The Passport Office in Dublin

STRICT new security procedures to be introduced later this year in a bid to safeguard Irish passports are not linked to last year's high-profile espionage cases, officials said.

Last February, forged Irish passports were used by Israeli agents who assassinated a leading member of Palestinian resistance group Hamas in Dubai. In June, a member of the Russian spy ring expelled from the United States was found in possession of a forged Irish passport.

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs said procedures for passport applications were designed specifically to combat domestic fraud and identity theft, of which 167 cases were detected in 2010.

The moves are expected to deal a blow to criminal enterprise by preventing the issuing of genuine passports with false details, a number of which were discovered on Irish gangland figures arrested in Spain last year.

From now on, anyone applying for first-time passports or replacing those reported lost or stolen will encounter a far more rigorous system of checks.

As well as possible one-to-one interviews, applicants will be asked to provide extensive documentation to prove their identity is genuine and to supply bills, invoices and other paperwork.

A department spokesman explained that the use of Irish passports by Russian and Israeli agents was a separate issue and not linked to the new measures.

Six Irish passports used by the Russian spy ring in the US last June were thought to have been cloned. The owners of the initial documents – none of which were lost or stolen – were interviewed as part of a garda investigation and a report is due shortly.

One of those individuals was a fireman from Donegal who had visited Russia in 2005 and who had received his visa from the Russian embassy in Dublin.

A further eight Irish passports used by individuals involved in the murder of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last January were found to be cloned.

An Israeli embassy official was later expelled from Ireland. Australia and the UK also expelled Israeli embassy staff.

"They would be separate cases, the whole passport would be forged – they were not issued by the Irish passport office," a spokesman said.

In 2009, the Passport Act came into law, putting biometric passports – which contain digital information – on a statutory footing.

Further processes will also be introduced to the passport issuing office: for instance, an adult applying for a passport for the first time would come under particular scrutiny as it would be considered "most unusual" that they wouldn't have had one as a child.