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What is this horrible illness that's stalking the Passport Office?

I've had one of those light-bulb moments where everything's suddenly clear. I've realised what we can do with those 300 foreign doctors languishing idly in HSE accommodation while they're waiting on their registrations to come through. Let's round them up on a bus and dispatch them straight to Molesworth Street.

Did you hear there's a hazardous virus running through the Passport Office? A bug, a malaise, a disease. It's infected the entire building. Could it be something in the water? The air? The shredding machine? We should waste no time, or expense in finding out. Those poor beleaguered people, struck down in their prime -- their valiant bravery trying to do their job thwarted.

Why? Well it seems that stamping passports is bad for your health. So is photocopying apparently, and don't even mention the dangers of answering the telephone. It turns out staff in the Passport Office take double the sick leave of their colleagues in the public service. And it's not just the city centre office -- the virus has spread to the Cork and Balbriggan offices too. Imagine that -- a targeted infection that only hits passport staff. This cannot be allowed to continue -- we need to call in CSI or the cast of Fringe immediately.

It's led to a backlog of 50,000 applications which the public will, at least, be used to, given the antics of last summer when the entire place ground to a halt.

The high levels of sick leave are obviously down to the stress of pushing paper. Oh, and filing. Maybe measuring all those gormless photos to within a millimetre has taken a toll on the brain cells. Whatever it is, it's led to a 50pc increase in waiting times for passports -- and it's OUR fault! Here we are, selfishly looking after our own lives -- struggling to put food on the table and all the while NOBODY noticed that the entire Passport office is wasting away, right before our eyes.

Those tormented people -- suffering from a devastating illness -- unable to do their hideously strenuous, nine to five permanent, pensionable job. Unable to take their long lunches or avail of their tea breaks or even celebrate the king's birthday -- that stalwart favourite of the civil service. Oh, what horrid people we are -- not paying them any attention.

"It's a difficult place to work in. There's a lot of stress" says their union, the CPSU.

God love them. I mean, what they wouldn't give to be a nurse fighting off a drunken lout in A&E, or a prison officer patrolling the D wing in Mountjoy, or a teacher minding 30 five-year-olds. Those people are only delighted they don't have to suffer the stress of working in the Passport Office, let me tell you!


And then, to cap it all, you get jumped-up TDs like John O'Mahony, who had the outright gall, to suggest that -- brace yourself gentle reader -- there might be absenteeism going on.

How dare you, Sir! Would that you had to spend a day in the horrendous environs of the unbearable and ghastly but surprisingly nicely appointed, well lit and heated building in the horrors of Dublin 2 and it would wipe your eye for you.

No, the sooner we can diagnose this insidious illness, the better. Answers on a postcard to the Passport Office, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. There'll be nobody there to read them, but you'll feel betting having done a public service.