A UUP MP has suggested fellow unionists should not balk at the idea of obtaining an Irish passport, as the Republic’s government faces a surge in demand for them following the EU referendum.
However, Danny Kinahan – Ulster Unionist representative for South Antrim – said he has no plans to re-apply for one himself, having allowed the passport which he used to own as a young man to lapse.
On Monday, the Republic’s foreign minister Charlie Flanagan told the Irish parliament that there had been a “spike” in interest among Northern Irish people when it comes to obtaining Irish passports (as well as from people on the mainland UK and elsewhere).
Mr Kinahan, who had been a strong supporter of the campaign to remain in the EU, said “seven or eight” constituents had come to him since the result was announced on Friday asking for assistance in getting an Irish passport.
He said they included young unionist people who were “looking practically at how they live their lives and how they do things”.
“It certainly doesn’t make one less unionist,” he said.
“I don’t think it does at all. I think it’d be very sad if anyone looks at it that way.”
He told the News Letter that his decision to get an Irish passport had been made when he was backpacking in South America in the mid-1970s, aged 17, at a time when tensions had been rising over the Falkland Islands.
He said he had encountered a desert border post at the southern end of Argentina and Chile, and that a guard had purposely put his British passport at the bottom of the pile while vetting a queue of travellers before denying him entry altogether, claiming he was too young to proceed.
“So ever since then I thought: ‘Right, I’m going to have two passports if I’m going travelling’,” said Mr Kinahan.
Asked if he would consider getting one again, he said: “I don’t think I need one. I don’t think it’s necessary.”
He noted that there are years still to go before the terms of an exit are agreed, adding that “when things play out, you’ll realise it’s probably not necessary”, because there would be few practical differences for Northern Irish people.
Speaking in Dail Eireann on Monday, Mr Flanagan had said the spike in passports “clearly points to a sense of concern among some UK passport holders that the rights they enjoy as EU citizens are about to abruptly end”.
However he also called for calm, echoing the refrain that it is likely to take two years before the UK leaves, and that a major surge now will disadvantage “those with a genuine need for passports to facilitate imminent travel plans”.
Pressed for how many applications they have received for passports, his department was unable to say.
Both the UK and Ireland had joined the EEC (European Economic Community) in 1973 – the forerunner to the EU of today.
Who can get one?
According to Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, it currently takes an average of 23 working days for a Northern Irish person to obtain their first Irish passport, and a standard 10-year one costs €80 (about £66.20).
If either of your parents was born in Ireland, then you are automatically an Irish citizen, and entitled to apply for a passport. If you were born on the island of Ireland before January 1, 2005, you are entitled to be an Irish citizen.
If you were born on the island of Ireland on or after January 1, 2005, your right to Irish citizenship depends on your parents’ citizenship at the time of your birth and the residency history of one of your parents before your birth.