The front cover of a contemporary Irish biometric passport.
|Type of document||Passport|
|Eligibility requirements||Irish citizenship|
|Expiration||10 years after acquisition for adults, 3 or 5 for children|
|Cost||€80 (adult 32p) / €110 (adult 66p) / €26.50 (children 3–17) / €16 (children under 3)|
Besides enabling the bearer to travel internationally and serving as indication of Irish citizenship, the passport facilitates the process of securing assistance from Irish consular officials abroad or other European Union member states in the case of an Irish consular not being available, if needed. Irish citizens have visa-free or visa on arrival access to 170 countries and territories, ranking access available to Irish citizens 4th in the world (tied with Canada, France, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain).
Irish passports use the standard European Union design, with a machine-readable identity page and 34, 48 or 64 visa pages. The cover bears the harp, the national symbol of Ireland. The words on the cover are in both of Ireland's official languages, Irish and English. The top of the cover page reads An tAontas Eorpach and the equivalent in English, European Union. Just above the harp are the words Éire and its equivalent in English, Ireland. The identity page on older Irish passports was on the back cover of the booklet. Newly issued passports have been redesigned with additional security features. The identity page is now a plastic card attached between the front cover and the first visa page.
- Photo of passport holder, printed in greyscale.
- Type (P)
- Country (IRL)
- Passport No.
- 1. Surname
- 2. Forename(s)
- 3. Nationality (ÉIREANNACH/IRISH)
- 4. Date of Birth
- 5. Sex
- 6. Place of birth (county of birth if born on the island of Ireland (all 32 counties), 3 letter country code of country of birth if born elsewhere.)
- 7. Date of issue
- 8. Date of expiry
- 9. Authority
- 10. Signature
The information page ends with the machine readable zone starting with P<IRL.
The passports contain a note on the inside cover which states:
- Iarrann Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha na hÉireann ar gach n-aon lena mbaineann ligean dá shealbhóir seo, saoránach d'Éirinn, gabháil ar aghaidh gan bhac gan chosc agus gach cúnamh agus caomhnú is gá a thabhairt don sealbhóir.
- The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland requests all whom it may concern to allow the bearer, a citizen of Ireland, to pass freely and without hindrance and to afford the bearer all necessary assistance and protection.
Formerly, the request was also made in French, but this has been discontinued in recent years.
The data page/information page is printed in Irish, English and French. Each detail includes a reference number (e.g. "1 SLOINNE/SURNAME/NOM"). This reference number can be used to look up translations into any other EU language, as all EU passports share a standard text layout.
The latest Irish passports have security features designed to make them difficult to forge or be mistaken as forgeries. They have also been optimised for machine reading.
The identity page of the passport has been moved to the front of the passport, and is now printed on a plastic card. This allows easier machine reading of the passport, as the official has to spend less time finding the identity page in the passport. The top-right corner of the passport contains the biometric chip, which contains a copy of the information contained on the identity page, and a facial scan of the holder. To prevent unauthorised parties remotely accessing the information stored in the RFID biometric chip, the machine readable zone of the identity page must be scanned to unlock it. This safeguard is known as Basic Access Control.
The title of the identity page "Éire/Ireland/Irlande" "Pas/Passport/Passeport" is printed in colour-changing ink, which varies from light green to gold-red, depending on the angle of the light shining on it. The background of the identity page is a complex celtic design, with the words "Éire Ireland" occasionally woven into the design.
The identity picture is now greyscale, and is digitally printed onto the surface of the page, rather than the actual photos sent by the applicant being pasted onto the page. The Irish harp is superimposed as a hologram onto the bottom right corner of the photograph. The words "Éire Ireland" are embossed several times into either side of the identity page. This embossing partially covers the photograph as an added security measure. A likeness of the photograph of the applicant is pin-punched into the surface of the identity page, and can be viewed when the identity page is held to light.
Under UV light fluorescing fibres are visible on every page except the data page. Careful examination yields page numbers on the left hand side of the left page, and vice versa for the right hand page. As you progress through the pages the numbers shift downward until on the last page they are near the bottom.
