Record number of Irish passports issued as Ireland challenges UK to make up its mind on what it wants from Brexit
By Bernard Purcell
Ireland issued a record 740,000 passports last year – as between one in six and one in ten of all passports issued went to someone here in the UK. The number of applications has been so great that Ireland’s Passport Office had to recruit 350 extra staff to deal with peak demand.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “I think it’s fair to assume that there has been something of a connection between the result of the referendum and the increased number of applications from the UK.”
But he said Irish fans travelling to the European Championships in France and a growing population had contributed to the increase in issue of first-time passports. Nevertheless, of the 740,000 applications some 65,136 were from Northern Ireland another 59,377 from people in the rest of the UK – a total, so far in 2016, of 124,513.
In June just after the Brexit referendum in this country the number of new applicants from within the UK jumped by 17,300 compared to the same period a year earlier. As in past years May, August, October and November remained the busiest times to apply for an Irish passport.
One in four people in Britain claim to be either of Irish descent or Irish. The spike in applications from here comes as the British government is still leaving people guessing as to whether people from the UK will have free movement in the EU or require visas as it says it intends to impose restrictions on visitors from the EU.
During last month’s EU Summit in Brussels Prime Minister Theresa May and her officials refused to let any British media know what she had told other EU heads of government with the press forced to rely on Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s account of the talks. And the frustration was not confined to the news media. Following the Prime Minister’s traditional stay at Queen Elizabeth’s residence in Sandringham in Norfolk, some courtiers put it about that the monarch had expressed bitter frustration at Mrs May’s lack of detail or reluctance to be forthcoming about the UK’s Brexit plans.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn – whose own party has been ambivalent about Brexit under his leadership – accused Mrs May of behaving like Tudor sovereign Henry Vlll in refusing to tell Parliament of her plans.
Later this month the Supreme Court will rule on Mrs May’s government’s appeal against a unanimous High Court decision that MPs are entitled to have a say in triggering Article 50, the formal process in which Britain divorces from the EU.
Last week Ireland’s Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan – who regularly hails the bonds between the two countries – publicly and repeatedly expressed the country’s own frustration with a lack of clarity or detail from Britain on what it actually wants from Brexit.
“Six months after the referendum I regret that we don’t have comprehensive plan from Britain.
“I believe it’s imperative that early in the New Year such a plan takes shape, that we have sight of it – and that we know what it is…we need to see the plan from Britain for managing Brexit.
“We plan to help keep the UK as close to the European Union as possible but the single market versus freedom of movement is very challenging,” said Mr Flanagan.