An Irish passport is the passport issued to citizens of Ireland. An Irish passport enables the bearer to travel internationally and serves as evidence of Irish nationality and citizenship of the European Union. It also facilitates the access to consular assistance from both Irish embassies and any embassy from other European Union member states while abroad.
Irish passports are issued by the Passport Office, a division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. All Irish passports have been biometric since 2006. In 2015, the Irish government introduced the Passport Card, which enables Irish citizens who already possess a passport, to travel throughout the European Economic Area and Switzerland. An Irish Passport Card is intended for travel and identification purposes and functions similarly to a European national identity card.
Both Irish passports and Irish passport cards allow Irish citizens to travel, live, and work unrestricted in any country within the European Economic Area and Switzerland. Irish citizens have visa-free or visa on arrival access to 185 countries and territories; the international access available to Irish citizens ranks 6th in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index
Irish passport booklets use the standard European Union design, with a machine-readable identity page and 32 or 66 visa pages. The cover bears the harp, the national symbol of Ireland. The words on the cover are in both of Ireland’s official languages, Irish and English. The top of the cover page reads An tAontas Eorpach and the equivalent in English, European Union. Just above the harp are the words Éire and its equivalent in English, Ireland. The identity page on older Irish passport booklets was on the back cover of the booklet. Newly issued passport booklets have been redesigned with additional security features. The identity page is now a plastic card attached between the front cover and the first paper page (the “Observations” page).
The ePassport or biometric passport, was launched on 16 October 2006 with the first ePassports presented that day by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Photo of passport holder, printed in greyscale.
3. Nationality (ÉIREANNACH/IRISH)
4. Date of Birth
6. Place of birth (county of birth if born on the island of Ireland (all 32 counties), 3 letter country code of country of birth if born elsewhere.)
7. Date of issue
8. Date of expiry
The information page ends with the machine readable zone starting with P<IRL.
Irish passport booklets contain a note on the inside cover which states:
Iarrann Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus Trádála na hÉireann ar gach n-aon lena mbaineann ligean dá shealbhóir seo, saoránach d’Éirinn, gabháil ar aghaidh gan bhac gan chosc agus gach cúnamh agus caomhnú is gá a thabhairt don sealbhóir.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland requests all whom it may concern to allow the bearer, a citizen of Ireland, to pass freely and without hindrance and to afford the bearer all necessary assistance and protection.
Formerly, the request was also made in French, but this has been discontinued as newer versions of the passport were introduced.
The data page/information page is printed in Irish, English and French. Each detail includes a reference number (e.g. “1 SLOINNE/SURNAME/NOM”). This reference number can be used to look up translations into any other EU language, as all EU passports share a standard text layout.
The latest Irish passport booklets have security features designed to make them difficult to forge or be mistaken as forgeries. They have also been optimised for machine reading.
The identity page of the passport booklet has been moved to the front of the passport and is now printed on a plastic card. This allows easier machine reading of the passport, as the official has to spend less time finding the identity page in the passport. The top-right corner of the passport booklet contains the biometric chip, which contains a copy of the information contained on the identity page, and a facial scan of the holder. To prevent unauthorised parties remotely accessing the information stored in the RFID biometric chip, the machine readable zone of the identity page must be scanned to unlock it. This safeguard is known as Basic Access Control.
The title of the identity page “Éire/Ireland/Irlande” “Pas/Passport/Passeport” is printed in colour-changing ink, which varies from light green to gold-red, depending on the angle of the light shining on it. The background of the identity page is a complex celtic design, with the words “Éire Ireland” occasionally woven into the design.
The identity picture is now greyscale, and is digitally printed onto the surface of the page, rather than the actual photos sent by the applicant being pasted onto the page. The Irish harp is superimposed as a hologram onto the bottom right corner of the photograph. The words “Éire Ireland” are embossed several times into either side of the identity page. This embossing partially covers the photograph as an added security measure. A likeness of the photograph of the applicant is pin-punched into the surface of the identity page, and can be viewed when the identity page is held to light.
Under UV light, fluorescing fibres are visible on every page except the data page. The first sentence of Article 2 of the Irish constitution is visible under UV light and is printed in both Irish and English on alternate pages. The 2013 version of the passport also reveal a topographical map of Ireland on the observations page. Later pages include such landmarks as the Cliffs of Moher, the Samuel Beckett Bridge and the Aviva Stadium; there are excepts from poems in Irish (by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill), English (by William Butler Yeats) and Ulster Scots (by James Orr) and from the score of the national anthem, “Amhrán na bhFiann”.
A credit card-sized Passport Card was introduced on 5 October 2015. It was originally announced as being available in mid-July 2015 but was subsequently delayed. It conforms to international standards for biometric and machine readable travel documents promulgated by ICAO.
Unlike the United States Passport Card, which cannot be used for international air travel or for land and sea travel outside North America, the Irish passport card can be used for air travel and throughout the European Economic Area and Switzerland and some non-EEA countries such as Albania, Bosnia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montserrat (max. 14 days) . However, at introduction, it was only publicised as having been approved for entry and exit by countries in the EEA. A few days afterwards it was confirmed that Switzerland had given its approval.
