Sinn Féin spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD has responded to announcements by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, in relation to his consistent failure to address some of the many difficulties surrounding the issuing of passports.
Among the announcements by the Minister was the news that the formerly titled Passport Express Service, has been renamed “Post Passport”, in an apparent attempt by the Minister to deflect from his ongoing failure to address the serious difficulties in the passport service.
Teachta Brady said:
“While it is welcome that the Minister is acknowledging that there are significant, ongoing problems and difficulties associated with the Passport Express Service, I am afraid that it will require a more than a name change to address the levels of problems associated with this particular service.
“The reality is that this is a Minister who has a track record of failing to adequately address key issues in relation to his brief. And what we see here is just another, glaring example of his failure in office.
“The Passport Service were able to give the Minister an estimate of the number passport applications that they expected to receive some time ago. According to the Minister that estimate now sits at 1.4 million. But he is only now moving to address concerns that were obvious to all and sundry from the outset.
“The reality is that the Minister’s decision to change the name of the service delivers nothing in the way of solutions to the thousands of individuals who have been left waiting for passports. There are countless reports of applicants who have applied for passports within the specified target date, with plenty of room to spare, who have missed flights, who have lost holidays, often at significant personal and financial cost.
“What we need to see is proper investment in the passport service, accompanied with reform of procedures which have identified as currently contributing to the delays that applicants are experiencing.
“The Minister has known what these problems were from the beginning, as they have not just materialised overnight, although they may have been exacerbated by the current volume of applicants. I have been bringing these difficulties to the Minister’s attention on a consistent and ongoing basis for over a year. We have also witnessed a huge surge in applications from the north and Britain since Brexit. The stark reality is that the Minister has had plenty of time to address these difficulties.
“He is attempting to pass the responsibility for his own failings back onto the applicants by claiming that up to 40% of applications have been completed incorrectly. This is simply an attempt to deflect from a bigger problem with the forms and the online process itself. Even the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, is prepared to concede this point.
“The issue of delays is primarily centred on first time applications, and those for children. There is a major problem in the verification process for the applications for children. This needs to change and be brought into the twenty-first century.
“The Minister’s response, such as it is, is merely an attempt to tweak existing processes in response to the current media onslaught, and the fact that his government colleagues are getting it in the neck every which way they turn over passports. He must act now before his failures to date cause even more hardship for passport applicants.”