Almost 79,000 Irish passports issued to people in the UK in first half of 2019

Almost 79,000 Irish passports issued to people in the UK in first half of 2019

Nearly 20,000 more first-time passports were issued to UK residents at the start of 2019 compared with Irish citizens.

The Passport Office has confirmed that 78,744 first-time passports were issued to people living in Great Britain and Northern Ireland over the six months to end June 2019.

Over the same time period, 60,300 were issued to adult first-time applicants in the Republic.

Foreign residents are not required to hold a Public Services Card (PSC) in order to get a passport. The decision to expand the uses of the PSC to include passport applications has not been without controversy due to the perceived unfair nature of an application process demanding more of Irish residents than it does of those living overseas.

Applications for Irish passports in the UK have ramped up significantly over the past 18 months as people moved to preserve their ability to move freely within the EU in advance of Brexit.

It has been State policy that first-time applicants for passports (and those who had not held a passport since 2005) need to hold a PSC since March of 2016.

“This is unfortunate and it is unfair,” Elizabeth Farries, information rights project manager with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, said of the fact more passports were being processed from outside this jurisdiction.

“It points to the additional burden and inconsistent requirements being placed on Irish citizens simply because they live there,” Ms Farries said.

It speaks to the problematic nature of the PSC in general and the manner in which it was rolled out.

Two weeks ago the Data Protection Commissioner ruled that the expansion of the PSC for passports and driving licences was unlawful, and gave State bodies three weeks to cease requiring the card in order to access their services.

Despite this, the Passport Office has declined to remove the card as a requirement to date, and has consistently said that it is “currently reviewing documentary requirements for first-time applicants”.

In light of this Ms Farries said that “Social Protection needs to tell the Department of Foreign Affairs to change its tune”.

John Brady, Sinn Fein spokesperson on Social Protection, meanwhile described the figures as being indicative of “the complete mess that the Government has created on this”.

He described the fact Northern Irish applicants don’t need a PSC in order to get a passport as “absolutely skewed”.

“It shows that the PSC serves no purpose full stop, and how hypocritical the whole process has been with no legal basis for it,” he added.

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