Record demand for passports ahead of Brexit leads to new holiday warnings
There was a record demand for Irish passports last month, with one-in-three applications coming from Great Britain and Northern Ireland due to Brexit.
New figures show more than 112,000 people applied for an Irish passport in March, the highest number ever in a single month.
As the original deadline for Brexit approached, the Department of Foreign Affairs was also flooded with 4,800 phone and 1,500 web inquiries every week.
Paper applications from Great Britain and Northern Ireland residents from January to March were up 103pc and 71pc, respectively, on the same three-month period last year.
There were 58,000 applications from Northern Ireland, and 41,000 from mainland Britain.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney has urged families to check their passports ahead of the summer holiday season to ensure they are in date.
"Every year we see hundreds of families who end up spending thousands of euro rebooking flights because a day or two before travel they realise that one of the children's passports is out of date.
"We have expanded the online service to allow for both child and adult renewals," he told the Irish Independent.
"I would ask anyone travelling to take the five minutes to check the family passports ahead of the busy season of May, June and July."
The spike in demand began in January when 100,400 applications were received.
This continued with 100,500 passport requests in February before a big jump in March.
Demand is being driven by a rush of people in Northern Ireland and Great Britain to obtain an Irish passport. This will ensure they still have open access and full employment rights in other EU countries after Brexit.
The UK was due to leave the EU at 11pm on March 29 but this has now been put back twice and possibly will not happen until October 31.
Prior to the first quarter of 2019, there were only two months over the past five years when the application figure exceeded 100,000.
In 2018, there was a total of 850,000 applications, but based on the current trajectory the department is planning to cope with 1.1 million requests this year.
Hundreds of extra staff have been taken on to process applications and deal with enquiries. The largest single category of applications is now online, which officials say is the fastest way of obtaining a passport.
The Tánaiste and the Department of Foreign Affairs are planning a media blitz to alert people to the need to ensure their passports are in date when planning a holiday.
"My department is seeing record demand from those who qualify for a passport. Our staffing levels are the highest they've ever been but it's really important for anyone planning a trip this year to get their applications in early," Mr Coveney said.
It comes as the country's newest citizens were told at a ceremony not to plan immediate travel out of Ireland.
Almost 2,500 people from 90 countries gained citizenship at an event in Killarney, Co Kerry, yesterday.
Among the rights now bestowed on them is the ability to obtain an Irish passport.
But because of the volume of applications being processed at the passport office, they were warned not to book travel abroad in the coming weeks.
A first-time paper application currently takes 19 working days to process. An online renewal can be processed in 10 days. First-time applications from Great Britain take a minimum of 65 days.