The Passport Service, located in my Department, is one unified service composed of three constituent offices located in Mount Street, Dublin, in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin and in South Mall, Cork.
The Passport Service operates three passport printing machines, two of which are located in our main production facility in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin and one located in the Passport office in Mount Street, Dublin.
All applications are processed through the centralised Automated Passport Service (APS). This means that all production facilities can print a passport irrespective of where the application was processed. This printing system allows for flexibility between printing machines if any one machine has reached capacity. Each passport printer has a printing capacity of 250 passports per hour.
This meets the Passport Service's printing demands and, indeed, there is additional capacity. Therefore, I am satisfied at this time that there is no requirement for an additional printing machine, and as such, there is no plan to expand printing facilities to the office in Cork at this time.
The allocation to the Passport Service in Budget 2020 will increase resources for the Passport Service to meet increasing demand, and to continue to improve customer service delivery and customer experience.
I would like to draw attention to the well-advanced Passport Reform Programme. It continues to deliver major upgrades to the Passport Service technology platforms and business processes as well as significant customer service improvements.
One key element of the Passport Reform Programme is Passport Online which allows customers to apply for an Irish passport online. The Passport Service introduced online renewal of adult passports in 2017 and expanded this service in 2018 to include the renewal of child passports. On October 31 this year, Passport Online expanded to allow first time applicants from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland to apply through this channel.
Passport Online brings significant benefits to citizens with faster turnaround times at lower costs. 53% of all applications received in 2019 have been online applications. Over 69% of those eligible to use the online application channel have done so. Passport Online has been instrumental in the efficient management overall passport operations and in allowing the Passport Service to allocate staff resources more efficiently to cope with unprecedented demand.