Thousands of people face having their summer holidays ruined as almost 10,000 Irish passports have not been issued on time.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has had to scramble extra staff to cope with demand, mainly because of Euro 2016, the Olympics and an increase in people holidaying overseas this summer.
A DFA official admitted they are behind in processing 9,218 passport applications, which are now overdue.
Overall, the Passport Office is working to clear a total of 68,281 applications. This figure is up by 15.3pc compared with the same time last year, when 59,173 passport applications were processed. Prospective holidaymakers are now being advised to avoid booking their flights unless all their documentation is up to date.
“Demand for passports has been very high throughout 2016 and a number of measures have been put in place to address this unexpected surge in demand,” the DFA said.
A spokesperson confirmed that the department had sanctioned overtime at three offices (Mount Street, Balbriggan and Cork) and that it had drafted in 227 temporary clerical officers to help clear the backlog.
With Euro 2016 less than three weeks away, those fans hoping to see Ireland take on Sweden at the Stade de France in Paris on June 13 have been told to submit their applications for a passport renewal in person rather than by post.
“If travelling in three weeks or fewer, customers are advised to make an online appointment to submit their application at the Passport Office in Dublin or Cork,” a spokesperson said.
“It’s peak season at the mom-ent. The service has experienced a sustained increase in demand throughout 2016 and we expect this to remain very high in the coming months.
“Customers should choose the correct application channel depending on when they are travelling to ensure their passports arrive on time.”
Apart from the Euros, the increase in this year’s passport applications is being driven by a number of factors, including increased overseas travel, earlier Easter holidays and a spike in those renewing their passports from 2006.
More than 70,000 Irish fans are expected to travel to France for the football finals, and some could be in danger of missing out if they fail to receive their passports in time.
Ger Keville, speaking for the You Boys In Green (YBIG) fan club, said supporters need to be aware of the
delays and take action quickly if they have not renewed their passports.
“You would hope that anyone heading over to the Euros would have their documents sorted, but things always come up,” he said.
The DFA spokesperson denied reports that applications were taking much longer than the turnaround times posted on the department’s website, with some claiming that the express service is now closer to four weeks than the advertised 15 working days.
Sources at the Passport Office expressed concerns to this newspaper that faulty machinery had contributed to the backlog, saying that the breakdown of one particular machine had caused serious problems in processing applications.
However, the DFA denied this, saying that “contingency measures” were in place to ensure that any such breakdown would not affect “the level of production”.
“In the case of passport express renewal applications, correctly completed applications are being processed in 12 to 14 working days,” said the spokes- person. “There are no issues with our production suite.”
The Passport Office said it would continue to monitor the backlog “to ensure the effective deployment of staff resources”.
Fianna Fail’s spokesperson on foreign affairs, Darragh O’Brien, said: “There could be a lot of misery and a lot of money wasted if families fail to get their passports on time.
“The department should know by now that there’s always going to be a surge in applications in the run-up to summer.”