Irish passport amongst top-ranking in world for `visa-free' travel

Interest in Irish passports in Northern Ireland has soared following the Brexit vote

AN IRISH passport can now get holders into more countries, more easily than almost every other country in the world.

Two independent passport indexes have ranked Ireland fourth and fifth respectively against the rest of the world.

The Henley Passport Index (which places Ireland fifth) and Arton's global passport index (which ranks it fourth) measure passports of the world according to the number of countries their holders can travel to visa-free.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney said he was "very proud" of the achievement, adding the announcement "brings attention to the highly secure nature of the Irish passport".

"It reflects the major efforts undertaken at all levels of the Passport Service to protect the integrity of the passport and to ensure it continues to be a secure travel document, while also meeting the challenges of increases in application numbers and the need for technological advancement," he said.

"The ranking demonstrates again the value and power of the Irish passport and how well it is regarded internationally."

The Irish Passport Service has invested in a three-year Passport Reform Programme which ends in 2019, introducing an online renewal service in March 2017.

It allows adults renewing their passports to do so anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day/seven days a week, with "applications currently being processed in less than the target 10 working days".

The ranking comes as the number of Irish passports issued last year hit the highest since records began.

The record levels - 779,000 Irish passports issued in 2017, six per cent more than the previous year - have been linked to the UK decision to exit the European Union and its common travel area.

There were almost 82,000 applications from Northern Ireland - up almost a fifth on 2016 and more than two-thirds over three years, with first-time applications maing up around half of all requests.

Pressure is growing on the Irish government to open a passport office in the north.

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