Poland will become the first European country, and only the third in the world, to establish a full diplomatic presence in Northern Ireland when it opens a consulate in Belfast this year.
It is understood that the consular agency will be staffed by two Polish vice-consuls, along with a number of support staff, to assist the large Polish community in the Province.
The decision was confirmed by the Polish Minister of Foreign affairs Witold Waszczykowski, with the Polish government describing the announcement as “an acknowledgement of the close historic ties between Poland and the United Kingdom,
as well as the large and growing Polish population in Northern Ireland requiring ongoing consular services, which at present can only be provided by monthly consular visits to Belfast”.
There are more than 30,000 Polish nationals living in Northern Ireland and appointments to access the monthly service are usually over-subscribed as they must make applications for important documents – such as passports – to the relevant government official in person. The permanent diplomatic presence is only the third in the Province after the United States and China.
Honorary Northern Ireland Consul for the Republic of Poland Jerome Mullen, who made the announcement, warmly welcomed what he described as “a momentous decision by minister Waszczkowski” and also paid tribute to former Ambassador Witold Sobkow and Consul General Dariusz Adler “for moving so decisively in support of full consular services being provided”.
Mr Mullen also confirmed that the Polish government had asked him to remain in his present role as honorary consul which he said he was very pleased to accept.
Last month the Co Down man was awarded Poland’s highest civilian honour, the Gold Cross of Merit, for his outstanding work with the Polish community in Northern Ireland over the past eight years. He is the only person from Northern Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland, to have been awarded the prestigious honour.
Mr Mullen said he expected the new service to be available before the end of the summer.
“At present the main demand is for passports and whenever [the consular officials] come over from Edinburgh every month their days are absolutely packed out – and sometimes people can’t get an appointment – so this will be widely welcomed,” he said.