Minister Cowen announces major overhaul of passport service and the relocation of offices to Balbriggan

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen T.D., today announced the appointment of BearingPoint Ireland Ltd. to head a consortium to upgrade and modernise Ireland's passport service.

The €22m project will, by making use of new technologies, introduce a greater level of automation in the Passport Office, leading to a quicker and more efficient service to the public. The new system will eventually make possible on-line passport applications. It will also see the introduction of a new, more secure, passport booklet. The scheduled date for completion is Autumn 2004.

Minister Cowen said:

“This project will deliver a world-class passport system that meets the highest standards of security, efficiency and customer service.

Recent years have seen a significant increase in the number of Irish people traveling abroad and this has been matched by an increase in the volume of passport applications. The existing systems and technologies in the Passport Office are stretched and in urgent need of replacement. We will, in replacing them, take advantage of the latest technological developments to ensure that Irish passports satisfy the highest levels of security that are now required internationally.

BearingPoint is a leading provider of technology solutions in Ireland. We will, with their cooperation, deliver a passport system to meet the needs of Irish citizens in the 21st Century and a system which will showcase Ireland's commitment to remaining at the forefront of international technological developments.”

The Minister also announced that the Office of Public Works have commissioned the construction of a new building in Balbriggan to house the production facility for the new passport system. The decision to locate the new office in Balbriggan is part of the Government's decentralisation programme. The three-story, 30,000 sq.ft. facility will be purpose-built to meet the specific needs of the Passport Office. It will accommodate up to 120 Passport Office staff.

“With the transfer of a large number of staff to the new facility in Balbriggan, my Department is making a significant contribution to the Government's programme of decentralisation.”

The public offices in Dublin and in Cork will remain in their current locations.

Note for Editors:

The last major overhaul of the passport system took place in 1993. In that year 203,000 passports were issued; by last year (2002) the number of passports issued had risen to 530,000.

The new system will greatly extend the level of automation in the Passport Office. The personal details of each applicant, including the photograph and signature, will be scanned into the system electronically. This data will then be printed onto the new passport booklet using the most advanced laser engraving technology currently available. A range of additional enhanced security features will be incorporated which will make the new Irish passport highly resistant to forgery and counterfeit.

The increased level of automation will streamline the process of issuing passports which will enable a more efficient service to be provided to the public. When completed, Ireland will have one of the most advanced passport issuing systems in the world. This project forms part of the Government's programme to modernise the public services and provide an improved service to the public.

The system will also be designed so that, in time, it will be possible to make passport applications on-line via the Government's e-broker. This project will be the Department's key contribution to the e-Government programme designed to increase the range of public services available across the Internet.

The overall cost of the project, which will include the design of the new system, the installation and testing of equipment and the supply of new passport booklets and application forms, will be in excess of €22 million. The revenue earned from passports in 2002 was approximately €24 million.

BearingPoint Inc., formerly KPMG Consulting, Inc., is one of the world's largest business consulting, systems integration and managed services firms. BearingPoint's global headquarters is in McLean Virginia. For more information, visit the company's website at

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