The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has made the decision not to recall old Irish passports following the use of forgeries in the assassination of a Hamas leader earlier this year. They calculated that such a move would cost over $50.8 million and would cause major administration difficulties.
Forged Irish passports were used in the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh, a senior figure in the militant Palestinian movement, in Dubai. The eight passports were all issued before 2005, when new security features were introduced. The Department had previously considered recalling all passports in circulation which were issued before these security precautions were implemented.
In June, an Irish Government issued report concluded that the passports used in the attempted assassination "were manufactured or acquired by an agency of the State of Israel.” Following the report, an official from the Israeli embassy in Dublin was ordered to leave Ireland.
The Irish Times, under the Freedom of Information Act, acquired documents which showed that the Government had dismissed the mass recall of Irish passports. Director of the passport service, Joseph Nugent, said if the plan was put into action they would need to recall 2.5 million passports.
He said: "At this time the Passport Service could not cope with replacing this volume in any short time period.”
Every year the passport office in Ireland issued 600,000 Irish passports worldwide. To undertake the task of reissuing these 2.5 million passports would take the office four years to complete.
Currently the Irish passport office is still recovering from a backlog created after an industrial dispute involving staff slowed the productivity of the department earlier this year.
British, Australian and French passports were also used in the Israeli assassination attempt. Nugent revealed that none of the other countries have decided to carry out recalls on their passports.
The report also found that those involved in the forgeries had only used the passport numbers of Irish issued passports, but had not used the same name and date-of-birth combinations. This is therefore not classed as identity theft.
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