MORE than 80 TDs and Senators have been granted diplomatic passports which can help them skip dire airport queues.
he passports – given on the agreement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs – can also yield access to VIP lounges at airports in some countries, as well as the possibility of seat upgrades.
And while the Department of Foreign Affairs said the passports are only to be used for business reasons, they confirmed there was no monitoring of whether they were ever used for personal travel.
A list provided by the department names 81 TDs and Senators who benefit from the diplomatic passport, including 27 serving ministers and ministers of state.
Another 32 TDs are also listed as holding the passports, including the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl and former ministers Charlie Flanagan, Denis Naughten, Barry Cowen, and Joe McHugh.
From Fianna Fáil, TDs with a diplomatic pass include Dublin TDs John Lahart and Seán Haughey, and Cork TD James O’Connor.
Several Fine Gael TDs have also been granted one, with Dublin TD Alan Farrell, Cork representative David Stanton, and Jennifer Carroll MacNeill all listed in a department file.
There are also multiple Sinn Féin representatives on the list including Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Pa Daly, Sorca Clarke, and Pauline Tully.
TDs from the smaller parties include the Green Party’s Francis Noel Duffy, Social Democrat Gary Gannon, and Brendan Howlin from Labour.
There are also several prominent Independent TDs listed, including Tipperary TD Michael Lowry and Donegal politician Thomas Pringle.
The department said that 22 serving senators also have access to diplomatic passports, including Independents Rónán Mullen and Sharon Keogan.
Other high-profile senators include Fianna Fáil’s Mark Daly, Fine Gael’s Barry Ward, Vincent Martin of the Greens, Labour’s Rebecca Moynihan, and Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan.
The department also said that a new diplomatic passport was “in progress” for Independent Senator Frances Black.
An information note they released said that diplomatic passports were issued to people where the Minister for Foreign Affairs considered it “appropriate” to help them carry out their duties.
It said: “Applications are only approved for individuals who are Irish citizens and can demonstrate that they require a passport for travel to undertake official business on behalf of the State.”
Recipients are told that the use of diplomatic passports was only for official business and that personal passports must be used for all other travel.
If an individual no longer requires it, they are obliged to surrender it for cancellation, the department said.
The information note said validity was for a period of five years, or sometimes shorter, if the person’s eligibility was likely to be less than five years.
TDs and senators are also required to sign a declaration agreeing only to use it for work and to return it if no longer needed.
Asked what checks took place to ensure the passports were only used for official business, a spokesman said there were none.
He said: “[The department] does not monitor the official or personal travel plans of these passport holders.”
The spokesman said that possession of such a passport does not entitle the holder to any privileges or immunities, except in certain cases under international law, or domestic law in the host country.
He added: “Many countries extend some form of courtesy and consideration to persons in possession of diplomatic passports.”