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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 22 February, 2019
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70,000 passport applications outstanding - and staff numbers have almost doubled to handle backlog

Last year saw a record-breaking number of passport applications.

Image: Mark G E/Shutterstock

AN ADDITIONAL 220 people have been appointed to process passport applications as the office currently deals with a backlog of 70,000 applications.

The Passport Service already has 342 full-time equivalent staff working there, but has recruited the additional numbers due to “seasonal demands and application increases” according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Last year saw a record-breaking 779,000 passports issued, with 20% of these issued to Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and Britain.

In response to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil’s John Brassil, Coveney said that the target turnaround time for passport applications made online is 10 working days but that the majority are completed within five working days.

Coveney said: “In recent weeks we had higher than average turnaround times for some categories of application owing to high application volumes and disruption caused by adverse weather conditions and the subsequent closure of the Dublin and Cork passport offices for two days.”

During Leaders’ Questions earlier in the month, the Tánaiste also said that teams worked over the bank holiday “to try to catch up and get back to the turnaround times” it had achieved earlier in the year.

Coveney also defended the office’s record on turnaround times, with Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien claiming that “delays in the turnaround times are now the norm”.

He said that his department was continuously monitoring turnaround times, and had recruited additional staff to reduce the backlog.

2017-stats-1 The amount of passport applications continued to rise last year. Source: DFA

“In order to respond to seasonal demands and application increases, the Passport Service received sanction for 220 temporary clerical officers to be appointed to the passport offices in Dublin and Cork this year,” the Minister said.

He said the vast majority are already in place with the remaining set to be fully trained by the beginning of April.

Coveney added that the approach of the department has been to try to improve service as well as hire more staff to “minimise the impact high application volumes have on turnaround times”.

Already this year, there have been 21,022 passport applications made from Northern Ireland and 21,873 from mainland Britain.

Read: ‘I felt totally lost’: Department in u-turn over decision to deny Venezuelan man a Public Services Card

Read: More people now want Irish passports in Britain than the North

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Sean Murray

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