The number of post-Brexit applications for Irish passports from first-time applicants in Northern Ireland and Britain fell in the first half of the year as Covid-19 affected the passport service and travel.
However, figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs show the share of applications for passports from first-time adult applicants born in Northern Ireland and Britain held steady in the first half of the year, despite the suspension of passport processing except for emergencies during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The department said 70 per cent of all first-time adult passports came from people born in Northern Ireland or Britain during the first half of the year, in line with the 71 per cent recorded in 2020 but down from a high of 78 per cent recorded before the pandemic in 2019.
Prior to the Brexit referendum in June 2016, this share stood at 39 per cent in 2015 but grew over the subsequent four years as individuals in Northern Ireland and Britain sought out Irish passports that will give them easier freedom of movement around the European Union.
First-time adult applicants born in Northern Ireland and Britain accounted for 58 per cent of applications in 2016, 67 per cent in 2017 and 70 per cent in 2018.
The number of passport applications from first-time adult applicants born in Northern Ireland or Britain fell from 57,900 in the first half of 2019 to 27,400 in the first half of last year – a reduction of 53 per cent. The number fell again to 24,100 in the first half of this year, a decline of 12 per cent.
The majority of the first-time adult applications from the UK in the first half of the year came from Britain – twice as many applications came from Britain as from Northern Ireland.
Applicants faced weeks-long delays for passports earlier this year as the Passport Service paused processing routine applications when the country went into Level 5 lockdown in December, dealing with emergency and urgent essential cases only.
The suspended service led to a backlog of more than 80,000 applications in April. In June, the passport service approved 62,104 passports overall, compared with just 6,727 in January and 6,139 in February.
It is currently taking about 40 working days for the department to process first-time passport applications online.
First-time applications from people in Britain submitted by post or through the passport express service have been paused.
A person outside of Ireland is entitled to an Irish passport if their parent was an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen at the time of that person’s birth, or if they had an Irish-born grandparent who was an Irish citizen at the time of their birth.