Thursday, 13 July 2023
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
115. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if an informative document can be sent to all Garda stations in the State regarding the process and Garda responsibilities relating to the completion of passport applications, following a spate of applications that have been cancelled following the failure of gardaí to stamp and sign documents and record them in the Garda station log book; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34858/23]
There are certain passport applications for applicants resident in Ireland that require forms to be witnessed by a member of An Garda Síochána. The witnessing of these forms is a vital element of the identity verification process for the Passport Service, as it provides initial assurance that the person in the photograph is the same person submitting the passport application form.
In the case of children's applications, it ensures that the consent of guardians is verified. Garda stations maintain logs of these witnessed forms for verification purposes. For each application that requires a Garda witness, the Passport Service calls the relevant Garda station to confirm that the Garda witness recorded the witnessed form in the station logbook. Passport Service staff will call the relevant Garda station up to three times to verify the Garda's signature. Where the Passport Service cannot reach the Garda station, there is a system in place whereby the Passport Service contacts the relevant Superintendent’s Office to verify the details.
The Passport Service is continuously looking at ways to make the application process easier for applicants, including the enhancement of digital services. My Department would welcome the digitisation of the records maintained by An Garda Síochána when witnessing applications.
In addition to this, the Passport Service maintains a close working relationship with An Garda Síochána and regularly offers training and guidance to Gardaí on the correct completion of the required identity and consent forms. The Passport Service published an informational advertisement in the May issue of An Garda Síochána’s magazine, the Garda Review, to assist Gardaí with the process of witnessing passport identity and consent forms. This advertisement included the information that the Passport Service will ring the Garda station to verify all first time passport applicants’ consent and identity form details. Informational leaflets will also be shared with An Garda Síochána with detailed guidance on the matter in the coming weeks.
It is not the experience of the Passport Service that there are widespread issues in the system of witnessing passport applications by An Garda Síochána generally, or in particular, causing applications to be cancelled.
The Passport Service takes its responsibility to protect the integrity of the Irish passport very seriously. The Irish passport has a strong international reputation due to the strength of the security features within the passport book and the robust processes involved in its issuance. The Irish passport was recently ranked 5th in the Henley Global Passport Index as it provides our citizens with visa-free access to 189 countries.