Speaking at Council on a Sinn Féin motion calling on Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, to establish a passport office in the North of Ireland to help manage the “current backlog and delays for Irish Passport applications”, said the Ballyarnett representative.
Added Cllr Farrell: “We in the SDLP are in partial agreement with this motion. We obviously have serious concerns about the delays right across the Passport Service
“We agree that there should be an Irish passport office here in the north, but we’re going to be more specific and say that should be located here in this city, in Derry.
“Belfast has its UK passport office and Derry should have its own Irish passport office.
“My colleague Mark H Durkan has already written to Simon Coveney in this regard and we feel that the backing of this Council would add further weight to that very legitimate request.
“Passport services are under extreme pressure and establishing an office here in the north would help manage the current and future demand.
“And these pressures have resulted in people contacting elected representatives across the north requesting prioritisation of applications and there is no existing or apparent process for this.
“So, we feel a hotline direct to the heart of the Passport Service is urgently required so we can make representations on behalf of our constituents.”
Cllr Farrell concluded: “We support the spirit of the motion, but we have minor amendments – namely that Derry should be the location of an Irish passport office and that we as elected representatives should have a dedicated direct line into the Passport Service to assist with queries.”
Final agreed motion:
“Council will write to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, expressing concern at the current backlog and delays for Irish Passport applications, and request a passport office be established in Derry to help manage current and future demand.
“And calls on the minister to open a Passport Service hotline for elected representatives in the north to enable swift and efficient communication regarding passport queries.”