Calls mount for Irish passport office in north as figures show surge in applications
PRESSURE is growing on the Irish government to open a passport office in the north after another surge in applications was revealed.
Foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said yesterday there were almost 82,000 applications from Northern Ireland last year - up almost a fifth on 2016 and more than two-thirds over three years.
Demand from Britain has also risen by almost 30 per cent in a year, as Brexit continues to dominate the political landscape.
First-time applications made up around half of all requests from Northern Ireland.
Figures also show a significant increase in applications for 'citizenship by descent' from Britain, almost doubling in a year.
Mr Coveney said the increased demand for passports from Britain and Northern Ireland is "undoubtedly partly linked to the ongoing process of the UK's departure from the European Union", but increased mobility and population growth are also factors.
Applicants in Northern Ireland can currently use a 'passport express' service in post offices, but Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile last night said there is a clear need for a passport office.
"The soaring demand for Irish passports in the north, and amongst the Irish diaspora in Britain, points to a clear and identifiable need for an Irish passport office in the north of Ireland,” he said.
"As the folly of Brexit becomes increasingly clear to people, record numbers of people are claiming their right to an Irish passport.
"The Irish government cannot continue to deny Irish citizens in the north these services as demand continues to soar."
SDLP assembly member Claire Hanna also said her party has long campaigned for passport offices in Belfast and Derry and she has now written to the Irish government to request that "all efforts are now made to bring Irish passport offices here to the north”.
“It also means we must integrate our communities across the island in a way that we have not yet achieved," she said.
“For instance the SDLP has been highlighting for years that one powerful recognition of our shared identity would be to grant Irish citizens here in Northern Ireland the right to choose our president.”
Brexit has also been credited with leading to increased support for Irish unity in recent polls.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said today he aspires to a united Ireland by consent and with cross-community support.