The number of Irish passports issued has hit record levels since the Brexit vote, with applications from Britain and Northern Ireland continuing to rise, the Irish government has announced.
More than 160,000 Irish passports were issued to people in Northern Ireland and Britain in 2017. At the same time, the number of people born in Britain registering as Irish rocketed by 95%.
According to statistics issued by Ireland’s department of foreign affairs on Friday, 779,000 Irish passports were issued in 2017, the highest number since records began.
“This is the highest number of Irish passports ever issued in one year. It represents an increase of over 6% compared to 2016 (itself a record-breaking year), and an increase of over 15% since 2015,” said Simon Coveney, the minister for foreign affairs.
“The number of applicants from Northern Ireland and Great Britain has continued to rise. Overall, almost 20% of the total number of applications received by the passport service this year were from Irish citizens in Northern Ireland or Great Britain,” he added.
According to the data, 81,572 passports were issued in Northern Ireland where everyone has a birth-right, under the Good Friday agreement, to identify as British or Irish. That represented a 20% increase on the number of applications for Irish passports in 2016.
There was a similar number of applications, 81,287, from Britain, a rise of 28%.
In Northern Ireland, those who identify as British were being urged to get a second passport by a leading unionist MP, Ian Paisley Jr, immediately after the referendum.
The scramble for Irish passports in Britain and Northern Ireland has been widely linked to Brexit, since an Irish passport enables people to keep their options open once the UK leaves the bloc.
Among those who have taken up the opportunity for an Irish passport are the former British ambassador to Ireland, Sir Ivor Roberts. His father was born in Belfast and in April this year he revealed he had decided to take up the opportunity for an Irish passport because of anxieties over Brexit.
Anyone who has an Irish parent or grandparent born in Ireland is entitled to a passport. In addition, Britain allows for dual citizenship, unlike other European countries. This could explain why there has been an almost doubling of the numbers registering as a foreign-born Irish person in Britain in 2017.
In 2017, the number of Irish registered as born in Britain stood at 12,926, up 95% on 2016.
By location in Northern Ireland, County Antrim, which counts Belfast as its biggest conurbation, topped the charts with 56,667 Irish passports issued. This was followed by Co Down with 30,906, and Co Derry with 30,810.
Demand from Northern Ireland and Britain slowed in the second half of the year – more than 100,000 Irish passports were issued in the first six months, up from 65,000 in the same period the year before.