The Brexit referendum result has led to a surge in inquiries about Irish passports from people living in London who want to remain citizens of an EU country.
People with Irish ancestry swarmed into the Irish Passport Office in Kensington & Chelsea, with long queues forming inside it. Waiting times rose to more than 45 minutes and the shelves were nearly cleaned out of application forms.
As many as six million people living in Britain are thought to be eligible for Irish citizenship. Anyone with a parent born in either the Republic or the North has an automatic right to citizenship. Those with at least one grandparent born on the island of Ireland – and in some cases one great-grandparent – can claim citizenship by a separate process of registration in the Foreign Births Register at the Irish Embassy.
Lunchtime was particularly busy yesterday with about 30 people waiting to process their applications. A constant stream of people came in throughout the day to inquire.
Sean Garvey, whose parents are both Irish, said: “I’m ashamed of the racist nature of the anti-immigration debate. The views of Little Englanders carried and they are very different from London’s view. The UK is now two separate countries.”
People entitled to apply for citizenship through their grandparents were directed to the Irish Embassy, which also reported a significant spike in calls yesterday.
Many callers saw an Irish passport as a means to maintain the right to move freely and to live and work in the EU.
Jonathan Potts of Lambeth said he had woken up in shock. “I don’t want to lose my freedom to live and work in 28 different countries and hopefully my Irish grandma will help me.”
Caroline Palmer, a small business owner with one Irish grandparent, said she was so upset she was considering relocating to the Republic of Ireland.
“It’s like waking up in a horrible right-wing dream. I am just astonished by the result . . . The exit argument was completely bankrupt with no economic or spiritual ideas.”
The Irish Passport Service took on 200 extra staff earlier this year, in part to cope with possible extra demand in the event of Brexit. Passport applications had increased before the referendum, with the number for the first five months of 2016 up 25 per cent on 2015.
Dearbail Jordan, a Lancashire-born journalist working in London said: “My parents came here from Ireland in the late 1960s, worked incredibly hard and instilled the same work ethic in their children. Could that happen now?”
Mark Power, a senior executive at a “Big Four” accountancy firm, said: “I’ve always been proud to be of Irish heritage but I never thought I’d have to rely on it for proper access to the EU. I’m incredibly grateful that I can, though. The lunatics have well and truly taken over the asylum here; nobody in London can believe it.”