Rights to a passport
Irish passports may be issued to individuals holding Irish citizenship; the Republic of Ireland extends its citizenship law to Northern Ireland.
All Irish citizens have a constitutional right to an Irish passport, subject to certain limitations. Passports are generally valid for 10 years; children may apply for 3- or 5-year passports (depending on their age).
Visa free travel
Visa requirements for Irish citizens are travel restrictions placed upon citizens of the Republic of Ireland by the authorities of other states. In 2013, Irish citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 170 countries and territories, jointly ranking the Irish passport 11th worldwide and placing it in the 95th percentile.
Notable cases of purported fraudulent use
An Irish passport, legitimate or fraudulent, is viewed by many – including intelligence services and journalists – as a highly valuable and 'safe' document due to Ireland's policy of neutrality.
- Oliver North (using the name "John Clancy") a United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, carried a false Irish passport while visiting Iran in 1986, as did his fellow covert operatives. This was part of a series of events that became known as the Iran–Contra affair.
- In December 2005, Ireland's Minister for Justice Michael McDowell accused journalist Frank Connolly of having travelled to Colombia in 2001 on a falsely obtained Irish passport in connection with the group known as the Colombia Three. Connolly, who worked at the Centre for Public Inquiry, (intended as a public watch-dog organisation), vigorously denied the allegation and in turn accused the Minister of abusing his position.
- On 19 January 2010, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh a senior Hamas military commander was assassinated in Dubai by a team involving at least 11 individuals, three of whom were initially reported as using counterfeit Irish passports. The number of forged Irish passports used in the killing was later revised upwards to eight following a Garda and Department of Foreign Affairs investigation. The Irish government responded by expelling a staff member of the Israeli Embassy in Dublin. It stated it considered "an Israeli government agency was responsible for the misuse and, most likely, the manufacture of the forged Irish passports associated with the murder of Mr. Mabhouh."
- In June 2010 it was alleged that one of ten covert sleeper agents of the Russian government under non-official cover in the United States as part of the "Illegals Program" used a forged Irish passport issued in the name of "Eunan Gerard Doherty" to "Richard Murphy." The Russian embassy in Dublin reportedly declined to comment on the allegations that its officials had used a counterfeit Irish passport. "Richard Murphy," who later identified himself as Russian national Vladimir Guryev, was repatriated to Russia, along with the other nine members of the Illegals Program, as part of a prisoner exchange. It later emerged that the passports of up to six Irish citizens may have been compromised by the Russian agents. This led to the expulsion of a Dublin-based Russian diplomat in February 2011.
The Irish Free State was created in 1922 as a dominion of the British Commonwealth modelled explicitly on the dominion of Canada. At the time dominion status was a limited form of independence and while the Constitution of the Irish Free State referred to citizens of the Free State, the rights and obligations of such citizens were expressed to apply only "within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State". The first time Irish passports were used was by the Irish delegation to the League of Nations in August 1923.
The Irish Free State first notified the British government that it proposed to issue its own passports in 1923. The Irish initially proposed that the description they would give their citizens in their passports would be "Citizen of the Irish Free State". According to a report from The Irish Times the first time that Irish passports were used was by the Irish delegation to the League of Nations in August 1923. The British Government objected to this. It insisted that the appropriate description was "British subject", because, inter alia, the Irish Free State was part of the British Commonwealth. The Irish government considered the British viewpoint. The Governor-General subsequently informed the British Government that the description that would generally (there were some exceptions) be used would be "Citizen of the Irish Free State and of the British Commonwealth of Nations". Without reaching agreement, the Irish government issued its first passports to the general public on 3 April 1924, using this description.
The British Government was not satisfied with this compromise. It instructed its consular and passport officers everywhere, that Irish Free State passports were not to be recognised if the holder was not described in the passport as a "British Subject". This led to considerable practical difficulty for Irish Free State citizens abroad with many having to obtain British passports in addition to their Irish Free State passports. The British Consular Officers would also confiscate the Irish Free State passports, a practice the Irish authorities regarded as "very humiliating". The issue continued to be a thorny one until the early 1930s.
