Over one-third of North’s population hold Irish passport

More than 400 a day issued in Northern Ireland this year, according to fresh data

More than a third of Northern Ireland’s population hold an Irish passport, according to latest official figures.

While applications plunged amid overseas travel restrictions during pandemic lockdowns, fresh data from the Department of Foreign Affairs shows numbers rebounding.

Already this year, 24,643 people were issued with Irish passports in the North through Northern Ireland Passport Express (NIPX), which is available at post offices in the North. This is more than 400 every day.

The figures do not include Irish citizens in the North who apply for their passports directly from Dublin.


If the trend continues it suggests more than 150,000 Irish passports would be issued in the North by the year end.

This would eclipse, dramatically, the 107,937 issued through NIPX in 2019 – the last full-year figure before coronavirus prevented international travel for most.

Issued passports during 2019 in the North soared 27 per cent from the previous year (84,855). This continued a pattern of rising Irish passport applications in the region against declining British applications following Brexit.

Official figures show there were 110,506 applications from Northern Ireland for a UK passport in 2019. This was down from 119,298 the previous year, in a continuing 15 per cent slide in such applications from people in the North over a five-year period.


Despite the virus grounding most of the world’s aircraft since the outbreak began, 56,709 Irish passports were issued in the North last year, up almost 16 per cent from 48,911 in 2020, when the first pandemic lockdown was imposed in Ireland.

Aggregate figures for the decade 2012 to 2022, to date, show 660,427 Irish passports issued in the North, about 35 per cent of the region’s 1.8 million population.

Under the Belfast Agreement, Irish and British governments recognise the birthright of all people in Northern Ireland to identify as either Irish, British or both. There is also a right to dual citizenship and people can carry Irish and British passports.

Observers have suggested the surge in Irish passport applications, against a decline in British, is down to increasing pragmatism among the North's unionists since the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union.

An Irish passport allows them to travel freely within the EU.

The Democratic Unionist Party's Sammy Wilson has previously said he gets "quite a lot" of loyalist voters in his constituency who ask him to sign off on their applications for Irish passports.

The East Antrim MP said he encourages constituents going on holidays to opt for an Irish passport as it is a quicker process and negates restrictions imposed on British citizens in the EU as a result of Brexit.