Thursday 22 February 2018

50,000 passports backlog will take a month to clear

Anne-Marie Walsh and Allison Bray

A MASSIVE backlog of 50,000 applications at the Passport Office will not be cleared for at least a month unless civil servants call off their industrial action.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said staff were only getting through 2,000 applications a day so it would be at least 25 working days before the pile-up was processed, without any new applications being taken into account.

Members of the public who are sick of waiting for forms to be rubber-stamped as the busy Easter holidays approach, have begun to turn to foreign embassies.

In a last-ditch bid to avoid cancelling their travel plans, citizens who were born in the UK, or whose parents were, are testing their eligibility for British passports.

The British Embassy revealed its switchboard had been jumping as frustrated members of the public used their foreign connections to enable them to travel.

Many have lost thousands of euro on holidays and some wedding plans are in jeopardy as people are forced to cancel travel arrangements.

There were signs that the crisis at the office on Molesworth Street in Dublin had begun to ease yesterday as queues disappeared in the morning.

But as Civil, Public and Services Union delegates gathered for their annual conference in Galway, senior members threatened to escalate their campaign against pay cuts.

CPSU executive member and Socialist Party Councillor Terry Kelleher said he believed his union, with the backing of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, should call strikes.

He said lower paid civil servants were struggling and felt they had no choice but to take action to defend their living standards.


The union representative said that one member working at the Passport Office had a €1,400-a-month mortgage but his wages were only €1,600 a month.

The general secretary of the union, Blair Horan, said industrial action was likely to escalate if there was no agreement at talks this weekend on public sector pay.

He insisted that pay must be returned to members this year.

His demand may cause a problem at the ongoing Labour Relations Commission talks as the chief union negotiator, Peter McLoone, has offered to accept a reversal of the cuts "over time" in return for major reforms.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was "quieter" at the Passport Office on Molesworth Street yesterday but it was impossible to predict demand as the busy holiday season approached.

He said a ban on overtime by CPSU members had been the main reason for the backlog in applications.

The CPSU said a reduction in queues yesterday came after its members agreed to fast-track passports for people travelling within days.

Assistant general secretary, Theresa Dwyer said: "it's a terrible pity management didn't manage this situation in this manner before now."

Irish Independent

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