A DETAILED answer was given by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD (FF) in response to a Dáil question over long passport delays at the Naas-based Horse Sport Ireland headquarters.

Minister McConalogue expressed confidence in the ability of Horse Sport Ireland to turn this around, referring to new staff being hired, call volumes, and lab delays caused by the pandemic.

Carlow-Kilkenny Deputy John McGuinness (FF) tabled the question asking the Minister about actions he is taking “to deal with a backlog of registrations of horses at Horse Sport Ireland; the number of staff employed to carry out the process and the reason for the long delays being experienced by those phoning the agency”.

In response, Minister McConalogue said: “I have contacted Horse Sport Ireland and it has informed me that its Registrations Unit has been augmented with a number of new team members joining in early 2022, with a further two additional staff starting in May.

“This will bring the staff numbers to a total of 20, a significant increase on the prior year. There is a comprehensive training plan in place for all new staff members. I have been informed that the increased staff compliment together with earlier issuance of application forms and foal kits will ensure improved service levels throughout 2022.

“HSI has also informed me there was a significant increase in telephone calls compared to the same period of last year. “In early 2022 there were passport delays due to the DNA Lab normally used for animal DNA being used for Covid-19 sequencing.

“I understand that whilst call answering metrics were lower than optimum in early 2022, there have been improvements in more recent weeks and this is expected to further improve with the backlog effectively cleared and additional trained staff answering calls for increased opening hours.

“Finally, I have been informed that all foal passports where there are no queries have now been processed and sent out to the applicants within normal processing timelines, with 52% more passports created in the first four months of 2022 than the equivalent period for 2021.

“There remains a substantial amount of passports that are held awaiting further information and clarifications from the applicants, however, I believe the team is now in the position to turn around applications without undue delay and continue to strive to provide the best service to the sport horse industry as a whole,” concluded Minister McConalogue.