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austerity measure

'A recovery for whom?': Government slammed for refusal to reintroduce free passport for pensioners

Free passports for pensioners were done away with under austerity measures, but there are calls now to bring it back.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS indicated it has no plans to reintroduce the provision of free passports to pensioners, despite claims it affects “the most vulnerable” of older people.

During the boom, the government allowed over-65s to get their passports for free.

However, during austerity measures in 2011, this entitlement was done away with as the Department of Foreign Affairs said that the move was down to budgetary constraints.

The current cost of a standard adult 10-year passport is €75 when done online or €80 through An Post, and Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Tánaiste, Simon Coveney has said there are no plans to reintroduce the free passports. 

He said: “Based on 2017 application volumes, the Passport Service has calculated the potential annual cost of eliminating the passport application fee for applicants over 65 years of age to be over €6.2 million.

Given that any shortfall in revenue would have to be met by the taxpayer, a decision to waive or reduce the application fee for any category of applicant would require careful consideration.

The estimated cost if it was implemented for those over 70 years of age would be €3.7 million. 

This move has been criticised by Active Retirement Ireland, who said it hindered many of its members.

Its head of communications Peter Kavanagh told “I was with the organisation when they did away with the free passport. For the last seven years, we’ve been calling for its reinstatement.”

He said that older people would primarily be on a fixed income, and it was “luck of the draw” in terms of when their passport would be up for renewal.

“A lot of vulnerable older people wouldn’t be available to afford it,” he said. “It’s this narrative of recovery, and how things are back on track after austerity. It’s a recovery for whom? In this, but also in a lot of other areas, it’s the poorest and most vulnerable who aren’t benefiting.”

Kavanagh added that passports are just necessarily useful for older people who want to travel abroad, and said many without a driver’s licence would have used it as a form of ID.

“It was something that was really useful to people to be able to prove their identity when going to the bank, or other services such as that for example,” he added.

Of course they’ll have a Public Services Card now but that’s a whole other can of worms. People trust a passport, they know what it’s there for and some older people are being denied the chance to get one. 

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