UK rush for Irish passports risks overloading system, says Minister

Please apply outside of summer season, Foreign Affairs Minister tells Brexit applicants

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said there had been a ‘spike’ in applications from people in Northern Ireland, Britain and elsewhere who feared they would no longer have the right to free movement. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said there had been a ‘spike’ in applications from people in Northern Ireland, Britain and elsewhere who feared they would no longer have the right to free movement. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has warned that a “spike” in passport applications in the wake of the Brexit vote could overload the system and cause delays.

Mr Flanagan urged UK passport holders who might be eligible for an Irish passport not to apply now during high season as there was no chance that the right to free movement within the EU would end abruptly.

The Minister said there had been a “spike” in applications from people in Northern Ireland, Britain and elsewhere who feared they would no longer have the right to free movement.

During the daylong Dáil debate on the UK’s decision to exit the EU, Mr Flanagan said it would take some time for negotiations on a British exit to conclude, at least two years.

Until then the UK would remain a full EU member and its citizens would continue to fully enjoy EU rights include free movement within the EU.

“There is therefore absolutely no urgency for UK citizens, who may also be Irish citizens, in now applying for Irish passports,” he said.

The Minister also said a border poll at the moment “would not be prudent or effective”.

He understood why people have proposed that a border poll be held since a majority in the North voted in favour of the remaining in the EU. But he said the fact that 56 per cent of voters wanted to say part of the EU “cannot logically be interpreted as meaning that a majority of the electorate would vote for a united Ireland.

“They are two very different propositions. At present, there is no convincing evidence to suggest that a majority of the people of Northern Ireland would opt for a change in its constitutional status.”

But Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Minister “will not walk away from, wimp out on or equivocate on something that is clearly in the national interest”.

Re-iterating her party’s demand for a border poll, Ms McDonald said the majority of voters in the North, who wanted to stay in the EU, had with this “political earthquake”, an avenue to achieve that through a referendum, which is provided for in the Belfast Agreement.

Ms McDonald asked the Minister to “trust the people in the North. They had a chance to hear the debate. They took their decision. Now let us use the mechanism that we have to make good on that democratic verdict.”