herald

Tuesday 20 November 2018

'We're sorry for delays', says passport boss over backlog risk to holidays

Holidaymakers have been hit by delays to their passports
Holidaymakers have been hit by delays to their passports

The boss of the Department of Foreign Affairs has apologised for ongoing delays in issuing passports.

Some applications have taken as long as two months to process.

Niall Burgess told the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) there has been "unprecedented demand" for passports.

He apologised for the service and said it "is not what it should be at present".

Among the TDs who raised the issue with him were PAC chairman Sean Fleming, Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy and Fine Gael's Alan Farrell.

Ms Murphy said she was aware of a number of people whose travel plans had been disrupted. One person had missed a wedding abroad because of the delays.

Mr Burgess said that while some passports can be applied for and processed online within days, there have been delays in the Passport Express service, particularly for first time app- licants.

Frustration

"Because we take pride in what we do, it is a matter of immense frustration for us that some categories of passport application are taking longer to process than we had planned," he said.

Mr Burgess admitted that not all phone calls to the passport office were being answered and that many people are concerned they will not receive their passports in time to meet travel plans.

"I see the effort my colleagues in the passport office are making to get on target," he said.

"I also see their immense grace under pressure as they answer telephone calls and deal with callers to the office.

"Because we have a responsibility to verify and protect the identity of the citizen involved and ensure the integrity and international reputation of the Irish passport, lost and stolen passports and first time applications take longer.

"But if you call the passport office, you should get an answer.

"If we are frustrated at what we cannot do, our customers are even more so.

"The phone service is not what it should be at present and I apologise for that.

Mr Burgess said he believed the passport office will be meeting its targets by next month.

He added that delays in temporary staff joining the passport service earlier this year had contributed to the delays.

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