In 1939, two years after the adoption of the Constitution of Ireland renaming the state "Ireland" the Irish decided to make significant changes to the form of Irish passports. As a courtesy, the Irish authorities notified the British authorities. In a memorandum dated 1 March 1939 entitled "The Form of Eire Passports", the British Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, Thomas WH Inskip informed his Government of developments which had recently taken place "regarding the form of passports issued by the Government of Eire". In the memoramdum, the Secretary of State reported that "hitherto [the passports] (which have not, I understand, been amended since 1936 have borne two indications of relationship to the British Commonwealth of Nations". These, the memorandum noted were the reference to the King including his full title in the "request" page; and a front page, where underneath the words "Irish Free State" (in Irish, English and French) appear the words "British Commonwealth of Nations". The proposals notified by the Irish authorities included replacing the reference to "Irish Free State" with "Ireland"; amending the "request" page to drop reference to the King; and dropping the reference to the "British Commonwealth of Nations". The Secretary of State proposed that he reply to the Irish authorities in terms that "His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom greatly regrets the proposed elimination of the King's name from Éire passports; that in their view, the omission, when it comes to be known, is bound to create a bad impression in the UK and to widen the separation which Mr de Valera deplores between Éire and Northern Ireland". The Secretary of State noted in his memorandum that to "say more than this might raise questions [relating to whether or not Ireland was still in the Commonwealth] which it was the object of the statement of the 30th December 1937, to avoid". This was a reference to the communique published by Downing Street noting the adoption of the Irish Constitution, stating that in their view Ireland continued to be part of the Commonwealth and affirming the position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.
Ultimately, the Irish proceeded with their plans including that the term "Citizen of the Irish Free State and of the British Commonwealth of Nations" would be replaced with "Citizen of Ireland". This has remained the description up to present time, with current Irish passports describing the holder as a "citizen of Ireland" on the request page and giving the holder's nationality as "Eireannach/Irish" on the information page.
"Sale" of passports in 1988–1998
A 1988 scheme was designed to draw foreign investment into Ireland, described in a 1998 Seanad debate as the "Passports for investment scheme" Each had to invest $1,000,000 and live in Ireland for varying periods. The scheme was scrapped in 1998. Before long it was being described as the "sale" of passports in the media, but only 143 passports were passed on under the scheme. Notable applicants included some of the Getty family, Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz and Khalid Sabih Masri. Masri had lent IR£1,100,000 to the petfood company of then-Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.
Another was Norman Turner from Manchester, whose proposed investment was to build a casino in Dublin's Phoenix Park. Turner had entertained Bertie Ahern and had paid £10,000 in cash to his party, and received his passport later in 1994. The matter was revealed during the Mahon Tribunal hearings in 2008; Mr Ahern commented that Mr Turner had an Irish mother, and that in 2007 some 7,000 other passport applications were assisted in some way by politicians.
The 2006 Moriarty Tribunal report covered the grant of passports to a Mr Fustok and some of his friends. Mr Fustok had previously bought a yearling horse from the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey for IR£50,000. The Tribunal considered that "The explanation advanced for the payment, namely that it was in consideration for the purchase of a yearling, is highly unconvincing and improbable".
Passport-granting officials have also sold passports illegally, notably Kevin McDonald working in London, who had sold "hundreds" of passports to criminals for up to £15,000 each in the 1980s, grossing $400,000. McDonald was prosecuted in 1989 and was sentenced to 21 months in jail.
Gallery of historic images
Irish Free State passport cover as issued 1927 (holder's name removed)
- Driving licence in Ireland
- Irish nationality law
- Passports of the European Union
- Visa requirements for Irish citizens
- Applying for an Irish Passport
- "Global Ranking - Visa Restriction Index 2013-08". Henley & Partners. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
- "Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD, Launches new ePassport, 16th October 2006". Press Releases. Department of Foreign Affairs. 16 October 2006. Retrieved 28 March 2009.
