Cllr Aengus O’Rourke: Said he and other public representatives had been "inundated" with calls about expired passports.

Athlone councillors 'inundated' with calls over expired passports

Athlone councillor Aengus O'Rourke has called for the Irish passport service to start issuing reminders to people whose passports are about to expire, saying he and other public representatives had been fielding a huge volume of calls from people who just discovered their passport was out of date.

In one case, he said, a local school was undertaking a trip to the UK and he received six requests from people who were hoping to travel but needed new passports inside ten days.

"I have been inundated recently with urgent, last-minute, requests where school tours are going to certain locations and all of a sudden, two weeks out, panic hits the household because someone's passport isn't in date," he said.

"They were all emergency situations, and they needed a lot of minding, a lot of pushing, and phonecalls and emails to Dublin.

"Last summer it was even more frantic and chaotic at times, and I'm sure my experience is no different to that of any other public representative."

He was speaking at the March meeting of the Athlone Moate Municipal District, where he had a motion asking for a letter to be sent to the Minister for Foreign Affairs urging him to implement a reminder system.

He said that, about six months before a passport was due to expire, he would like to see a renewal reminder being sent by text message, email, or letter to the passport holder or to the guardians of a passport holder if it's a child.

"Maybe they'll come back with a good reason why they can't do this, but I'd like to hear what it is," he said.

His motion received unanimous support from the other members at the meeting. Cllr Vinny McCormack, a parliamentary assistant to Westmeath TD Robert Troy, said people were contacting Deputy Troy's office "every day of the week" with urgent passport renewal requests.

"A lot of times people don't really look at their passport until they're ready to go on holidays," said Cllr McCormack.

He said that people in receipt of a medical card are generally contacted six months before it's due to expire, and he didn't understand why this couldn't apply in relation to passports.

Cllr John Dolan agreed that there was "great merit" in Cllr O'Rourke's suggestion, saying local representatives had been "flooded with applications from people" about passport issues after the pandemic travel restrictions were lifted.

"Most of our passports are ten-year passports, and you're not going to remember too easily when your passport was renewed," he added.

Cllr Frankie Keena pointed out that people are notified in advance about the renewal of their car insurance or house insurance, and he didn't see why it should be any different in relation to passports.

It was agreed that the Municipal District would write to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in relation to the issue.