Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is under fire from angry TDs after he capped the number of passport queries they can submit per week to 20 amid the current backlog crisis.
In a bid to address public disquiet over an inability to check on the status of passport applications, a dedicated hotline for TDs and senators was established as a means of resolving cases.
However, due to the sheer demand, Mr Coveney’s department initially slapped a cap of 15 queries per week on TDs, but this has been upped slightly to 20 in the face of mounting political criticism with 195,000 applications outstanding.
TDs from within the Government and the Opposition have said they are receiving 50 to 60 queries each week on passport delays.
Former Fine Gael Minister and Mayo TD Michael Ring has been scathing of the delays.
“It is total disgrace. I warned them a year ago this would happen.
“The least they deserve is to get them in a timely fashion,” he said.
Mr Ring queried why so many basic functions such as getting a driving licence, a medical card or a passport is such a “painful process”.
“After two years, we have people working from home. We need them in the office and sorting this mess out. I am sick of it and I have told the Tánaiste that,” he added.
There are mounting fears among coalition backbenchers that a failure to solve this backlog quickly could have devastating political consequences for Government TDs.
In a note to TDs, Mr Coveney said that given the level of demand, the staffing of the Oireachtas Urgent Query Service will increase from seven to 11 full-time staff.
“This will enable the passport service to more easily respond to the most pressing inquiries received by you.
“In addition up to 20 queries will now be facilitated which is an increase of five queries per week effective immediately,” the note to TDs says.
He said planning is also at an advanced stage to establish a more permanent service for all Oireachtas members with an online portal that will allow queries for all application types to be submitted directly to the passport service.
Mr Coveney said he “appreciates” that many TDs are continuing to receive a large number of passport queries to their constituency offices due to the continued backlog.
He has pleaded with TDs to use the dedicated query service strictly to when there is an urgent need, or where an application has passed its issue by date.
Of 10,201 live applications from the Cork area alone, just under 4,000 needed further action from the applicant, meaning the forms were not filled out satisfactorily.
The other 6,200 are currently being processed.