Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has challenged the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin on the failure of the government to put in place timely remedies to address the fiasco that occurred around passport application last summer.
The Wicklow TD added that it is difficult to imagine that the government was unable to anticipate the backlog of applications that would develop following Brexit, and the aftermath of the pandemic.
Teachta Brady said:
“Last year, notwithstanding the efforts of the hardworking staff of the passport office, which must be acknowledged, was an unmitigated disaster when it came to the handling and issuing of passports.
“We witnessed countless families forced to miss out on holidays due to the chronic delays when it came to the issuing of passports.
“The government cannot allow a recurrence of the torment endured by families.
“But it is difficult to see that the government has learned the necessary lessons from the debacle endured by passport applicants last year.
“We need the Tánaiste to outline what lessons have been learned from last year, what actions have been put in place to ensure that we do not witness a repeat of the scenes from last year.
“Already we have seen how applications have doubled in the last month. The passport office is now receiving 5,000 applications a day. And this is only going to increase over the next few months as more and more families plan their holidays.
“While the Tánaiste spoke of the expansion of the passport office in Balbriggan, and the creation of 200 new workspaces, in the same breath he is able to say that only 100 new staff have been recruited. And many of them will not be in place for months to come.
“Last year we had a situation where the passport office was still recruiting and vetting staff at the height of the passport season. It is on the Tánaiste’s head to make sure that this is not repeated this year.
“Well over a million people received passports last year. According to the Tánaiste, 90% of these applications were online. This is progress, and I was delighted to see this. But the reality is that 10% of applicants still submit paper applications. Which is their right.
“This represents a figure of over 100,000 people. People apply by paper for a variety of reasons. But many do not have access to a computer, or are not computer literate.
“Last year, passport applications became one of the biggest political topics of the summer.
“The Tánaiste needs to outline what he is going to do to avoid a rerun of the chaos of last year. There are families across the Island planning holidays, who need to know that he has a plan, and that it is going to work.”