Daniel McConnell: TDs anger at reduced access to fast-track passport system

Being able to sort out a passport has won many votes for TDs over the years.
Daniel McConnell: TDs anger at reduced access to fast-track passport system

TDs are angry over the cap on passports. File Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Backbench and opposition TDs have little or no individual power but one great perk they did have was fast-tracked access to passports for their constituents.

So amid major delays in passport applications, news that they would only be able to query 15 applications a week was met with considerable anger from TDs, government, and opposition.

That anger forced Simon Coveney into upping the cap from 15 to 20 in a bid to calm the storm.

Many TDs have said such a cap is less than half of the number of queries they get every week from voters, many of whom are at risk of missing out on foreign holidays.

Basis for re-election

For generations, being able to sort a passport has been the basis for re-election for many a TD.

When he was in the Dáil, Former Donegal TD Pat the Cope Gallagher would make a virtue of his diligence in sorting passports for his constituents.

He would regularly arrive into Leinster House on a Tuesday with the applications, travel by Dublin Bike to the Passport office, and get them processed for collection before he headed back to Donegal or for posting out.

Such was his proficiency, the joke around Donegal was that it became known as “Pat the Cope’s Post Office”.

An ability to sort something like a passport is invaluable for a TD, proving to a potential voter they can deliver in times of stress.

Simon Coveney admits the current system is not working.
Simon Coveney admits the current system is not working.

The current quagmire sees an overloaded system that many say is too inflexible and communicating with the bureaucratic machine is near impossible.

A query to a West of Ireland TD in recent days from a lady detailed how she was forced to ring the customer service line more than 80 times to get an answer.

This is not acceptable.

Coveney admits he and his officials need to get better at telling people how to avoid making mistakes when the forms are being filled out. 

He has been at pains to tell TDs the system is under unprecedented pressure and staff numbers have doubled in order to clear the backlog.

Many will argue the passport office should never have shut during Covid and such expressions from Coveney will fall on deaf ears if progress is not seen and seen quickly.

Governments have fallen for less.

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