Written Answers. - Departmental Offices.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

32 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason no duty officer is available for emergency cover at the Passport Office in Cork; the number of passports issued from that office in 1997; the income derived therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8092/98]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

35 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the Passport Office was first established in Cork; the number of staff employed there; his views on whether emergency requests and, consequently, the need for emergency arrangements are a regular feature of passport offices; and if he will make a statement on the need for these emergency arrangements in Cork. [8093/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 35 together.

The Passport Office in Cork was first opened in January 1987. It accepted and processed applications, referred them to the main Passport Office in Dublin and issued passports on behalf of the main Passport Office. In October 1995 the Passport Office in Cork was upgraded to a full issuing office for persons living in Munster.

The office has a permanent staff of 23 and in 1997 employed 18 additional temporary clerical assistants to deal with the increased demand during the busiest months. A total of 65,017 passports were issued from the Cork office in 1997 in respect of which approximately £2.3 million in passport fees was collected and credited to the Exchequer.

The Department of Foreign Affairs operates a duty officer system whereby an officer is on call outside normal office hours to deal with urgent matters, including the issue of passports of restricted validity in genuine emergencies. The duty officer is based at Iveagh House. For security reasons an emergency passport service is not provided from the premises of either the Dublin or the Cork Passport Offices.

A recent survey of emergency passport applications showed that just 16 per cent were from persons in Munster.

Having regard to the security implications of opening the Cork Passport Office after office hours, the limited demand for an emergency service and the fact that such a service for the whole country is available at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin a separate emergency service in Cork is not warranted at this stage. However, I will keep the matter under review, taking into account also what such an extra service would cost.