Ireland’s Passport Offices forced to hire hundreds to deal with backlogs
By Adam Shaw
Ireland’s passport service has been forced to hire extra staff to deal with the “unprecedented” level of applications from the United Kingdom. The Irish foreign minister Charles Flanagan confirmed that the passport office had taken on “in excess of 200 new staff on a temporary basis”.
The move prompted speculation that the possibility of UK voters choosing to leave the European Union in next week’s 23 June referendum has fuelled the rush for Irish citizenship. Mr Flanagan refused to validate the relationship between a rise in applications and the concept of Brexit, but said there can be no denying the increased demand.
“I don’t have any evidence that you can forge a link between an increase in passport applications and the current referendum but I do acknowledge the factual position that there is heightened interest in Irish passport application and Irish citizenship,” he said.
There has been an increase of 25 per cent in the number of applications for Irish passports from England, Scotland and Wales when compared with last year.
From January to May 2016, there were 1,901 applications, as opposed to 1,518 in the first five months of 2015. April was a particularly busy month, with applications jumping from 695 last year to 987 this year – a rise of 42 per cent. There is no obligation to state a reason for making an application, but some have applied to ensure they remain EU citizens in the event of Brexit.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Ireland said it cannot confirm this as a reason, but Michael O’Neill, a politics professor at the University of York, is an example of someone who sees the advantage of Irish citizenship. He holds both British and Irish passports and has applied for his children to become dual citizens.
“I think we always thought that eventually it might be nice for the children to have dual citizenship as well, but the fear of Brexit and the fact that the referendum was happening really concentrated our minds to try to get all that sorted out sooner rather than later,” he told Sky News.
Earlier this month the Irish World reported that the Embassy of Ireland’s Passport Office in London had warned applicants from the UK to allow extra time for their documents to be processed due to the high number of applications.
The average turnaround for a first-time applicant now stands at seven working weeks, whereas it was just four at the beginning of March. Ireland grants citizenship to people who have an Irish parent, grandparent or great-grandparent.
For great-grandchildren to be eligible, their parents need to have been recorded in the country’s foreign births register.
Those living in Northern Ireland have the same right to claim Irish citizenship as those living in the Republic do.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s passport card has won an international award for Best ID Document.
The Award, Regional Best ID Document of the Year, by Reconnaissance International, was conferred at the High Security Printing Conference in Bucharest in Romania on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The credit-card sized document is the first and only passport card in Europe for crossing international borders. The award praised its innovative design, state of the art technologies and the fact that it can be applied for through an app on a smartphone.
The technology deployed – including its RFID chip – make it extremely difficult to forge. Irish security printer DLRS, HID Global Ireland, Absolute Graphics and Puprole Pod delivered the project which came two years after Ireland introduced its new ePassport