Saturday 24 June 2017

London's Irish embassy hit by record rush for citizenship

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Gordon Deegan

The rush for Irish citizenship and passports in the UK reached a record high on the day British Prime Minister Theresa May signed the document paving the way for Britain's exit from the European Union.

Formal Brexit talks between the UK and the EU are due to commence today.

Figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs show that on March 28, the day Mrs May signed the document triggering Article 50, the Irish Embassy in London was snowed under with Irish passport applications from those living in the UK with Irish heritage.

In figures released in response to a Freedom of Information request, the embassy received a record total for the year at 770 as staff struggled to cope with demand.

Backlog

Days before, on March 21, a senior embassy official, Donal O'Connell, stated in an email that 'urgent sanction' was required from HQ for paid overtime to deal with the backlog, pointing out the embassy had "over 1,700 unopened emails requiring attention".

However, in the days that followed, Brexit dominated public life in the UK as anticipation built towards the triggering of Article 50 and the final week of March contained the three busiest days in recent times at the passport office at the Irish embassy.

On March 28, 722 passport applications were received by the embassy and a further 578 applications were received on March 30 - the day after Mrs May declared to parliament that there "can be no turning back" from the formal move of Britain's divorce from the UK.

Other milestones towards Brexit also coincided with daily spikes in applications for Irish passports in the first quarter.

Demand for Irish passports from people with Irish heritage in the UK soared by 94pc in March compared to the same month last year.

The surge in Irish passports from those living here has prompted the Irish Government to look to hire consultants to forecast the likely demand as the country's exit from the EU nears.

However, the 8,297 passports sought during the month of March may represent only a trickle compared to when Brexit comes into force.

It has been estimated that there are 6.7 million people in the UK who are eligible to apply for an Irish passport.

Highlighting the impact Mrs May's pronouncements had on demand for Irish passports, January 16 was also the fifth busiest day for passport applications with 547 applications, as news leaked of Mrs May's hard Brexit in a landmark speech on January 17.

The demand for Irish passports in Northern Ireland in the first quarter has followed a similar pattern.

As speculation mounted about the triggering of Article 50 on March 23, 833 applications were received - the highest daily total in the first three months.

This was followed by 796 applications on January 16 and 725 on March 28.

Irish Independent

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