Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has welcomed conformation from the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin that he has agreed to his request for a dedicated portal, which would allow public representatives from the north to contact the Passport Office directly to follow up with enquiries regarding passport applications from citizens in the north.
Teachta Brady said:
“While I welcome confirmation from the Tánaiste that an access service will be put in place to service enquiries from MLAs from the north, I am disappointed that Micheál Martin refuses to confirm that the service will be expanded to include MPs from the north.
“Last year there were 128,000 passport applications from the north. 50,000 of these were first time applications. The Tánaiste has confirmed that at this moment in time applications from the north are consistently running at approximately 10% of the total number of applications received by the passport office.
“In the first three months of 2023, something in the region of 230,000 passports have been issued, which gives an indication of the number of applications which can be anticipated from the north over the coming year.
“I know from personal experience that elected representatives in the north have been overwhelmed with enquiries by passport applicants, and who in response had no choice but to reach out to the TDs to attempt to deal with their concerns. Last year my office dealt with thousands of representations on behalf of citizens from the north.
“This new service will allow MLAs for the first time to contact a communications hub in the passport office in Dublin on a dedicated portal line to follow up on enquiries from citizens in the north who have submitted applications for Irish passports.
“While this represents an important development, there is a need for an Irish passport office in the north to deal with the volume of applications. I will continue to apply pressure on the government to achieve this.
“Any decision to exclude MPs, who have a clear mandate from Irish citizens in the north, from this service, is a political decision by the Tánaiste, and is wholly unacceptable. The proposed service needs to be expanded to include MPs.
“There is a need now for the Tánaiste to put in place an explicit timeline for the introduction of the communications hub before the passport season reaches its full height, and Irish citizens in the north and their representatives are left with no recourse except to contact the offices of TDs to represent their constituents.”