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Belfast Live
Niall Deeney

Irish government rules out setting up NI passport office, following SDLP request

The Irish government has ruled out setting up a passport office for Northern Ireland.

Tanaiste Micheal Martin said there is "no basis" for setting up a passport office in correspondence with SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, who had called for one to be based in the North West.

Mr Durkan, however, insists that with 43,000 Irish passports issued to people living on this side of the border in just six months this year a dedicated office situated in Northern Ireland is a "common sense solution".

Read more: Irish passport office needed in Northern Ireland, councillors told

In his letter to Mr Durkan, Fianna Fail leader and Tanaiste Micheal Martin said: "Demand for passports from Northern Ireland remains steady and represents about 10% of total applications received by the Passport Service.

"So far in 2023, the Passport Service has issued over 43,000 passports to applicants residing north of the border."

However, Mr Martin pointed to the "considerable advantages" of online passport services and stated: "My Department does not currently have grounds for proposing that an additional Passport Office be opened."

In a statement, Foyle MLA Mr Durkan said: "As we approach the summer months, demand on the passport office is at its peak.

“I know this process can be lengthy and often frustrating particularly for first time applicants from Northern Ireland who are subject to additional checks. The SDLP has been calling for a North West based Irish Passport Office for quite some time, which would improve accessibility and make the process easier for everyone involved but specifically for citizens in the North."

He continued: “Following correspondence with the Irish government they’ve confirmed that over 43,000 Irish passports were issued across Northern Ireland in the first six months of 2023, which I feel is testament to the increasing demand and growing need for an additional physical office. The Department for Foreign Affairs are reluctant to open an additional passport office but have committed to improving services.

“However, there are clear issues around delays with children's passport and a possible discriminatory policy which sees single mothers here face additional barriers securing Irish passports for their child."

He continued: “It continues to be the case that applicants here are being advised to travel to Dublin in order to collect their new passports and documentation.

"This sets citizens from the North at further disadvantage, complicating access to important documents to which they are entitled."

He added: "A passport office based in the North is a common sense solution which would alleviate pressures facing the Passport Service in Dublin who are fielding on average 3,000 queries a day. I'll continue working to see existing issues resolved and the overall process streamlined.”

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