Budget 2016: Minister Flanagan on increased Passport & Consular Services, Emigrant Support and ODA13/10/15
Minister Flanagan announces: Modernisation of Passport Services, increased Consular Crisis Capacity, Emigrant Support and a 7% increase in ODA in Budget 2016
Department’s Trade Division and Mission Network Will Pursue New Economic Opportunities for Ireland across Global Markets
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Charlie Flanagan T.D., has today highlighted allocations within Budget 2016 for ongoing modernisation of the Passport Service, further development of consular assistance capacities and continuing support for Irish community and diaspora groups around the globe. The Minister also confirmed that Irish job creation, export growth and promoting Ireland’s attractiveness for investment, tourism and education will remain and develop as key priorities for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ireland’s network of diplomatic missions. A 7% increase in Official Development Aid budget has brought the overall budget up to €640 million.
Speaking ahead of his Budget 2016 address to Dáil Éireann, Minister Flanagan stated:
“Passport demand has surged in the last fifteen years – up from 388,000 in 2000 to 630,000 in 2014. Already this year 580,000 passports have issued, up 8.7% on the same period last year. As demand for passports continues to grow, I want to ensure that our Passport Service continues to deliver the very highest levels of customer service and to maintain the integrity and excellent international standing of the Irish passport.
“I intend to introduce new, world-class technologies to radically re-shape how Irish passports are delivered over the next three years and €4 million has been secured in Budget 2016 to achieve this goal. Last week I announced the activation of our Passport Card project, part of our citizen-focussed modernisation plan. Over 6,000 Passport Cards were applied for in the first week.
“The next phase of modernisation will include a more streamlined passport applications system, a facility for online renewals, a stronger focus on first-time applicants and tightening up even further against any attempts at passport-related fraud. It will also ensure a more seamless and consistent service for Irish citizens wherever they apply for a passport around the world.
“In terms of our consular services to Irish citizens, my Department has always sought to respond to tragedy with quick, compassionate and effective assistance to those impacted and their families. We typically provide such assistance to around 1,600 Irish citizens and their families each year and in 2015 we have also witnessed such high profile incidents as the tragic balcony collapse in Berkeley, the terrorist atrocities in Tunisia and the horrific earthquake in Nepal.
“To ensure that we can sustain this quality in the face of new global challenges and anticipated additional demand for consular assistance in non-traditional geographic locations and on increasingly complex issues, we will use our 2016 budgetary allocation to reinforce our consular crisis response capacity. This will focus in particular on communicating in new and better ways with Irish citizens travelling abroad and on developing innovative methods of providing advice and services quickly to those who need help most.
“I am also extremely pleased that in line with our recently launched Diaspora policy “Global Irish”, Budget 2016 will see my Department maintain its steadfast support for Irish community and diaspora groups in very many corners of the world through €11.6 million in funding under the Emigrant Support Programme.
“Irish exports and progress in foreign markets have been key to Ireland achieving the status of the EU’s fastest growing economy for the second year in a row. Budget 2016 will continue this momentum and our Budget 2016 allocation will also be used to drive my Department’s commitment to making an effective contribution to Irish job creation, export growth and Ireland’s attractiveness for investment, tourism and education.
“Abroad, this will see our network of Embassies and Consulates – including our new Missions in south-east Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas – providing extensive support to Irish-owned companies that are looking to break into new markets, as well as the building of new business networks, facilitating market access, supporting trade missions and leading Local Market Teams.
“Here at home, our work is being guided by a new and revitalised Trade Division within the Department in support of the Export Trade Council that I am proud to chair. We will spare no effort in seeking to create and take full advantage of new economic opportunities for Ireland across global markets.”
13 October 2015