C: Rob Lynch

Passport U-turn: Irish Embassy issues emergency passport so family can return home for grandmother’s 80th birthday 

An Irish grandmother will now be able to meet her five-month-old grandchild for the first time at her 80th birthday this week after the Irish Embassy in Switzerland intervened to provide her son’s family with an emergency passport. 

On Monday, Gript carried the story from Irishman Rob Lynch, whose plans to travel to Ireland with his wife and two young children for his mother’s 80th birthday were thrown into serious doubt due to delays from the Irish Passport Office. 

Mr Lynch has now contacted Gript to inform us that the Irish Embassy in Switzerland decided to issue an emergency passport for his baby daughter on Wednesday — the day before the family’s flight — for which he is “deeply grateful to Gript, Carol Nolan TD and all parties who helped get the family home”. 

 Rob’s mother will now have the chance to see her five-month-old grandchild on her 80th birthday on Thursday now that the issue — caused by delays from the Passport Office — has been resolved. 

 ORIGINAL STORY (published 4th April 2022): 

Irishman Rob Lynch has spoken of his disappointment over the handling of the passport application for his five-month-old daughter which was made in January. He says he and his wife have struggled to get any clear information on progress. Mr Lynch, whose wife is from the Czech republic, has lived in Switzerland for the past 14 years, and the couple have two young children, with the youngest child, Anna Marie, born in November 2021.

The family, who have not been able to fly to Ireland for two and a half years owing to Covid travel restrictions and lockdowns, planned to attend an 80th birthday event of Rob’s mother, set to take place this Thursday, 7th April. They applied for an Irish passport for baby Anna Marie in early January and were looking forward to bringing both their children to Ireland for the first time. In addition to celebrating Mr Lynch’s mother’s birthday, they also made arrangements to baptise their young son.

“As you can imagine with covid we haven’t been home in 30 months – in other words none of my children have ever set foot on Irish soil… and so as the entire family is gathering for this special event we also made arrangements for my son to be baptised in Ireland with many of the family (spread across the world) in attendance and my sister who lives in England being Godmother,” Mr Lynch said. 

Mr Lynch says the passport application documents were sent with postal tracking in January, and confirmed to have arrived through tracking at the passport office on the 18th January.

“I was originally alarmed as the online passport tracking service did not confirm the passport had arrived at the office,” Mr Lynch said. 

“I contacted them and after countless times getting through their answering machine (imagine the cost calling from Switzerland) they confirmed it had arrived and their system would update eventually – which it did on the 26th of January.”

The father of two says he stressed the urgency of the application, and emphasised that it was time-sensitive with the important occasions coming up. He says he was assured that a note would be left on the document to instruct the same. 

 “Despite contacting the Irish embassy in Switzerland multiple times explaining the situation and many more calls and online chats through the passport web agent absolutely no change in the online status occurred until last Sunday 27th of March,” Mr Lynch said.

It was at that point that the family contacted the constituency office of Michael McDowell TD to see if the Independent TD could be of help. Mr McDowell’s staff wrote to Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney’s office; but Mr Lynch insists Mr Coveney’s intervention has not changed the situation.

“We received an email in response which by itself is a wonder in how to use the maximum number of words to convey exactly zero information,” Mr Lynch told Gript.

The Irish expat says that when the family submitted the documents and they were registered by the passport office, they were given an expected issue date of 31st March, which he says, by itself is a date which cuts extremely close to their planned trip. However, that date has since come and gone without progress with regard to the online status of the Lynch family’s application. The anxious family are due to fly to Ireland in three days time, and no passport – or further update – has yet been received.

Mr Lynch says he believes the incident demonstrates that the Irish civil service only serves the citizens of other nations, and has failed to prioritise the needs of its own Irish citizens.

“I’d like to say that I’m surprised at what has occurred,” Mr Lynch said. 

“I’d like to say that Irish people get some kind of value for their taxes or that the civil service makes some effort to serve the Irish citizenry – however as an Irish exile I feel strongly that it only serves the NGO class and the citizens of other nations.”

Trying to spur change on the situation, the family also contacted Independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Carol Nolan, who has expressed frustration at the situation. Ms Nolan says she is contacted “every single week” by families and individuals seeking assistance over lengthy passport delays. 

“Every single week I have families and individuals coming to me seeking assistance on this issue-some of whom have been waiting at least four, five, or six months and more for their passport applications to be processed,” Ms Nolan said.

Highlighting the consequences of unforeseen delays, Ms Nolan added: “There is just no sense that the situation is improving, and it is having terrible consequences for some families. They have missed out on funerals, weddings or even major sporting events that they were due to participate in. 

“I know the staff in the passport section are under fierce pressure, but clearly this is now a political issue as the supports Minister Coveney say his department have put in pace to escalate processing are just not working.”

Her comments come as the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) claimed that families are missing flights to holiday destinations because some members cannot get their passports issued in time. The ITAA said that some families were being forced to wait several months for a passport for a family member – particularly for new babies or first time passport holders.

 The Passport Office has been attempting to deal with the huge volumes of applications generally this year following lulls during the Covid-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions. Last week, Simon Coveney said the number of applications for Irish passports had gone “off the charts” in the last three months, with 137,000 applications to the Passport Service made in January, more than 150,000 in February and over 100,000 in March.

Mr Coveney told the Dáil on Thursday: “The main issue that’s driving pressure at the moment is just the sheer volume of applications, it’s just off the charts in terms of anything else we’ve ever experienced in recent years.”

Passport Office officials have denied that there is a “backlog”, stating simply that as applications are processed, new ones come in. 

However, for Mr Lynch and his family, who were so looking forward to being reunited with their loved ones, the delays and lack of information continue to be a major source of stress and disappointment, especially as the family were not forewarned of any delays to processing times.

 The Passport Service has been contacted by Gript for comment.

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