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Irish passport refusals for British applicants skyrocket

An Irish passport is seen on top of a pile of UK passportsImage copyright
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Irish passport holders will retain EU travel benefits after Brexit

The number of British applications for an Irish passport being turned down has skyrocketed – from just one in 2016 to more than 15,000 last year.

Applications for Irish passports have risen dramatically since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

Some UK residents are entitled to an Irish passport if their parents or grandparents were born in Ireland.

London’s Irish embassy has issued more than 176,000 since 2016 – more than 10 times that of any other office.

Citizens of the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, will retain visa-free travel benefits after Brexit, no matter the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU.

The number of applications for Irish passports from Britain – not including Northern Ireland – has nearly doubled since the referendum.

In 2015, the year before the Brexit vote, more than 46,000 applications were lodged, in line with annual averages.

By the end of 2017 that number had grown to nearly 81,000, according to figures from Neale Richmond, Chair of the Irish Senate’s Brexit committee.

Irish passport applications in Britain
Year Passport applications made Passports issued Difference
2016 63,453 63,452 1
2017 80,752 65,678 15,074

In the first five months of this year, almost 45,000 British people had requested an Irish passport – and Mr Richmond said embassy staff were expecting 2018 to be the busiest year ever.

By the end of September, more than 47,000 had been issued.

Each application for a standard 10-year passport costs €80 (£71).

  • Northern Ireland firm asks staff to get Irish passports
  • Britain’s blue passport to return after Brexit

The much higher number of refusals last year was reported by The Irish Times, comparing Mr Richmond’s application figures to the number of passports actually issued by the London embassy.

Those figures had been provided by the country’s Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, last week, in response to a parliamentary question from TD (MP) Catherine Murphy.

He said that passports could be refused if the identity of the person applying – or their status as an Irish citizen – was uncertain. Other reasons could include incomplete applications which needed more information, he said, adding that the number of outright refusals was “small”.

However, the rules around Irish passports can be confusing. One pro-Brexit MP, Andrew Bridgen, recently faced ridicule on social media for suggesting to BBC Radio Ulster that he was entitled to an Irish passport because he was English.

Can I get an Irish passport?

You can claim an Irish passport (or Irish citizenship) if:

  • You were born in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland before 1 January 2005
  • You were born in Ireland after that date but your parents were British or Irish citizens
  • Your parents or grandparents were Irish citizens born in Ireland, even though you were born elsewhere

Several other exemptions apply for those resident in Ireland for extended periods, adoptions, children of refugees, and other special circumstances.

There has also been a surge in applications from Northern Ireland, where most UK citizens are automatically entitled to an Irish passport if they so wish.

Senator Richmond’s figures show that applications from there grew from 53,715 in 2015 to 82,274 in 2017.

Excluding Northern Ireland, Mr Richmond said at least 10% of Britain’s population were thought to qualify for an Irish passport.

“In light of Brexit many including a number of my own family members are staking their claim,” he said – and “there is no sign of this rush for Irish passports abating.”

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