Rush for Irish passports will lead to delays - Flanagan
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan appealed for a halt to the "spike" in Irish passport applications following the Brexit vote.
The minister warned that the panic-driven demand for Irish travel documents could add to delays facing people who are in urgent need of a passport for summer travel.
He yesterday moved to reassure British residents who are eligible for an Irish passport that their entitlements would not change following last week's result. And he added that UK passport-holders would continue to enjoy European Union rights "for the foreseeable future" until a formal exit is negotiated between the UK and the EU.
"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," Minister Flanagan said.
"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 is speculated that a British exit from the EU could take two years or longer to negotiate.
"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," Minister Flanagan said.
"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."
Anyone born on the island of Ireland or who has Irish parents automatically qualifies for citizenship. In some cases, people who have an Irish grandparent can also apply.
A post office in Belfast ran out of Irish passport applications at the weekend, with trends also revealing a surge in Google searches on how to get an Irish passport.
Armagh City's post office handed out an unprecedented 400 Irish passport forms on Friday.
In the past decade, more than 90,000 people born in Britain have received Irish passports, while more than 150,000 people born in Northern Ireland received Irish passports in the same period.
In response to calls for a passport office in Belfast, Minister Flanagan said the majority of people applying do so via the post office network - and that 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," he added.
People have been advised to consult the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's website for information on passport entitlements and procedures.
The Minister yesterday also utterly rejected Sinn Féin calls for a "border poll", in the wake of last Thursday's vote, in which Northern Ireland bucked the overall UK trend, with a majority backing 'Remain'.
He said that a majority in Northern Ireland voting to stay in the EU was not the same thing as a majority being ready to back the end of partition.
"Pressing for a border poll at this point in time would be neither prudent nor effective," he said.
Holding such a poll would be "divisive" coming after a prolonged period of turmoil in the North's devolved administration, he added.