‘Strong business case’ for Passport Office ‘cannot currently be made’ says Micheál Martin

A ‘strong business case’ for a Passport Office in the North ‘cannot currently be made', Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said.
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He ruled out a physical office in the six counties in the short-term after being pressed on the matter by Sinn Féin T.D. Matt Carthy.

Deputy Martin said a ‘strong business case’ does not exist, adding that he believes the need is ‘receding’ due to the growth of online applications.

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"Demand for passports from Northern Ireland remains steady and represents about 10 per cent of total applications received by the passport service.

Tanaiste Micheal Martin at a press conference at Farmleigh House in Dublin after the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Picture date: Thursday January 19, 2023.Tanaiste Micheal Martin at a press conference at Farmleigh House in Dublin after the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Picture date: Thursday January 19, 2023.
Tanaiste Micheal Martin at a press conference at Farmleigh House in Dublin after the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Picture date: Thursday January 19, 2023.

"So far this year, the Passport Office has issued more than 64,000 passports to applicants residing in Northern Ireland. Out of the total of 78,000 applications received from Northern Ireland to date in 2023, almost 70,000 of these were made using Passport Online,” he said.

The Tánaiste said the Department of Foreign Affairs does not believe a Passport Office would represent value for money at the current time.

“In view of the fact that the overwhelming majority of passport applicants apply online and the considerable benefits of Passport Online for all of our citizens, the Department is of the view that a strong business case cannot currently be made for opening an additional passport office in the North.

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"The Passport Service will continue to consider ways it can improve its service to all citizens regardless of where they live,” he said.

Deputy Carthy said he was ‘very disappointed’ with the response.

He referred to the inaccessibility of urgent appointment services at Passport Offices in Dublin and Cork for citizens from the North.

"We spoke of the urgent appointment service which operates both in Dublin and in Cork. In fact, a person can get an urgent appointment service in London but not in the North of our own country.

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"This has a particular real impact for people who are obliged to travel to either Dublin or Cork. I know that my colleague Deputy Pearse Doherty regularly speaks to me about the burden of people from his constituency in Donegal having to travel to Dublin when they need to make an appointment of this nature because that is a much bigger undertaking than if somebody gets the 49 bus or whatever into the centre of Dublin. I urge the Tánaiste to reconsider the response he has been given and give real consideration to this prospect,” he said.

But Deputy Martin pointed to the growth in demand for online passport services.

“Of the 78,000 applications received from Northern Ireland to date in 2023, almost 70,000 of these were made using Passport Online. The direction of travel is online.

"The business case just is not there for a physical office. Increasingly, we will be going online. With regard to a physical office, if 70,000 out of 78,000 are applying online, that number is going to increase next year and the year after.

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"Others were looking for an office in the west as well as in the North, but I believe that the business case for physical offices in those locations is receding not only because of the growth of the utilisation of the online service but because of the efficiency of that service and the degree to which people are responding to it,” he said.