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New fears exposed on Irish passports

AN alleged Russian spy ring in the United States may have used more than one fake Irish passport with three of those arrested using Irish names.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is seeking more information on allegations that one of the people arrested, Richard Murphy, is said to have travelled on a forged Irish passport.

The firm position of the Government in relation to the fraudulent use of Irish passports was a matter of public record, a spokesman said.



PROTEST

The latest embarrassing revelation that spies may have used Irish passports comes in the wake of the use of forged Irish passports by Israeli agents who assassinated a Hamas official in Dubai. One Israeli Embassy official has been expelled from Dublin in protest.

One of the alleged spies, with the American alias, Richard Murphy, travelled in February this year to Rome to collect an Irish passport which bore the name Eunan Gerard Doherty and which had been issued in Dublin in July, 2001.

It was an old style paper document with a laminate over a passport photograph and no biometric information.

Murphy, who was born in Philadelphia and lives in New Jersey, flew from Newark to Rome last February where he was instructed to collect the Irish passport before flying on to Moscow, according to papers filed by FBI officers. The alleged spy was told to carry Time magazine and wait outside the Libreria shop near San Giovanni subway station in Rome.

The passport was described in communications as an old "transit passport".

He had to wait for a contact to approach and say: "Excuse me, could we have met in Malta in 1999?" Murphy was told to reply: "Yes, indeed. I was in La Valetta but in 2000."

According to Moscow's instructions, the stranger then slipped the spy a false Irish passport for travel on to Russia.

He flew on to Moscow and returned on March 3 with a mysterious laptop which he later turned over to another Russian agent in New York.

Richard and Cynthia Murphy appeared to be living a typical American middle class life in Montclair, New Jersey. They had arrived two years ago and were well liked by neighbours.



mislaid

Billy Timmins, Fine Gael's foreign affairs spokesman, called for the US and Russian ambassadors to be questioned over the forgery allegations.

"It's only five months since we learned that eight Irish passports were used by a Mossad unit which carried out the assassination in a Dubai hotel," he said. "This highlights once again the vulnerability of Irish passports," he added, claiming, that more than 33,000 Irish passports had been reported lost, stolen or mislaid - 6pc of the total issued.

mlavery@herald.ie


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