April 11, 2011

IRELAND: Elderly passport fees 'a betrayal'

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LIMERICK, Ireland / Limerick Leader / National / April 11, 2011

Reintroducing passport fees for pensioners is mean-spirited and has left many feeling betrayed, elderly support groups have said.


The over-65s will have to pay a minimum 80 euro charge from April 11 after the free service for the elderly was scrapped in December's Budget.

Active Retirement Ireland said the savings will be minimal as it will deter pensioners from renewing their passports.

Maureen Kavanagh, chief executive, said: "Many of them (over-65s) feel betrayed as Fine Gael and the Labour Party - when in opposition - had promised to prioritise the protection of older people's rights and entitlements.

"Despite this rhetoric, the new Government is now withdrawing a benefit for older people, which, realistically, will result in minimal cost savings to the state."

Passport fees were scrapped at the height of the boom in 2005 for pensioners, with then-foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern stating it was to recognise the years of service and hard work of senior citizens. However, the previous Fianna Fail-Green Party administration stated in the Budget that the over-65s would have to pay, yielding around 2 million euro to the state.

Age Action Ireland said it sent out the wrong message to older people and claimed the decision could be reversed by the Fine Gael-Labour Government.

"Really for the money it's going to save, we're talking very very small money, we think it's mean-spirited," spokesman Eamon Timmins said. "That's about the height of it."

Both organisations have received calls from concerned pensioners over the issue.

The charge for applying for a passport over the counter at the passport office in Dublin is also to increase by 15 euro to 95 euro. The 80 euro fee for using the passport express option at post offices remains.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2011