THE passport offices in Cork and Dublin were inundated with members of the public yesterday morning trying to apply for or collect their new passports before industrial action closed the offices in the afternoon.
The action by public servants in closed 64 social welfare and passport offices from 1pm.
While the staff remained in work – meaning technically they were not on strike – members of the public could not get through to them in person or by phone.
The inconvenience to the public was severe – in Dublin alone 250 passports were due to be collected yesterday. At peak times the office in Cork and Dublin deal with 800 passports per day.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said as a result of the action it could not guarantee the turnaround time for passport services especially since applications would not be accepted again before 2.30pm on Monday.
“In light of this action customers are advised to check now the expiry date of their passport and submit applications as soon as possible,” it said in a statement.
It said those people looking for further information should visit the passport service website, www.passport.ie.
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said the action by civil servants, held in protest at pay cuts imposed in the last budget, was “regrettable”.
“Well, first of all, I would urge people to, over the next while if they’re renewing passports or getting passports, to go early and to make their applications early and so on,” he said.
“We’re obviously very concerned about the disruption and inconvenience that people will experience. But if people plan early and apply early I think they should get over most of those [obstacles], and we will continue to work to ensure that emergency passports are issued. Obviously the industrial action is regrettable, but we are where we are, and obviously we’ll do everything we possibly can to ensure that the public have access to what has over the years become an excellent passport service.”
The passport office is one of a number of the Government’s public offices which have been targeted for action by the public service unions over the last few weeks.
While a number of unions are expected to intensify aspects of their action from Monday, it is expected these department closures will continue.
Mr Martin said he did not think an escalation would “add anything” to the economy.
“It won’t add value, and I think it will be frustrating for all concerned – the public and the public servants themselves,” he said.
“In terms of services to the public, I think it will have some impact. I think the sensible way forward is through the social partnership process and to see if issues can be dealt with in that context.”
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