Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD, Launches new ePassport, 16th October 2006
Travel Document Project Comes In Under Budget
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern T.D., today announced the successful launch of the new Irish ePassport. Speaking at Iveagh House, where he presented the first of the new ePassports to members of the public, Minister Ahern said
“We have brought this project to completion within time and well within budget. The cost of introducing the ePassport was estimated at €8.8M at the outset and it has been completed for €6.1M. The savings made on this project will be invested productively elsewhere.
“We achieved this by clearly defining our system requirements, implementing very strict budgetary control and constantly reviewing, throughout the life of the project, the necessity for each item of expenditure.
“Under the United States visa waiver programme, participating countries have to move to full production of biometric passports before 26 October, 2006. This has serious implications for Ireland. It is estimated that Irish citizens made 500,000 visits to the US last year, making Ireland one of the top 10 countries among visitors to America. The bulk of these visits were visa free.
“The Irish ePassport is the latest in a series of upgrades for our passport. This Government has invested heavily in this area, €34 million over the last five years, and this investment has paid off. We now produce among the most modern and secure travel documents in the world.
“The service has hugely improved from the mid 90s when there were long queues stretching out from the Molesworth Passport Office. In that period, we have successfully met a doubling of demand for passports. Last year approx 700,000 Irish passports were issued worldwide.
“Today is an important one for Irish citizens. If we had not met the US deadline, our citizens would have been the losers. However, I was determined that this would not happen. I am happy to say we have succeeded in securing continued visa free entry to the US for our citizens and also provided them with a world class secure travel document.
“I am also happy to announce that despite the extra security measures, there will be no price increases for our passports.”
Note for Editors
The ePassport represents a major development in identity verification and security, providing a much stronger linkage between the individual and his or her identity than traditional systems which rely solely on visual identification. It will strengthen the passport issuing process by providing a further safeguard against fraudulent applications. As ePassport reading facilities are progressively introduced at overseas airports, the new technology will strengthen border security and streamline the movement of passengers through airports.
The ePassport is the same as a traditional passport with the addition of a small integrated circuit (or “chip”) embedded in the datapage. The chip will securely store biographical information which is displayed on the datapage of the passport and a digital image of the photograph of the holder.
The ePassport incorporates a number of important security features designed to protect the identity of the bearer. A special code is used to write data to the microchip, the chip is protected by a secure electronic "key", and an additional access code guards against electronic eavesdropping or "skimming" of information on the microchip.
The ePassport Project commenced on March 23 this year and had to be completed in advance of October 26. This October deadline was set by the US authorities as a condition of their Visa waiver Programme. The project has been completed 10 days ahead of the deadline and well within budget. The cost of introducing the ePassport was estimated at €8.8M at the outset and it has been completed for €6.1M.
The ePassport was also the first IT project undertaken under the Government's new Peer review process. This involves senior civil servants from other Departments regularly reviewing progress and questioning the sponsoring Department on various aspects of the project. Further information this process is available at www.Peerreview.gov.ie
16th October 2006