Irish passports: security compromised

Fine Gael’s foreign affairs spokesperson has said that the alleged use of two fake Irish passports by the Russian spy ring broken up in the US is another example of the vulnerability of Irish passports.

Billy Timmins, called on Foreign Affairs Minister, Micheál Martin, to spell out the steps being taken to address the fraudulent use of Irish passports, adding that it was only eight months since Ireland learned that eight fake Irish passports had allegedly been forged by an Israeli assassination unit in Dubai in the killing of Hamas chief Mahmoud al Mabhouh.

The Opposition spokesman said that: "Major questions remain about the security of Irish passports, particularly given the huge numbers of lost and missing documents.

"In 2009, over 33,000 passports were reported as lost, stolen or mislaid. This represents 6% of all passports issued in 2009, which is a staggering number. I expect the minister to address the matter with the utmost urgency.”

Martin, for his part, said that: "The department [of Foreign Affairs] is seeking to obtain further information in relation to these reports. The firm position of the Government in regard to the fraudulent use of passports is a matter of public record."

An investigation into the alleged Israeli passport theft was jointly carried out by the Passport Service and the Gardai. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the government had considered a worldwide withdrawal of passports issued before 2005 at once stage, but decided not to because of the logistical difficulties and costs that such a plan would have entailed.

In 2006, the department introduced biometric passports with a microchip containing a digital image of the holder. The step is said to have boosted the security of the passports.