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Ó Snodaigh seeks to amend Passport Bill 2007

19 February, 2008


Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD will attempt to amend the Passport Bill 2007 today when it is debated in the Dáil. Speaking ahead of the debate Deputy Ó Snodaigh said his party's priorities are to make it easier to obtain a passport with an Irish language translation of a person's name, to limit the use of bio-metrics and to insert a provision for an appeal to a District Court against decisions by a Minister to refuse or cancel a passport.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "On behalf of Sinn Féin I will be proposing a number of amendments to the Passport Bill 2007 when it is debated in the Dáil this evening. Our priorities are to make it easier to obtain a passport with an Irish language translation of a person's name, to limit the use of bio-metrics and to insert a provision for an appeal to a District Court against decisions by a Minister to refuse or cancel a passport.

"Section 12 of the Bill gives the Minister dangerously extensive powers of discretion with no transparency. The Minister may decide on the basis of his own, or a government colleague's opinion, to deny an Irish citizen a passport and by extension deny their right to leave the state. He can deprive any individual of this fundamental liberty if, in his view, they might endanger public safety, be contrary to the common good or, on the oft-abused ground 'prejudice state security'.

"Vesting this power in one political personality is outrageous. The government is essentially proposing with this Bill that even where no convictions, maybe even no charges, have been made against an individual the Minister alone, and in the absence of any meaningful independent or judicial oversight, can sentence an individual to a lifetime of severely restricted travel or 'state-arrest'.

"The Bill introduces further forms of biometric data to the process. This automatically raises human rights concerns particularly in relation to the right to privacy.

"Currently the only biometric in use for passports are facial images and these are stored in a central database held by Dept. Foreign Affairs. Under this definition at any time, and without consultation, the Minister could extend the biometrics required from passport applicants to include iris images, finger-prints and potentially even DNA profiles. At a minimum this Bill should be amended to limit the biometric provisions to facial images thereby requiring any future extension to be proceeded by full Oireachtas debate and scrutiny.

"The Bill as it stands maintains barriers and red tape when trying to secure a passport with the Irish language version of your name. We should be removing not constructing barriers. We should be encouraging the use of the Irish language including names which are an important part of our culture and heritage.

"Despite the problems I have outlined this Bill as it stands before us now is a much more positive Bill than the one originally produced by the Government last year. This is due not least to the efforts of Sinn Féin to highlight and amend problems as we saw them in the Bill at each opportunity. I hope that we will continue to see positive amendments adopted and agreed." ENDS

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