The controversy surrounding the help given by Bertie Ahern to businessman Norman Turner in obtaining an Irish passport has revealed the existence of a separate passport service operated by TDs from Dail Eireann for the benefit of their constituents.
I understand the system operates as follows. TDs collect passport documents from constituents and deposit them in a drop box at the Enquiries Desk of the Dail. They are then collected by courier and taken to the Passport Office where they are processed at a specially designated desk. A number of civil servants are on call to deal with any problems or questions that may arise in relation to these ‘special’ passport applications. When processed, the passports are collected by the TDs and personally delivered to the favoured constituents. 6,200 such applications were processed last year.
There is no justification whatsoever for this ‘unofficial’ service. The official Passport Office already provides a very efficient service capable of dealing with all eventualities.
In addition to normal service the office operates an express service that guarantees a passport within ten working days. There is also an emergency service whereby passports can be provided in two or three days.
The only possible reason for the existence of this expensive and unnecessary service is to provide TDs with a means of granting special favours for their constituents.
This Tammany Hall operation should be discontinued immediately or alternatively all citizens should be given access to the service with full details published on the Passports Office website.