A LOCAL DUP politician in Northern Ireland has claimed it is easier to get an Irish Passport there "than a pack of fags", after slamming calls for an Irish Passport Office to be set up in Derry.
Alderman Graham Warke made the comments after Sinn Féin councillor Colly Kelly proposed that Derry City & Strabane District Council write to the Irish Government urging it to site a new passport office in the North.
Speaking at a council meeting, Clr Kelly said:
"This council supports calls for the establishment of an Irish Passport Office in the North, following figures published in December 2017 that showed 82,274 people in the North applied for Irish Passports in 2017, compared with a figure 53,715 in the year leading up to Brexit.
“We see this every day throughout all our offices, people are queued out the door with Irish Passport forms".
He further proposed that "the council writes to the Irish Government highlighting this increased demand and requesting the opening of a Passport Office in the Derry & Strabane District Council area."
SDLP councillor Shauna Cusack said her party fully supported the idea and had made a similar proposal over a decade ago.
She added that given the SDLP’s history of supporting the issue in Northern Ireland, she and her colleagues were happy to support the proposal in a vote.
However, Alderman Walke said the DUP would not be supporting the motion, adding that people can already send passport forms off via post offices and an express service online.
He also said that unionists born in the Republic of Ireland should be allowed to hold British passports.
“There’s no need for an Irish Passport Office in Londonderry,” he said.
“It’s already easier to get an Irish Passport in this city than a packet of fags.”
Independent councillor Darren O'Reilly disagreed, arguing that a new passport office was necessary for "multiple reasons" given the shorter time frames involved.
Despite the DUP's protestations, the proposal was approved with 28 votes for and just nine against.