Passport seekers will need public service card
Controversial Public Services Cards (PSCs) are set to be made a requirement for passport applications here just months before Britain is due to leave the European Union.
Amid ongoing uncertainty over the future arrangements at the Border with Northern Ireland, the Government plans to make the cards necessary for all adult passport applications and renewals as little as three months before March 2019 when Brexit is scheduled to take place.
Former President Mary McAleese raised fears at the weekend that a passport or ID may be necessary to cross the Border despite pledges by both the Irish and British governments to maintain the common travel area.
The Department of Public Expenditure's eGovernment Strategy lists the fourth quarter of 2018 as when the Department of Foreign Affairs has committed to adoption of the PSC for passport applications.
Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea has said he is "concerned" at the timing due to fears that a hard Brexit could lead to Border passport checks. He has already accused the Government of trying to introduce a mandatory card "through the back door".
That was after Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said that while the cards are "not compulsory", they're needed for services provided by her department.
Mr O'Dea said requiring a PSC for passport applications is further evidence of its mandatory nature, adding: "Increasingly, there'll be no section of the population that's not affected."
He said the Government should "back off" on its plans for the card and that he'll be raising the matter when the Dáil returns.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar responded to Mrs McAleese's concerns, telling RTÉ he's "very sure" there won't be passport checks at the Border. He said that's because all sides in Dublin, Belfast, London and Brussels want to continue passport-free travel over the Border and "there's nobody looking for controls".