Six stage sit-in as public vents fury at passport office closure
Published 20/03/2010 | 05:00
Six people staged a sit-in as angry members of the public banged on the doors of the passport office in Dublin's Molesworth Street yesterday when the doors were closed at lunchtime due to industrial action.
Desperate people, who queued all morning and made it inside the office in Dublin, refused to budge when 1pm came and they still had not reached the counter.
Many faced the prospect of losing thousands of euro spent on holidays they will never enjoy. Some, queueing with suitcases, were due to board flights in just a few hours.
Fifteen frustrated members of the public refused to leave the office when the doors closed and rang RTE's 'Liveline' programme from inside the office to vent their fury over the refusal of staff to deal with their cases. Although some of these later left the premises, six people remained in the building up to 4pm.
One of the women, from Co Laois, who did not want to be named, said those who were sitting in the passport collection room on the first floor decided to hold a spontaneous sit-in until 4pm when staff suddenly left the counters at 1pm.
"A manager called Joe Nugent came out and he sorted out a lot of people, by giving them their passports if he could find them at the desks. Unfortunately, he could not find mine, but I might get it first thing Monday as I'm travelling later that day," she said.
Public and private sector workers had little sympathy for the civil servants who closed down the offices for the afternoon in protest at the €1bn Budget pay cut.
Even the security man admitted he'd "had it up to his neck" after bearing the brunt of public anger over the closures that have been going on for weeks.
However, the Civil, Public and Services Union, which closed the counters along with members of the Public Service Executive Union, said it sympathised with the hundreds of irate clients who turned up. It blamed "appalling mismanagement" for the chaos.
But the blame game has little meaning for nurse Sonia Cunningham, from Co Meath, who will lose €1,700 spent on a holiday to Lanzarote.
Despite queueing since before noon, she was unable to get her daughter's passport.
"It's an absolute disgrace and they should be ashamed of themselves," she said. "I'm a nurse and I've lost €700 a month and my husband is in the ambulance service and he's lost €700 a month and we don't carry on like that. They should have prioritised those waiting for passports this weekend and brought them in."
James Dunne, from Pearse Street in Dublin, ran home after being asked for an extra piece of information before he could pick up two children's passports. When he got back, the office was closed.
He had little luck as he banged on the glass doors in a desperate bid to get attention before his flight left for Disneyland in Paris, France, at 5.30pm.