All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act 2008 (“the Act”). In the case of children and among other requirements, section 14 of the Act requires the Minister to be satisfied on reasonable grounds that appropriate consent for issue of a passport has been provided. In general, consent is required as follows:
-Where the child has 2 guardians, consent of each guardian
- Where the child has more than 2 guardians, consent by not fewer than 2 of those guardians.
A number of other circumstances are also provided for in the Act, including where a court in the State has made an order dispensing with the consent of a guardian; where a court in the State has made an order authorising a person other than a guardian (including the Health Service Executive) to give consent for issue of a passport to a child; as well as separate provision for cases where the child and his/her guardians are ordinarily resident outside the State.
Section 14(6) of the Act provides that
Subject to this Act, the Minister may, on application in that behalf to him or her in accordance with section 6 by a guardian of the child or any other person who has an interest in the welfare of the child, issue a passport to the child without the consent to such issue of the other guardian or, if appropriate, any of the guardians of the child if the Minister is satisfied that—
( a ) there exist in relation to the child exceptional circumstances involving an immediate and serious risk of harm to his or her life, health or safety requiring him or her to undertake travel for which a passport is required, and
( b ) for the purpose of securing the welfare of the child,
a passport should be issued to the child.
This provision was always intended, and by its explicit terms is, intended for exceptional cases. Discretion to issue a passport in such cases without the consent of a guardian/guardians is conditional on a high threshold being met, namely cases involving:
an immediate and serious risk of harm to the child; and
the welfare of the child.
A range of circumstances can be envisaged in which the section may be relevant. These might include, for example, situations such as an Irish citizen child unaccompanied overseas in circumstances where his/her guardian(s) have been injured, passed away or disappeared; an Irish citizen child with complex medical needs in a conflict, emergency or otherwise insecure setting where his/her welfare is at risk; and so on.
Any decision on whether this section was appropriate for use in any particular case would depend on all the particular facts and circumstances. If a particular case is at issue, I would urge the Deputy or the persons concerned to make direct contact with the Passport Service (Ms Teresa McHugh) for further guidance.