to fast-track over 3,700 passport applications
Donegal TD says he makes ‘no apology’ for helping constituents in isolated areas
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has criticised TDs using their office to fast-track passport applications. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Three rural TDs made over 100 representations each to the passport office last year on behalf of constituents despite a call from Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney for an end to the practice.
Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal Pat the Cope Gallagher, who made the highest number of representations at 138, said he and other politicians were not abusing the system but were rather working on behalf of distressed constituents whose passport applications were taking longer than expected.
“It’s easy for those in Dublin or people in urban areas to criticise those of us representing regions like the north west that are more isolated but we don’t have a passport office,” Mr Gallagher said.
He noted the 138 representations were for passport applications which were already in the system and needed to be expedited, adding that his own office dealt with 1,300 passport applications for constituents last year.
He made “no apology” for providing assistance on this scale, saying the online service was unusable for some of his constituents as some areas in the north-west had poor internet access.
“The fact of the matter is, there are parts of my constituency that are over 200km away from an office to submit a passport application.”
Politicians made 4,252 representations to the passport service in total last year. TDs made 3,738 reps while Senators made 514, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show.
Independent TD for Kerry Michael Healy Rae made 133 representations, Minister for Rural Affairs and Fine Gael TD for Mayo Michael Ring 103, Minister of State for Immigration and Fine Gael TD for Cork East David Stanton 91 and Fianna Fáil TD for Westmeath Robert Troy 86.
They were followed by Independent TD for Tipperary Michael Lowry (81), Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Dara Calleary (80), Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly (78), Minister for Defence and TD for Wexford Paul Kehoe (75), Taoiseach and TD for Dublin West Leo Varadkar (67), Minister for State for Sport and Fine Gael TD for Kerry Brendan Griffin (60) and Minister for Justice and Fine Gael TD for Laois/Offaly - Charlie Flanagan (57).
Earlier this year, Mr Coveney criticised TDs using their office to fast-track passport applications.
He said his department may intervene in exceptional cases if a TD makes a representation, but said public representatives should not be encouraging people to view their office as the first port of call when they need a passport.
Mr Coveney’s representations are not included in the figures for 2018 as the Minister for Foreign Affairs can not make representations to his own office.
The Passport Service has received more than 230,000 passport applications to date in 2019, a 30 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was preparing for 300,000 additional applications for Irish passports this year – an increase of more than one-third – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Latest figures suggest applications from the UK are continuing to rise - with 28,958 applications from Britain and 34,669 from Northern Ireland in the first two months of this year. For the whole of 2012 there were 45,646 applications from Britain and 41,124 from the North, the figures obtained by Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on foreign affairs Niall Collins show.