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Calls for public service staff to be redeployed to deal with high demand for passports

Minister of State Thomas Byrne said that 25,000 passports are being dispatched every week.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THERE HAVE BEEN calls for public service staff to be redeployed to assist the Passport Office, as the Government considers opening a third passport office to meet high demand.

The ongoing issue of delays to passports being issued to members of the public was raised in the Dáil today, with Government and opposition TDs raising issues with the system.

In the Dáil today, the Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne said that 25,000 passports are being issued each week and are being dispatched every day.

He told the Dáil that there is currently a huge demand for passports in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and that the Passport Office expects to process 1.4 million in 2022 alone.

Byrne said that this would be the highest number of passports ever issued in a year and that it was more than double the number of passports issued in 2015.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that the Government were considering opening a third passport office in the west of the country to help with the demand.

“Another thing we’re considering is opening a third passport office, one perhaps in the Galway Sligo, in the west of the country area, which could really help for people in the west who obviously find it much harder to travel to Dublin or Cork to do things in person,” said Varadkar, speaking to RTÉ Radio One.

He added that “the real issue” with passport renewals was with paper applications, saying that the Government is considering making all passport renewals go through the online passport service.

“I’m not saying this is ideal, but if by going online only can be part of the solution, well then it needs to be considered.”

Varadkar also said the issue of passport forms themselves needed to be addressed, saying that if 40% of applications are not filled out correctly, it is an issue with the form rather than the applicant.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, Fianna Fáil TD Cormac Devlin called for a temporary redeployment of staff, saying that while a recruitment campaign was welcome, more staff were needed immediately.

“I know the minister prioritizes this and staff are being recruited but realistically need to know temporary redeployment of staff and near immediately,” said Devlin.

Fine Gael TD, Neale Richmond, agreed with Devlin and said that people around the country were “sick and tired of dealing with a system that is broken”.

Sinn Féin TD John Brady was critical of Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney over the issues with passport delays, saying that he had failed to address the “well-advertised” challenges faced by the Passport Office.

Brady said that people contacting the Passport Office needed to call an average of 80 times before they would receive a response.

“A survey of applicants has found that the average number of phone calls to the Passport Office made by applicants before they actually receive an answer is 80.

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“People simply cannot access accurate information as to where their application process is at.”

Byrne encouraged people who were applying for passports to do so online, saying that they should not use the paper application service.

“Only apply for a passport online. Do not apply by paper,” said Byrne.

“The Passport Online service is dealing with 90% of passport applications, including first-time applications. There is no application that has to go in by paper.”

Byrne’s push for people to apply online comes as the Passport Express, the postal passport service, was renamed Post Passport as it is the slowest method of applying for a passport.

An Post rebranded the service in a move sanctioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which was heavily campaigned for by Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins.

Earlier this week, Ombudsman Ger Deering criticised the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Passport Office, saying that delays to passports were “not acceptable”.

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