Andrew Lynch: Why we must stand up to Israel over fake passports
How much is an Irish passport worth? For most of us, the answer is obvious: a hell of a lot.
As the chaotic scenes outside the passport office on Molesworth Street during the recent strike proved, this small purple booklet is one of the most precious objects it's possible to own.
The assassins who murdered the Palestinian terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last January also found their Irish passports extremely valuable.
They used no fewer than eight of them (as well as 12 British, four French, three Australian and one German) to gain entry to Dubai, where they lured the senior Hamas commander to a hotel room.
It is thought they injected him with a drug that paralysed his muscles before suffocating him with a pillow.
Police in Dubai have said they are "99pc certain" that the Israeli intelligence service Mossad was behind the passport forgeries and the murder itself.
Since Ireland is nominally a friend of Israel, this kind of officially sanctioned identity theft is a major insult -- making it all the more disappointing that the Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to take any meaningful action.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith yesterday ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat with Mossad links, saying a police investigation had "left the government in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports."
His reaction echoes that of Britain, which sent an Israeli diplomat home in March. What exactly has happened here by comparison?
Shortly after the killing, the Israeli ambassador Zion Evrony was summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. Since he apparently had nothing to offer apart from a bland denial of responsibility, the meeting lasted just 20 minutes.
He has also been invited to a meeting of the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee, which he arrogantly dismissed with the comment, "I cannot shed any light on the issue in question."
Clearly, the matter cannot be allowed to rest there.
Last Friday, Micheal Martin told the Dail that he has received a report by the Irish passport service and hopes to make a statement within the next two weeks.
It's hard to understand what's taking so long -- but the really important thing is that this inquiry leads to firm action that will leave Israel in no doubt as to what will happen if they try to pull a stunt like this again.
The evidence suggests that when it comes to dealing with the government in Jerusalem, there can be no pussyfooting around with diplomatic niceties.
Earlier this year, Israel tried to humiliate the US (traditionally one of its closest allies) by announcing a new housing project in Palestinian territory during the visit of vice president Joe Biden.
As a result, the thuggish prime minister Bejamin Netanyahu was surprised at home by a 45-minute phone call from Hillary Clinton, during which the secretary of state, in American parlance, "tore him a new one".
As his recent visit to Gaza showed, Martin is no coward when it comes to standing up to Israeli aggression. Many also believe that he has what it takes to be a Taoiseach. His reaction to the upcoming report will be a crucial test of those leadership skills -- and for the sake of Ireland's international reputation, it's one he cannot afford to fail.