18 July 2002 Edition

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Doherty accuses British of passport delays

West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty says that the British Foreign Office is holding up the implementation of the British government's commitment to access Irish passports from post offices in the Six Counties.

"I was part of a Sinn Féin delegation which recently met An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and our concern about the lack of progress on the passports issue was high up the agenda," he said on Monday.

"Since then, I have been in regular contact with Dublin government officials seeking updates on how the issue is progressing.

"I have been informed that agreement has been reached between both governments in terms of the logistics involved, including the introduction of an initial pilot scheme which will see Irish passports being made available from two post offices in Belfast, and at post offices in Derry, Omagh and Newry as well as at a post office in Liverpool, to provide the service to the large Irish community there. It is then envisaged that this pilot scheme will be extended to all post offices where people can currently apply for British passports.

"However, the failure of the British Foreign Office to give the go ahead is now the only outstanding stumbling block.

"There is no logical reason for this delay since all the mechanisms have been agreed. I am therefore publicly calling on British Secretary of State John Reid to resolve to remove this stumbling block immediately so as to give practical expression to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which accords equal legitimacy to the Irish identity of the people in the Six Counties.

An Phoblacht
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