Northern Ireland news

Fianna Fáil suggests Irish passport office along border with north

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

FIANNA Fáil has said the Irish government should consider opening a passport office along the border to cater for a surge in applications from the north.

Almost 82,000 applications for Irish passports were made from Northern Ireland last year – up almost a fifth on 2016 and more than two-thirds over three years.

Applicants in Northern Ireland can currently use a 'passport express' service in post offices, but the increase has led to renewed calls for a passport office north of the border.

Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said there is a "clear and identifiable need", while SDLP MLA Claire Hanna has written to the Dublin administration requesting that "all efforts are now made to bring Irish passport offices here to the north".

And yesterday the Alliance Party said it sees "merit in this option being explored further" given the increased interest following the Brexit vote.

Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O'Brien, the party's spokesperson on foreign affairs and trade, said the Fine Gael-led government should ensure passport applications are "processed in a timely and efficient manner".

"Consideration must also be given towards opening up a regional passport office in the border region. Such an office would provide ease of access for those living in Northern Ireland who are looking to access passport services," he said.

"While I acknowledge that many passport applications are now made online, it's important to recognise that not everybody has the capability to make an application online.

"A regional passport office would ensure that these people can still make a passport application and have it processed in a timely and efficient manner."

Asked whether there should be an Irish passport office in Northern Ireland, an Alliance spokesman said: "Under the Good Friday Agreement, people born in Northern Ireland have a right to either British or Irish citizenship, or both.

"There has been an increased interest in Irish passports since Brexit. We see merit in this option being explored further."

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