Brexit: More Irish passports than UK passports issued in Northern Ireland for first time


More Irish passports than British passports are being issued in Northern Ireland for the first time, new figures show.

48,555 people in Northern Ireland applied for a UK passport in 2020 – around 350 fewer than the 48,911 opting for an Irish passport the same year.

The figures, obtained by freedom of information request and first reported by Irish Times reports, do not include Irish passports issued by all channels – meaning the gap could be even wider.

It comes ahead of Northern Ireland assembly elections on Thursday where Sinn Fein is expected to become the biggest party in Northern Ireland for the first time.

Polls have the left-wing republicans solidly ahead of the DUP, after the latter party’s support collapsed and splintered to other groups.

Such a result would see Sinn Fein hold the first minister position in the Northern Ireland executive, if one can be formed – the first time a unionist has not held the role.

Yet the increase in Irish passports being issued may have less to do with changing demographics or support for Republicanism and more to do with pragmatism and utility.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, people born in Northern Ireland can identify as either Irish, British or both and carry either or both Irish and UK passports.

But UK passports have become significantly less useful with Britain’s exit from European Union, while an Irish passport still confers EU citizenship and the right to live and work across the whole single market.

Professor Colin Harvey of the school of law at Queen’s University Belfast told the newspaper that “ultimately, Northern Ireland was removed from the EU against its will” and that “there is an attachment to the EU as well and the benefits that flow from European Union citizenship too”.

He added that demand for Irish passports had been “fuelled” by Brexit.

Outside of Northern Ireland Irish passports have also proved popular with people trying to get around new Brexit bureaucracy.

Ireland’s citizenship laws allow people with Irish grandparents to apply for a passport even if they have never lived in the Republic – meaning many millions across the world are entitled to them.

Last year The Independent reported that between the 2016 Brexit vote and 2020 at least 422,000 Irish passports were issued to British residents. This was up from 46,400 in 2015. Brexit: More Irish passports than UK passports issued in Northern Ireland for first time

Bobby Allyn

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