By Senan Molony
A HI-TECH new border system is to be introduced
The Government is preparing to establish an Irish Borders Operations Centre (IBOC)
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern is fully behind the new system and sources say it will be rolled out as a matter of urgency in the next 12 months.
The move comes as the UK sets up a tough new border body that will force Ireland to follow suit,
But the BOC will almost certainly be staffed by gardai and civil servants, rather than by a new stand-alone border enforcement agency.
The British Home Office is already developing sophisticated new computer systems to allow for the screening and monitoring of new arrivals, and it is understood the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs have both been liaising with their UK counterparts.
It is envisaged that Ireland would adopt the software of the British model for compatibility purposes, allowing for the swift transfer of data between both jurisdictions.
Mr Ahern said: “The Government has approved the development of the first phase of the system and I expect the roll-out of the system will start next year.”
Manchester launch for ID cards
Manchester will this autumn become the first city where people can sign up for an ID card, Jacqui Smith has said.
Anyone over 16 in the city with a UK passport will be able to apply for a card from the Home Office.
The home secretary’s speech signals her determination to push ahead with the cards, despite opposition.
The Manchester launch will mark the beginning of the main phase of the ID scheme which ministers say will culminate in cards being available nationwide by 2012.
At a series of meetings on Wednesday, Ms Smith said post offices and pharmacies could play an important role in the success of the ID scheme, allowing people to give their fingerprints and a face scan while “out doing the shopping”.
Non-EU residents have been required to have identity cards since the end of last year.
Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said “the government’s plans are quite clearly for a compulsory ID card scheme in the end”
He also questioned the value of the Manchester trial, arguing it was “very hard to see” how it could be made to work on a voluntary basis in a single city.
Efforts to issue cards to pilots and other airport workers – a scheme which is being trialled at Manchester and London City airports – are meeting with growing resistance.
Pilots say they are effectively being forced into signing up for the cards.
“Our members believed the government promise that the ID card would be voluntary,” said Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the pilots’ union Balpa.
“But they now know it is anything but. Our members must have an airside pass to operate aircraft and now discover that to get that pass they must have a national ID card.
“This is coercion and a case of Big Brother knows best.”
The government’s figure for the cost to the Home Office is about £5bn.