- "ePassports FAQs" Department of Foreign Affairs
- "Census 2011". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
- Department of Foreign Affairs – Issue of Passports to Irish Citizens (SECTION 10.4 ELIGIBILITY)
- Justice Finlay. The 'X Case'judgement. 'The right to travel outside the State', an unenumerated right from Art. 40 of Irish Constitution (implies a right to a passport).
- "The Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index". Henley & Partners. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- "The Best Passports To Have For Unrestricted Travel Around The World". International Business Times. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- Irish Times – Nice and neutral: why Irish passports are a spook's best friend (20 February 2010)
- North, Oliver (2003). War stories: Operation Iraqi Freedom. War Stories 1. Regnery Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-89526-063-5. Retrieved 17/02/10.
- Persico, Joseph E. (1990). Casey: from the OSS to the CIA. Publisher Viking. p. 503. ISBN 978-0-670-82342-0. Retrieved 17/02/10.
- "Connolly accused of using false passport". RTÉ News. 6 December 2005. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- "US backer withdraws funding for CPI". RTÉ News. 7 December 2005. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- "'Hit squad' used fake Irish passports". Independent.ie. 16 February 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- "Irish to expel Israeli diplomat over Hamas killing". BBC News. 15 June 2010. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
- "Statement on... fraudulent use of Irish passports in the assassination of Mr. Mahmoud al Mabhouh". Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. 15 June 2010. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
- "False Irish passport 'used by spy ring'". UTV News. 29 June 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
- "False Irish passport 'used by spy subject'". The Sunday Business Post (ThePost.ie). 29 June 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
- Moore, Martha T.; Kevin Johnson (09/07/2010). "Pleas in Russian spy case set deal in motion". USA Today. Retrieved 11 July 2010.
- Brady, Tom; Anita Guidera (12 October 2010). "Russian spy ring linked to forged Irish passports". Irish Independent (Ireland: Independent News & Media (INM)). Retrieved 12 October 2010.
- "Russian diplomat expelled over fake passports". RTÉ News (RTÉ Commercial Enterprises Ltd,). 1 February 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- See Article 3 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State.
- The Irish Times, 8 September 1923. The report stated "The irish delegation to the League of Nations left Kingstown last week by the mail boat Soctia, en route for Geneva...[seeking] admission for the Irish Free State to the League of Nations...The party are travelling on Irish passports. This is the first occasion on which Irish passports have come into use."
- Documents in Irish Foreign Policy, No. 204 NAI DT S1971
- Documents in Irish Foreign Policy, No. 179 NAI DT S1971
- Defending Ireland: the Irish state and its enemies since 1922 – By Eunan O'Halpin, pg 75
- <Documents in Irish Foreign Policy, No. 113 NAI DFA D1971/1/1/
- British Archives, Memorandum to Cabinet dated 1 March 1939 by Thomas WH Inskip
- http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/S/0154/S.0154.199803040006.html Seanad debate, 4 March 1998
- "Irish Examiner" 1 June 1998 (4th article) text
- Reilly, Jerome (22 October 2006). "Gettys seek return of 74m from 'passports for sale' scheme". Independent.ie. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
- Collins, Neil; Mary O'Shea (2000). Understanding corruption in Irish politics. Undercurrents (Cork, Ireland) 17. Cork University Press. pp. 36–37. ISBN 978-1-85915-273-7. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
- http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/0130/turnern.html RTÉ on Mr Turner, 30 January 2008
- http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/0130/ahernb.html RTÉ, 30 January 2008
- http://www.moriarty-tribunal.ie/images/SITECONTENT_26.pdf Moriarty Tribunal, part 1, chapter 17, IRISH PASSPORTS AND ‘‘MR. FUSTOK’S FRIENDS
- LA Times, 13 April 1987
- Associated Press, 26 September 1989
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