UK citizens with an entitlement to an Irish passport will be able to do so “for the foreseeable future,” the Irish foreign minister has said.
In a move designed to clear up any uncertainty following the UK’s referendum vote to withdraw from the European Union, Charlie Flanagan said the Brexit decision has not affected Irish passport entitlement.
He said UK passport holders would “continue to enjoy EU rights” until a formal exit was negotiated between the UK and the EU – expected to take up to two and a half years.
Mr Flanagan said: “Following the UK referendum, there has been a spike in interest in Irish passports in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and elsewhere, although there has been some exaggeration of demand.
“The increased interest 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. I want to state clearly that this is not the case. The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union but it has not yet left.
“It will take some time for negotiations on a British exit to conclude; Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty envisages a two-year negotiation process once the Article is triggered, while many speculate this could take longer.
“During this period, the UK remains a member of the European Union, its citizens continue to fully enjoy EU rights including free movement of people within the EU.
“At the same time, the referendum has not in any way changed the entitlement to an Irish passport which extends to those born on the island of Ireland and those claiming citizenship through parents or grandparents born in Ireland.”
The minister added: “An unnecessary surge in applications for Irish passports will place significant pressure on the system and on turnaround times and is likely to impact those with a genuine need for passports to facilitate imminent travel plans.
“I urge those who believe they need to apply for an Irish passport immediately to enjoy free travel in the EU, to take full account of the facts before making an application.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website clearly sets out information on passport entitlements and procedures (www.dfa.ie/irelanduk-citizenshipandpassports).”
Commenting on calls for an Irish passport office to open in Belfast, Mr Flanagan said such a move was unnecessary.
“On a practical level, I am aware that there have been some calls for a passport office in Belfast. I want to point out that the vast majority of passport applicants on both sides of the border apply through the Post Office network on this island. This is the most convenient and cost effective way to apply.
“There are Passport Offices in Dublin and Cork which can deal with emergency applications and, given the size of the island, people in Northern Ireland are not unduly disadvantaged.
“My department is closely monitoring the situation with respect to the impact on applications and the deployment of Passport Service staff and other resources.”
Meanwhile, a supermarket in Armagh is one of the sites reporting an influx of requests from customers seeking Irish passports since Brexit was announced.
Post Office staff at Emersons in the city, who would normally have handed out around 30 application forms in the same period, have issued hundreds.
Owner Gavin Emerson said: “Almost as soon as Brexit was announced we had an influx of people asking about Irish passports. We have never handed out more forms, in such a space of time, ever before.
“We handed out approximately 400 forms which is unheard of here at our Post Office. And because our Photo Lab is right beside the Post Office, people were getting their passport pictures taken at the same time.”
Mr Emerson added: “Friday was busy and this week looks like it could be the same [on Monday].”