By Shelley Marsden
ONGOING chaos surrounding the issuing of British passports has had no discernible effect on the numbers applying for Irish passports in Britain, it seems.
There are around 500,000 Irish passport holders in the UK at present, with many more people legible to apply for an Irish passport in Britain.
But it seems that the continuing backlog with the issuing of UK passports, which escalated on Monday when Passport Office workers went on strike over pay, has not prompted more people than normal to apply for an Irish passport.
Thousands of passport office workers downed tools on Monday over staff numbers and pay. The strike by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union was an attempt to draw attention to staff shortages dating as far back as 2010, as well as inequalities in pay, the union said.
A shortage of staff is the reported reason behind the huge backlog in processing applications which led to extra staff being draughted in, and an apology from the home secretary Theresa May to those affected.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The staffing crisis in the Passport Office has been obvious for everyone to see and it shouldn’t have taken a committee of MPs to force the chief executive to meet us to discuss it.
Figures from the home office suggest 360,000 UK passports are being processed, but it does not know how many of these are overdue.
The Home Office was critical of the strike’s timing given that it was the summer holiday season. A spokeswoman said: “Holding a strike at this stage is irresponsible and will only inconvenience our customers and jeopardise their holidays.
“HM Passport Office staff know how important it is to hard-working people and their families to receive their passports in time for their summer holidays. They have shown this through their hard work and commitment during this exceptional period of high demand.”
The Irish Embassy’s Claire Brosnan told the Irish World that the Irish Embassy in London has seen no discernible spike in those seeking an Irish passport since troubles with the British Passport Office began four months ago.
She added it was too early at this stage to ascertain whether Monday’s strike news would have an effect on the number of people applying for Irish passports in the UK.
Earlier this month, Theresa May ordered a series of emergency measures, including giving UK citizens living overseas an automatic one-year extension to their passports, and giving those with an “urgent need” to travel the possibility to upgrade to the fast-track service for free for a limited period, though these measures have been criticised by some for posing a security risk.