Almost 200,000 people are waiting for their delayed travel documents ahead of summer holiday season
A citizen rang the Passport Service 600 times in two days – including 378 times in one day – in an effort to resolve a problem before a family holiday, the Dáil has been told.
Despite the deluge, the person “didn’t get hold of anyone,” a special debate on passports was told, with Sinn Féin TD Rosemary Conway Walsh saying tens of thousands of euro were being lost because people could not take their holidays and were being refused refunds by airlines.
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said a Government survey showed persons made up to 80 phone calls before receiving a response.
He said people applying online supplied their email addresses – and begged for people to receive a reminder about renewal by email when their passport was six months from running out. “It’s might not reach everyone, but it will catch many.”
Junior minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs Thomas Byrne, standing in for Simon Coveney, told everyone to apply for passports online only. No-one should fill in a paper application from now on, he said.
“Only apply for a passport online. Do not apply by paper. That's the most important message going out here,” he said.
“There is no application that has to go in by paper. A lot of my constituents are saying that the impression they got from websites was that first-time applications somehow had to be dealt with by paper.
“That's not true. Every single application can be done online, including a child's application for a first-time passport. I strongly urge people to do that.”
The Passport Service was actively engaging with An Garda Síochána to streamline the process because of issues that had arisen with verification, he said.
“We've had meetings last week and this week to try to reduce the difficulties that have been encountered in contacting some Garda stations that are not open full time.
“I would ask people to bear that in mind when they're seeking witnesses,” he added.
Earlier Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said passport renewals may be made online-only and forms updated to solve long delays in the issuing of passports.
Mr Varadkar said officials are examining the process in order to streamline things in the future.
He said that there are also issues around garda sign-off on new passport applications and that there are “communication” gaps when contacting garda stations.
“There’s a couple of things being examined at the moment - so one option is whether we should move to an online only system for renewals, because that works really well and that would help with some of the delays so that is being examined as a potential solution,” he said.
“The other is some of these issues around the gardaí because sometimes the gardaí check the form but then when they’re contacted afterwards for verification there’s a gap in the communications there.”
Almost 200,000 people are waiting for their delayed travel documents ahead of summer holiday season.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has said there are issues with 40pc of passport forms which have been filled out and submitted. It had earlier been suggested that the delays were being blamed on applicants who were not filling them in correctly.
However, Mr Varadkar said that this means that actually there are likely to be issues with the passport forms which could be improved upon.
He said that officials are “examining” the forms to see if they can be updated.
“[As] somebody who deals with public administration a lot, it’s always my view that maybe 5pc of the applications are filled in wrong, that’s probably the applicants that made the mistake. But if it’s 40pc then there’s something wrong with the application process and we need to find out what that is.”
Mr Varadkar said that this year, there have been “as many new passports issued this year so far than all of last year”.
A meeting of his parliamentary party last night also heard calls for a dedicated minister to look after passports.
Speaking at a press conference in Dublin’s EPIC museum, finance minister Paschal Donohoe joked that it would be a “hotly sought after job” while Mr Varadkar said the issue would be in attempting to “convince” a TD to take the role up.