Passport woes spark call for office in Derry

Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly has raised concerns over the time frame for people receiving their passports.
Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly has raised concerns over the time frame for people receiving their passports.

Fresh calls have been made for an Irish Passport Office north of the border to be located in Derry due to the impact of a surge in applications post-Brexit.

Sinn Féin Councillor Colly Kelly said that over the last week, he has spoken with a number of people in Derry who were “very concerned” as they have not received their passports in the time scheduled.

He said the problem was affecting people on both sides of the Derry-Donegal border.

Colr. Kelly said: “I think people need to know that An Post Express Renewal Applications is currently 16 working days. There can be no doubt that this demand will be sustained and likely increase due to the British Government’s reckless Brexit.”

Colr. Kelly pointed out that last year, passport applications from the north saw an 26.5 per cent increase in applications to 67,972, while application levels from Britain increased by 40.6 per cent to 64,996.

He said: “The unprecedented demand has led to the Office employing an additional 230 staff. There is an identifiable need for an Irish Passport Office in the north.

“These statistics indicate clearly that the government can take not only an important symbolic, positive and unilateral initiative to locate an office in the six counties, but that such a move would make strategic and logistical sense, as well as creating further new jobs in the north.”

He added that demand clearly indicated a need for Special Designated Status for the north within the EU, adding that “the Irish Government should stand with the rest of us in making that case.”

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs responded: “The vast majority of passport applications from both sides of the border are made through the post office networks. This remains the most efficient and cost-effective way to apply and applications can be submitted at over 70 post offices in Northern Ireland and at over 1000 post offices in the State.

“To accommodate a relatively small number of people with urgent or sudden travel needs, an appointment service is in operation in the Passport Offices in Dublin and Cork providing a limited number of appointments each day.”

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan meanwhile said: “My strong advice to prospective travellers is to apply for a passport before booking any travel, allowing six weeks as a matter of best practice.

“The passport reform programme, currently underway, will include the introduction of online applications. This will provide a more efficient service for applicants.”