Dáil debates

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla (Atógáil) - Topical Issue Debate (Resumed)

Passport Services

5:35 pm

Photo of Maurice QuinlivanMaurice Quinlivan (Limerick City, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State. I appreciate his comments on the volume of passport applications being received but that is no succour to people stressing over being unable to travel aboard for holidays. Providing a passport is a basic function of the Department of Foreign Affairs and, unfortunately, it is often shambolic and a national embarrassment when people have put in applications on time and cannot travel for often very valid reasons. I appreciate one should ideally make sure to have an in-date passport before booking flights, but, unfortunately, it is not always the case. The Department has a responsibility to deliver for those seeking a passport and does not always succeed. This is evidenced in the dramatic increase in complaints about the Passport Service. I think there have been 359 so far this year. People should not have to contact their local Deputy to expedite their application. It is not what we should be doing but we are forced to do it. This demonstrates the system is broken in parts.

These long processing times are not specific to passport applications. We see those booking driver tests facing a 14-week wait for a test date. The Covid pandemic can be blamed for only so much. It is obvious there was no forward planning and no anticipation of the huge volume of people who would seek to travel after restrictions were lifted, especially in the summer. Coupling the problematic passport application process with the pre-boarding chaos witnessed at Dublin Airport in recent weeks has meant travelling from this State is more burdensome for some citizens than it should be. We need to see solutions to this crisis. We are in the peak period of summer travel. Unless this matter is addressed soon, we will witness more disappointed applications into August and beyond.

One effective thing the Minister of State can do to address the backlog would be to establish a passport office in the North. This year for the first time there were more applications for Irish passports than for British. Recently, at a polling station in south Belfast in what is considered to be a unionist area during Assembly elections, I was pleased to see so many people go in to vote with their Irish passports in their hands. A recent motion passed by the Seanad supported the establishment of such an office. Will the Minister of State pass on my comments and suggestions on behalf of my constituents? The current service cannot be described as efficient or effective; rather it is better described as exhausting and elongated.


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