Call for passport office to be located in midland region

The Government must consider setting up a passport processing office in and for the Midlands region.

That was the position put forward by Independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan during a Dáil debate on the passport crisis affecting approximately 195,000 applicants.

Deputy Nolan went on to say that there was no logical reason why each region should not have its own dedicated passport office considering the pressure that is currently being placed on the central Dublin office that is struggling to manage an unprecedented number of applications.

“In my constituency offices in Laois and Offaly the volume of correspondence coming in is on a par with that related to housing and health, which I thought I would never see,” Deputy Nolan said.

“Housing and health, in that order, have always been the main issues coming into my office.

“I acknowledge that additional staff have been taken on in the Passport Office since last June. However, I am disappointed that greater efforts were not made to take on more staff because we knew this would become a huge problem once the lockdowns and travel restrictions were removed.

“It is unfair on individuals and families and a source of great stress and disappointment. I can also only imagine what the stress levels are like for staff in the Passport Office who are often targeted as the source of the problems around delays.”

“This problem is no fault of the staff. It has to do with the whole organisation and the system as it operates. The system needs to be improved, brought up to standard and moved with the times.

“Having passport offices in all the regions would be a logical solution. We need this type of State service in the Midlands because we have been left behind in many other ways. The fair thing to do would be to have more offices and ensure every region is represented.

“That would certainly alleviate the pressure on the staff trying to deal with huge numbers of applications and working with a system that is not fit for purpose.

“This is one of the few issues on which TDs in every party are in agreement. That speaks volumes. Most of the time TDs are at odds on issues and have different opinions and perceptions of how bad things are but on this issue members from every party are saying there is a serious crisis here.

“It is totally unacceptable that a family will be given an issue date and will then make plans, perhaps using savings, and book different activities for a holiday abroad only to discover that the passport has not arrived. That is very disappointing and totally unacceptable. Again, it is about the system in place and not the staff.

“There has to be a better way of doing business. Certainly, in the immediate terms the redeployment of departmental staff is one way to try to help clear the backlog,” concluded Deputy Nolan.