Pre-poll surge in UK lawyers seeking Irish licences
Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30
The number of British lawyers registering to practise in Ireland has risen significantly in the first half of 2016, mainly due to concerns that Britain may leave the EU.
Significant numbers of British-born people with Irish parents are also applying for Irish passports ahead of Thursday's vote.
The Law Society has said a record 186 British lawyers were admitted by the end of June, compared with less than 50 at the same time last year. This year's figure is already almost four times the number of British solicitors qualified to practise in Ireland during 2014.
"Solicitors are flowing into this jurisdiction in unprecedented numbers. They don't intend to come here and practise, they are acquiring the additional qualification as an Irish solicitor, as they are entitled to," the Law Society's director general Ken Murphy said.
Mr Murphy said the English and Welsh lawyers were quite openly saying they were engaged in contingency planning. He said it was especially relevant for solicitors who are specialists in European and competition law based in their London offices.
Under EU rules, lawyers who have qualified in England, Wales or Northern Ireland need just a simple process to practise in the Republic but rules for Scotland are more rigorous.
Ireland has most to lose if British voters opt for 'Leave' on Thursday but Brexit could also see some law firms relocating to Ireland from Britain.
The Foreign Affairs Department reports that in 2014 and 2015, there was a 6.5pc increase in the number of first-time Irish passport applications from Great Britain, compared to a 0.9pc increase from all other foreign countries.
But the Foreign Affairs Department said it cannot link this to the Brexit referendum due on Thursday, as it never asks a qualified person's reason for applying for an Irish passport.
In May there 488 such passport applications, slightly down on numbers in May 2015.