‘It’s easier to get an Irish Passport than a packet of fags’ - DUP Colr.

Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly (left)  tabled the motion, which passed despite unionist opposition from DUP Councillor Graham Warke (right) and others.
Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly (left) tabled the motion, which passed despite unionist opposition from DUP Councillor Graham Warke (right) and others.

A DUP Alderman has claimed it is already easier to get an Irish Passport in Derry than it is ‘to get a box of fags’ while opposing calls for an Irish Passport Office to be sited in the north west.

Alderman Graham Warke was speaking after Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly proposed the council write to the Irish Government urging it to develop a new passport office for the north, during Derry City & Strabane District Council’s monthly meeting .

Colr. Kelly had asked that “this council supports calls for the establishment of an Irish Passport Office in the North following figures published in December 2017 that showed 82,274 people in the North applied for Irish Passports in 2017, compared with a figure 53,715 in the year leading up to Brexit.”

He further proposed that the “Council writes to the Irish Government highlighting this increased demand and requesting the opening of a Passport Office in the Derry & Strabane District Council area”.

Colr. Kelly said the massive growth in people obtaining Irish Passports demonstrated the clear need for an office in the north.

He said that in 2017 almost half of all applicants were people applying for an Irish Passport for the first time.

“We see this every day throughout all our offices, people are queued out the door with Irish Passport forms,” he said.

SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack said her party fully supported the idea and said her own party colleagues had proposed the same thing over a decade ago.

Colr. Cusack said that given the SDLP’s history of lobbying for, and progressing this in the north, she and her colleagues were happy to support the proposal.

Alderman Warke, however, said people could already send the passport forms off via an express service and could also submit them via Custom House Post Office in Derry.

He also said that Irish Unionists born outside Northern Ireland should be allowed to hold British Passports.

“There’s no need for an Irish Passport Office in Londonderry,” he said. “It’s easier to get an Irish Passport in this city than a packet of fags.”

Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly said it was not easier to get a passport than a packet of fags in the city or district.

He said there were mutiple reasons why people needed access to a passport office within short time frames.

He said backlogs meant that it could take up to six weeks and in some cases even up to 12 weeks, to obtain a passport.

“I think it is a great idea and would be a massive addition to the city,” Colr. O’Reilly said.

Ulster Unionist Party Councillor Derek Hussey, responding to the statistics, outlined earlier said that if everyone now had their passports, he didn’t see why an office was an issue.

Colr. Kelly’s motion however was carried by 28 votes for to nine against.