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Passport Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 3 June 2020

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Questions (16, 18, 19, 24, 25, 29, 31, 36, 38)

Martin Kenny

Question:

16. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when the passport office will reopen and services resume; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8311/20]

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Seán Haughey

Question:

18. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when passport services are expected to resume including the production and processing of passports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8528/20]

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Niamh Smyth

Question:

19. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when services will resume at the passport office including the processing of applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8529/20]

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Jack Chambers

Question:

24. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he expects the passport office will resume full services; if passport holders with expiring passports are advised to submit renewal applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8674/20]

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James Browne

Question:

25. Deputy James Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when first time passport applications may be lodged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8742/20]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

29. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which a person can receive a passport renewal during the Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9014/20]

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Seán Sherlock

Question:

31. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when it is expected his Department will restart passport applications. [9128/20]

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Gary Gannon

Question:

36. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when the passport office will be reopened to provide its necessary function; and when the postal method, that is, passport express will be operational again. [9502/20]

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Cormac Devlin

Question:

38. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the phase of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business in which the passport office will reopen; the plans that have been put in place to deal with a backlog in applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9741/20]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 18, 19, 24, 25, 29, 31, 36 and 38 together.

With the commencement of the COVID-19 public health emergency and the introduction of widespread travel restrictions both nationally and internationally, Irish citizens have ceased nearly all non-essential travel. This has led to a large decrease in the number of passport applications received by the Passport Service, including a decrease in applications received from applicants.

In response to this situation, the Passport Service is operating an essential, emergency service at this time. This has allowed us to both reassign staff to our consular services assisting our citizens abroad and redeploy staff to critical areas including contact tracing for the HSE and COVID-19 payments for Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, all critical services at this time.

The Passport Service continues to process emergency passports for our citizens at home and abroad. Almost 350 passports have issued to our citizens both at home and abroad in response to urgent requests. Our webchat service and a dedicated travel emergency mailbox continue to operate through which we can be contacted in such circumstances. In addition, our phones lines have answered over 16,000 calls from Irish citizens overseas as part of the Department’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Passport Service staff cannot work remotely, they must be on site in order to process passport applications. This is to protect the personal data of the applicant and the integrity of the Irish Passport System.

The Global Irish Services Division of the Department is now focused on returning to a point when we can provide a full passport service. We will endeavour to do so as quickly as possible, while providing our staff with a safe working environment and in line with the Government’s Roadmap to reopen Ireland’s economy and society. The protection of staff is our first priority but we also recognise that providing passports is an essential public service. I encourage Deputies to stay in contact with my office for updates in relation to the Passport Service.

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