Belfast mum on ‘nightmare’ passport wait as family faces missing dream holiday to Spain

A Belfast mum says her family could miss out on their dream holiday to Spain as their Irish passports may not arrive in time.

Janine McErlane is due to fly to Gran Canaria with her husband Robert and their two daughters Clodagh and Cliodhna on May 22.

Janine sent off their passport applications in February “and the estimated issue date for all of them was April 28”.

Read more: Irish passport panic for NI family after three month wait for son’s travel document

The holiday was originally booked for September 2020, but the pandemic had forced them to delay it a few times, with the family paying around £ 2,200 to go to Gran Canaria.

It was pushed back to May 2021, then September of the same year, before finally being set for May this year.

While Janine was gathering together the documents to apply for Irish passports, the Irish passport office closed for a while during the pandemic.

A while later, they moved house which meant waiting for other documents to arrive and she was finally able to send off the applications, which were received at the passport office on February 26 this year.

“It’s a complete nightmare, I’m gutted to the stomach. I’m going to have to break the news to the children, they’re five and seven and they’re going to be devastated too,” Janine told Belfast Live.

“We were married in Greece 10 years ago and this is me and the hubby’s first time away since then, it’s why our British passports have expired.”



The family are desperately trying to get British passports before May 22
The family are desperately trying to get British passports before May 22

Janine has now been exploring the possibility of getting emergency British passports for her and the family as it looks so unlikely the Irish ones will arrive on time, but that has also been beset by problems arising from the Irish applications.

The Irish passport office now has all her family’s documents which is preventing her from getting an emergency British passport.

Robert and Janine could get their expired British passports renewed but need a long birth certificate for their children, as it’s their first passport.

She is trying to get those from the registry office in Belfast but said there are long queues there too as other people are trying to do the same thing.

She said she had found no help in the brief talks she has been able to have with the Irish passport office.

“The one person I got talking to on the chat service, he was no help at all. He told me what I already knew.



The Irish passport office has seen a massive surge in applications since the latest easing of most Covid restrictions.
The Irish passport office has seen a massive surge in applications since the latest easing of most Covid restrictions.

“He told me there was no way of flagging it up, that it was in a queue and processing. It doesn’t look like we’re going on holiday.”

The Department for Foreign Affairs in Ireland said on Tuesday that there were no backlogs in the applications received, but did say they were experiencing difficulties with their passport service and phone lines.

“The Passport Service has issued over 400,000 passports since the beginning of this year,” the spokesperson said.

“This is compared to a total of 634,000 passports issued in 2021. In four months, the Passport Service has issued over 63% of the total number of passports issued last year.

“355,000 passports were issued in the same period in 2019.

“While the Passport Service is experiencing a very high volume of applications, this does not represent a backlog.

“Applications are all being processed in the usual way, with a continuous stream of new applications and a continuous dispatch of completed passports happening every day.

“Since March, the Passport Service has reduced the turnaround time for first-time passports from 40 working days to 30 working days.

“This turnaround time applies to fully complete and correct passport applications and begin from the date supporting documents received by the Passport Service, not the online registration date.”

Read more: How do I apply for an Irish passport?

Read more: Irish passport figures by postcode show many issued in unionist areas of NI since Brexit

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