No more free passports for 250,000 pensioners
Free passports for pensioners were abolished in one of the last decisions taken in the dying days of the Fianna Fail/Green Government.
Now over 250,000 pensioners face the re-introduction of hefty passport fees after a secretive decision taken by government ministers.
The decision to charge pensioners €80 for a 10-year passport was signed off on by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and comes into effect on April 11.
The re-introduction of the fee has been described as "mean-spirited" by an age action charity.
Details of the fee are included in the briefing document left for new Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore by his predecessor.
The decision was signed in "early December" and "in light of the current budgetary situation, the Government found it necessary to discontinue this arrangement," according to the document.
Micheal Martin had already stepped down as Minister for Foreign Affairs and had been appointed leader of Fianna Fail when the statutory document was signed. Mr Cowen had taken over as caretaker minister in that department.
Mr Gilmore will now have to review the decision left by his predecessor and decide whether to implement it.
Before this, people aged 65 or over were exempted from passport fees in a decision taken in 2005.
However, reacting to the news on the hit to pensioners, Age Action Ireland called the move "mean-spirited".
"You would have to question a decision like that," said Gerard Scully, a spokesperson for Age Action Ireland.
"It is questionable how much money they will make."
The minister also decided to hike the cost of passports sought by consumers over the counter at the passport office or through the ordinary postal system by €15 to €95. A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that the new Government will have to decide on the price hikes.
He added the cost of producing passports has become higher since the introduction of biometric systems.
The ministerial briefing states that it currently costs on average €9 more to produce a passport than the revenue received from it.