No foreign travel for habitual criminals

CRIMINALS were to be grounded under a proposal by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to refuse passports to habitual offenders.

But an incredulous Department of Justice, fearing all kinds of legal, practical and diplomatic problems, recommended "that we throw their proposal right back at them".

The idea was dreamed up in 1967 by then External Affairs Minister Frank Aiken who sought the views of his Cabinet colleague in Justice, Brian Lenihan.

It was Aiken's opinion that: "It was felt that while the department should not normally refuse passports merely because the applicants had one or more criminal convictions, it should do so in cases where the convictions were so numerous as to establish the presumption of habitual criminality."

Officials in the Department of Justice struggled to word their response. Initially they considered dismantling Aiken proposal with a barrage of arguments, pointing out that it would require the gardai to vet every applicant for a passport which they could not do, and to express an opinion about an applicant's intentions which may not be reliable.

Ireland was also bound by international treaties to allow its citizens leave the country and the trend was for less formality in international travel, with the citizens of eight western European countries then able to travel to Ireland with a simple visitor's card issued by a travel agent rather than a passport. The proposal was never introduced.

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