The Irish Passport Card is a passport in card format and is intended to be usable as a travel document in most European countries, in a similar way to national identity cards elsewhere in the EEA. It is largely treated in the same way as an identity card in several other EU countries, since that is what their laws call such cards. However, the IATA Timatic database used by airlines to find out document requirements lists the passport card as a separate document type. In addition, Serbia and North Macedonia, who accept identity cards from other EU countries, have stated they do not accept the Irish passport card, meaning Irish citizens remain obliged to present a passport book when entering those countries. The card uses the designation “IP” in its machine readable zone (MRZ) (the “I” means identity card and the “P” is without meaning in the MRZ standard). Although ICAO began preparatory work on machine readable passport cards as early as 1968, Ireland was the first country to issue one for air travel and the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan, highlighted the novelty and utility of Ireland’s Passport Card at its 2015 introduction.
It costs €35 and is valid for five years or the validity of the bearer’s passport booklet, whichever is less. From November 2018 Passport Cards are available to all Irish Citizens. Unlike national identity cards issued in other parts of the EU, an Irish passport card cannot be issued unless the bearer already has a valid passport booklet but, because of its convenient size and durable format compared to the Irish passport booklet, it will also serve purposes similar to that of national identity cards in other parts of the EU: identity and age verification, and intra-EU travel.
Except at Budapest Airport, it is not possible yet to use this card at electronic border gates / e-gates in Europe and can not yet be used at electronic passport control gates at Dublin airport. At airports with fewer manned border control posts this can commonly cause delays.
The long-delayed and recently issued Irish passport cards have security features designed to make them difficult to forge or be mistaken as forgeries. They have also been optimized for machine reading.
The top-left corner of the passport card contains the biometric chip, which contains a copy of the information printed on the card, and a facial scan of the holder. To prevent unauthorised parties remotely accessing the information stored in the RFID biometric chip, the machine readable zone of the identity page must be scanned to unlock it. This safeguard is known as Basic Access Control.
The designation of the document “Éire/Ireland/Irlande” “Pas/Passport/Passeport” is printed in colour-changing ink, which varies from light green to gold-red, depending on the angle of the light shining on it. The background for the front of the passport card is a complex Celtic design, with the words for “Éire / Ireland” appearing in the official languages of the EU as part of the design.
The identity picture is greyscale, and is digitally printed onto the surface of the special security polycarbonate. The Irish harp is superimposed as a hologram onto the bottom right corner of the photograph. A likeness of the applicant in a hologram photo on a strip on the back is the first time this security feature will be used on travel documents according to the Irish security printing firm DLRS Group that assisted in its development.
Ireland’s passport card was joint winner of the Best Regional ID Document at the High Security Printing Europe Conference in Bucharest, Romania in March 2016
Visa requirements for Irish citizens are travel restrictions placed upon citizens of Ireland by the authorities of other states. As of 3 October 2018, Irish citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 185 countries and territories, ranking the Irish passport 5th worldwide (tied with the Belgian, Canadian and Swiss passports) according to the Visa Restrictions Index.
Notable cases of purported fraudulent use
An Irish passport, legitimate or fraudulent, is viewed by many – including intelligence services and journalists – as a highly valuable and ‘safe’ document due to Ireland’s policy of neutrality.
Oliver North (using the name “John Clancy”) a United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, carried a false Irish passport while visiting Iran in 1986, as did his fellow covert operatives. This was part of a series of events that became known as the Iran–Contra affair.
In December 2005, Ireland’s Minister for Justice Michael McDowell accused journalist Frank Connolly of having travelled to Colombia in 2001 on a falsely obtained Irish passport in connection with the group known as the Colombia Three. Connolly, who worked at the Centre for Public Inquiry, (intended as a public watch-dog organisation), vigorously denied the allegation and in turn accused the Minister of abusing his position.
On 19 January 2010, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas military commander, was assassinated in Dubai by a team involving at least 11 Israeli individuals, three of whom were initially reported as using counterfeit Irish passports. The number of forged Irish passports used in the killing was later revised upwards to eight following a Garda and Department of Foreign Affairs investigation. The Irish government responded by expelling a staff member of the Israeli Embassy in Dublin. It stated it considered “an Israeli government agency was responsible for the misuse and, most likely, the manufacture of the forged Irish passports associated with the murder of Mr. Mabhouh.”
In June 2010 it was alleged that one of ten covert sleeper agents of the Russian government under non-official cover in the United States as part of the “Illegals Program” used a forged Irish passport issued in the name of “Eunan Gerard Doherty” to “Richard Murphy.” The Russian embassy in Dublin reportedly declined to comment on the allegations that its officials had used a counterfeit Irish passport. “Richard Murphy,” who later identified himself as Russian national Vladimir Guryev, was repatriated to Russia, along with the other nine members of the Illegals Program, as part of a prisoner exchange. It later emerged that the passports of up to six Irish citizens may have been compromised by the Russian agents. This led to the expulsion of a Dublin-based Russian diplomat in February 2011