You might expect some fresh energy in the air this Saint Patrick’s Day: A record 230,000 people have applied for Irish passports since the beginning of the year, Ireland’s foreign ministry announced today (March 16). Some 5,000 more are expected to submit claims online this weekend alone.
The number of applications received since Jan. 1 was 30% higher than during the same period last year, the ministry said. The spike in the lead-up to the planned Brexit date of March 29 might mean that 2019 will break all records in a calendar year.
In 2018, Ireland, a member of the EU, issued 860,000 passports, including renewals, the highest number in the country’s history. Of those, 84,855 went to applicants in Northern Ireland, part of the UK, representing a 2% increase compared to 2017. (For now, citizens of Northern Ireland can hold both an Irish and British passport.)
Another 98,544 went to residents of Great Britain, representing a 22% rise over the previous year, but an even larger jump since 2015, the year before the UK voted to leave the European Union: At that time, only 46,000 people in Great Britain submitted applications for Irish papers.
The Irish foreign ministry credits more interest in traveling and “a tendency towards early renewal” for the increase, the Guardian reports. The government office would not comment on a “Brexit bounce.”
Better late than never?
The Londonist website has recently collected reports of British citizens of Irish heritage waking up late to the realities of a British exit from the EU and investigating their rights to claim Irish passports. Though the accounts are anecdotal, they hit on some recurring themes in Brexit reporting. All of its interviewees commented on the need to travel freely, especially for work, as the key reason they decided to apply. None plan to move to Ireland, but rather mention a future that includes France, Germany, or Spain.
Dan O’Hagan, who works in London and Germany, also commented on Ireland’s progressive stance toward the rest of the world to explain his decision, stating, “I felt British and I was happy with my UK passport, but Brexit has unleashed an unpleasant nationalistic streak which I’m not comfortable with. I feel more European now, and if that means embracing my Irish side, so be it. I’d rather have a passport from a country that’s outward looking and welcoming, than one that wants to cut itself off.”
The Londonist also found that many Londoners contacting the Irish government are misinformed about their rights to an Irish passport and citizenship. The rules are actually not intuitive. In 2005, Ireland stopped automatically granting citizenship to anyone born in the country. Now, though a 14-year-old born in Ireland will still need to have a parent with Irish citizenship (or the right residency history) to claim citizenship, a 40-year-old born anywhere can if one of her parents or grandparents were.
If you were born in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland before Jan. 1, 2005, you are entitled to an Irish passport.
If you were born in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland after Jan. 1, 2005, you are entitled to an Irish passport depending on your parents’ citizenship at the time of your birth and the residency history of at least one of your parents before your birth.
If you were born outside of Ireland to parents or grandparents who were born in Ireland, you are entitled to an Irish passport.
If one of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth but was not born in Ireland, you may be qualified.
If one of your parents obtained Irish citizenship through Naturalisation or Foreign Birth Registration before you were born, you may qualify.