It is unclear why passport applications must be halted on the basis that staff need to attend the passport office to process the applications, say the Covid-19 Law and Human Rights Observatory
Trying to get a passport?
Losing your mind?
Dr Donna Lyons, a member of the Covid-19 Law and Human Rights Observatory and Trinity College Dublin representative to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs Committee on Human Rights, writes [full article at link below]:
The Irish Times, on February 20, quoted the passport service to the effect that the following services were available: a same-day service for emergencies, a weekly urgent service for Irish citizens resident overseas requiring a passport for local immigration purposes, and in general, adult renewals for work purposes on a weekly basis where a letter from the employer was provided. Expediting passport issuance for immigration or work is nowhere mentioned on the passport service’s website.
The same article quoted the passport office as stating that while routine online passport applications did not involve face-to-face interaction with applicants, staff did need to attend the passport office to process the applications as staff do not have access to the private, personal data of applicants when working remotely.
…It is unclear why passport applications as a general rule must be halted on the basis that staff need to attend the passport office to process the applications. If it is the case that staff in the passport office do not have access to the private, personal data of applicants when working remotely, it would be useful to have an explanation by government officials as to (a) what the specific problem is with staff attending offices in-person to perform this essential service when other essential service-providers have been encouraged to return to the workplace, and (b) how the passport service differs from the likes of the NDLS, RSA, and Revenue in the context of access to personal data on a remote basis.
…In another article on 20 February 2021, an Irish Times journalist commented on the ‘data protection’ justification offered by the passport office as follows:
‘[T]his seems more than a bit disingenuous, when Revenue staff are working away remotely with equally private and personal data, and driver’s licences are still being issued. Britain may have introduced mandatory hotel quarantine to discourage travel, but it hasn’t stopped issuing passports.’
…Even if the ‘data protection’ ground were defensible, it is indefensible that the general phone lines and e-mail contact services have been closed down. Moreover, even in a genuine emergency, applicants are restricted to contacting the passport office during 9:30am and 4pm, Mondays through Fridays, since the actual emergency contact information (e-mail address and phone number) are only accessible via the Webchat service and emergency e-mail account respectively.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a deliberate strategy has been put into place to make it difficult to communicate with the office, even in the case of a genuine emergency, and ‘data protection’ simply cannot be a defence to this in its entirety….
…The question of cessation of passport services in this way raises serious rule of law concerns. Rule of law is a principle which is emphasised as paramount in both domestic law and international human rights law [More at link below]…