Una Mullally: Brexit shows up our nonsensical approach to Irish citizenship

Easy access to Irish passports remains off limits to some sectors of our society

‘One of the reoccurring characters in the Brexit soap opera is the most widely used document of Irish citizenship, the Irish passport.’ File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

‘One of the reoccurring characters in the Brexit soap opera is the most widely used document of Irish citizenship, the Irish passport.’ File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

One of the reoccurring characters in the Brexit soap opera is the most widely used document of Irish citizenship, the Irish passport. The applications are continuing apace. It’s a story that encapsulates and evokes some of our favourite national emotional pastimes: a healthy dose of schadenfreude, the treasured acceptability of xenophobia towards English people, and a sense of pride in Ireland having an object of officialdom that other people covet – a rare occurrence. The pursuit of an Irish passport is now a punchline in the tragic joke that is Brexit.

The number of Irish passport applications from Britain and Northern Ireland in the first eight months of 2019 – 85,517 – has already exceeded the total number of applications in 2018, which stood at 79,513. In 2014, 5,672 people in Britain applied for an Irish passport. In 2016, the year of the Brexit referendum, that figure more than tripled to 18,263. The following year, it jumped to 31,675, then up again last year to 39,287, and so far this year, the number stands at 36,274 and rising. The rise in applications from the North is even larger. In 2014, the number of applications stood at 18,067. In 2016, it jumped to just under 30,000, then just over 40,000 in 2017, and this year it will reach over 50,000. 

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