Irish passport office for the province proposal rejected by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council

A Sinn Fein motion to request an Irish passport office to be established in “the North of Ireland” was rejected by Antrim and Newtownabbey Council at a meeting in Mossley Mill on Monday.
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The motion was proposed by Glengormley Councillor Eamonn McLaughlin and seconded by party colleague Glengormley Cllr Michael Goodman.

Cllr McLaughlin asked the council “acknowledges the increased demand for Irish passports from citizens of this borough and across the North of Ireland, particularly since the Brexit referendum and calls for additional services to be put in place to manage the demand”.

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He also sought the council to write to the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin “expressing concern at the current backlog and delays for Irish passport applications, and request a passport office to be established in the North of Ireland to help manage this demand”.

Irish passport. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting ServiceIrish passport. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service
Irish passport. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service

Cllr McLaughlin said, according to the 2021 Census, the number of Irish passport holders in Antrim and Newtownabbey has “doubled”. He went on to highlight his concerns over what he considered to be “application problems and delays”.

Cllr Goodman said having a passport office would make the application process “a lot easier and support ratepayers in this borough”.

Pressing Matters

Threemilewater DUP Cllr Sam Flanagan said he had “some fundamental concerns about the motion” and was “not in a position to support it”. He pointed out the council has “many pressing matters to deal with within its own remit”.

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Macedon Ulster Unionist Cllr Robert Foster said his group would not be able to support the motion. “When they said north of Ireland, I thought they were referring to Donegal.”

Cllr Foster said he had consulted Dail Ireland Hansard which indicated the passport service was “meeting high demand”.

“They do not have a problem, so they do not have a problem to solve. For us to write to a minister about a backlog that does not exist seems stupid and way above our remit.”

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs says: “Passport online is the quickest way to get an Irish passport. Passport Online remains our priority service as it facilitates us to process your passport application more efficiently.

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“First time applications are the most complex as all documents need to be verified. You should not book any travel until you have received a passport as these applications cannot be expedited.”

The current turnaround time for a simple adult passport renewal is ten working days; child passport renewal, 15 working days; first time online application (adult and child), 20 working days; postal application, eight weeks.

Ballyclare Alliance Alderman Lewis Boyle proposed an amendment replacing the phrase “North of Ireland” with Northern Ireland in the interests of “community harmony”, seconded by party colleague Dunsilly Cllr Jay Burbank.

Cllr Flanagan said he did not want to “engage in back and forth semantics” “The critical point is that it is outside the bounds of this council. This is a local borough council tasked with handling affairs of a local borough council. The amendment is redundant and missing the point.”

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Cllr Goodman said he would be “happy to accept the amendment”. The amendment proposal fell following a vote with 16 councillors in favour and 21 against. A vote on the original motion also fell after 16 votes in favour and 21 against.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter