Responding to recent comments made in the media by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding passport applications, Fianna Fáil TD and Leas Cheann Comhairle, Pat the Cope Gallagher has said, “Each year, very many of my colleagues in the Oireachtas make representations on behalf of constituents to support their needs. I make no apology that in my own office, we were pleased to assist over 1,300 applicants last year to obtain their passport through a variety of means.
“The Minister has oddly seen fit in his comments to criticise his party colleagues and public representatives for assisting and representing their respective constituents.
“It’s easy for a Minister based in an urban constituency with its own Passport Office to criticise those of us representing regions more isolated and neglected by Government. These are areas left without broadband services to apply online and are quite some distance from a Passport Office. In fact there are parts of my own constituency that are 277kms or more from an office to submit an application.
“Close to 40% of homes in Donegal are without broadband – so the Minister’s proposed solution to divert everyone to apply online is as distant and impractical to these households as the office on Dublin’s Mount Street.
He added, “Staff in the Passport Office work under tremendous pressure given the restraints on resources but there have been occasions when applicants have been forced to wait up to 45 days for a passport or have found themselves in an emergency when a passport is required within a short time frame.
“The Minister failed to acknowledge that passports are a service provided by the State but that citizens duly pay for. It must not be forgotten that the State and the Department obtain an income from the issuing of passports each year. It should be therefore seen as the customer and consumer lead service that it is as opposed to the one being espoused by the Minister.
“I take my role as a public representative very seriously and see my duty to represent the people of Donegal in the manner which they request or seek be that a passport application or anything else.
“Time and time again we have seen a complete lack of understanding from Government of the matters facing ordinary people. These latest remarks are no different,” concluded the Deputy.