It took 125 attempts over the course of one day for Samantha Hayden to get through to the Passport Service to find out what had happened to her baby son’s application.
he eventually discovered that her local garda station had misplaced the book in which they had recorded the passport application – which meant she had to apply again from scratch.
Samantha and husband Paul Hayden from Clonee, Co Meath, are among the thousands of families stuck in a frustrating backlog, as they anxiously await a first-time passport for 18-month-old Cian.
It comes as the Department of Foreign Affairs insists there is no backlog in processing passports, blaming forms being incorrectly filled out.
But 195,000 people whose applications are complete are still waiting for their delayed travel documents ahead of the summer holiday season.
Together with their older sons, Joshua (9) and Jamie (7), the Hayden family are hoping to go on their first holiday in over five years, and are due to fly out to Turkey at the end of June.
The children are very excited about their first ever holiday as a family of five.
“They have a countdown on the wall, marking how long we have left to go,” said Samantha.
Fearing delays, she applied online for Cian’s passport on February 17 before she even booked the holiday.
She received updates on the tracker informing her that the Passport Service had begun to process her application on February 25 and that the passport was due to be completed on May 6.
But on that day, she was told there was an issue as “the garda book had been misplaced”.
“It took me 125 phone-calls to get through to somebody that day and it was upsetting – you get a message to say ‘the Passport Office is busy with other customers, please try again.’ But I’m a customer too,” said Samantha.
She was told that she would have to reapply – but the Passport Office again failed to get back to her when she asked whether she would have to reapply for a birth certificate for Cian – or if they could use the one already submitted.
When she reapplied, she was given a new due date of June 9 but for the first two weeks received alerts saying “documentation missing”.
And though told by staff that all was well and that “the old application and the new application were not talking to each other” she has now lost all faith in the system.
“I won’t believe it until the passport is in my hands,” she said.
In Strabane, Co Tyrone, Sabrina Porter is still waiting for the passport for her son Logan (6) that she applied for as far back as January 31. She and her husband, Martin, already have an Irish passport for their daughter Paige (8) and the family are hoping to travel to Majorca on May 31.
However, her tracking number for Logan’s passport was not recognised and when she contacted the Passport Office, she was not given an explanation.
Last Friday, she got the bus to Dublin to go to the Passport Office in person but was told they could not assist her and that she would receive a call on Monday. That, too, failed to materialise.
“It’s soul-destroying. The kids have been looking forward to it so much. Now it looks like we will lose the holiday completely,” she said.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said a major cause for delays is the fact that passport applications are not correctly completed, with approximately 40pc of applications in the system incomplete.
First-time applications take the longest to process, due to the necessary security checks and these are currently taking 30 working days, it said.