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Saturday 21 April 2018

Purple drain as up to 40 passports fall out of back pockets in pubs and clubs every weekend

More than 800,000 Irish passports will be printed this year — many of them replacements for ones lost on nights out. (Stock picture)
More than 800,000 Irish passports will be printed this year — many of them replacements for ones lost on nights out. (Stock picture)

Jim Gallagher

Up to 40 young Irishmen lose their passports every weekend because the little purple books are shoved casually in their back pockets in pubs and nightclubs.

More than 800,000 Irish passports will be printed this year - many of them replacements for ones lost on nights out when young people use them as proof of age.

David O'Connor, who works in the plant that produces them, said one machine tested the flexibility of the document because of the expected wear and tear.

He said it had to be done "because of the unique situation where Irish guys consistently put their passports in their back pocket whether they are clubbing, pubbing or travelling on an aircraft".

Austin Gormley, who works in the passport office, showed the TV cameras a box of lost passports that arrived that morning for a new RTE documentary series, The Thin Green Line, about Irish embassies around the world.

He said 30 to 40 were handed in on a Monday morning after every weekend by bouncers and security staff.

But he said that figure could rocket to "hundreds" after a major event.

"We then have to immediately cancel them because they could be used by someone else, potentially," said Mr Gormley.

The documentary discovers that the Irish passport is one of the most sought after and secure in the world "and guarantees visa-free travel to most destinations".

The programme also visits embassies and consulates in Paris, New York and Freetown, Sierra Leone, in west Africa.

It shows the work the consulate does in supporting an Irish centre in New York - opened in 2005 - which helps to look after elderly ex-pats, some of whom have suffered years of loneliness.

Former consul general Barbara Jones reveals that the Irish government gives €150,000 a year to the centre which provides meals, support and companionship for the elderly.

"This is the generation who sent money back to Ireland, they kept the country going in the very difficult 60s and 70s. They are great, great people and we celebrate them," she said.

"Here we are in a city of 8.6 million but people have been left behind and are isolated."

Sunday Independent

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