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Leas Ceann Comhairle makes 'no apologies' for assisting constituents to get passports

Simon Coveney recently criticised TDs who use their offices for getting passports for constituents.

Image: samboal

THE LEAS CEANN Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher has said he makes “no apologies” for making representations to the Passport Office on behalf of his constituents seeking passports. 

Figures released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information last summer showed that some 5,000 representations had been made on behalf of local constituents for passports as of May last year. 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney recently criticised TDs who use their offices for getting passports for constituents, stating that politicians offices should not be set up as passport delivery offices.

Coveney said a “small number” of politicians encourage it. 

According to figures released in July, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan made the most representations. In 2018, the Passport Office received 163 from the Cabinet minister. Fianna Fáil’s Pat the Cope Gallagher followed, with Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring coming in third.

Responding to Coveney’s comments, the Fianna Fáil TD said each year, very many of his Oireachtas colleagues make representations on behalf of constituents “to support their needs”.

“I make no apology that in my own office, we were pleased to assist over 1,300 applicants last year to obtain their passport through a variety of means,” he said. 

90074614_90074614 Pat the Cope Gallagher has hit out against the Tánaiste over his recent comments.

Responding to TheJournal.ie about the practice of politicians fast-tracking constituents passports, Coveney said it is not quicker for constituents to go through their TD to get a passport. 

“The only time I think TDs should be involved here is in a special case outside the norm… Any TD can contact my office and say well there is a special case here can the system accommodate getting a turnaround time quicker. Sometimes we have to pull a passport which can delay everyone slightly but we don’t like doing it, but we do it in exceptional circumstances. But that shouldn’t be the norm,” said Coveney. 

The Tánaiste said he would regularly get phone calls from politicians about constituent’s passport delays. Last year, many TDs said their offices had been inundated with requests for passports due to the summer backlog at the Passport Office.

The Fianna Fáil deputy said it is odd Coveney has seen fit to criticise his party colleagues and public representatives for assisting and representing their respective constituents.

“It’s easy for a minister based in an urban constituency with its own Passport Office to criticise those of us representing regions more isolated and neglected by government. These are areas left without broadband services to apply online and are quite some distance from a Passport Office.

“In fact there are parts of my own constituency that are 277 kilometres or more from an office to submit an application,” said the Leas Ceann Comhairle. 

“Close to 40% of homes in Donegal are without broadband – so the minister’s proposed solution to divert everyone to apply online is as distant and impractical to these households as the office on Dublin’s Mount Street,” he said, adding: 

I take my role as a public representative very seriously and see my duty to represent the people of Donegal in the manner which they request or seek be that a passport application or anything else.
Time and time again we have seen a complete lack of understanding from government of the matters facing ordinary people. These latest remarks are no different.

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