MORE than a million people could apply for an Irish passport in 2017 for the first time in history if demand continues to surge in the wake of Brexit.
Last October, The Irish Post reported that Irish passport applications from Britain and Northern Ireland had doubled after the referendum vote in June 2016.
Then in February, the Irish passport office announced it was recruiting 230 extra staff to meet demand.
Now, new figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs show that requests from Britain and Northern Ireland were up a huge 68 per cent in the first three months of 2017, when compared with the same period last year.
A total of 733,060 Irish passports were issued in 2016, a nine per cent increase on 2015, but the Department are expecting a further 25 to 30 per cent increase this year.
A total of 51,000 citizens in Britain and Northern Ireland applied for an Irish passport between January and March.
Between January and March last year that figure stood at 30,000.
If the current surge continues, applications will pass the one million mark by the end of this year for the very first time.
Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said the surge in applications was at least partly down to Brexit, as the British seek to keep EU citizenship beyond Britain’s departure.
“It is reasonable to suggest that Brexit is a factor in what are record numbers of applications,” he said.
“I think it is also reasonable to assume that there are large numbers of people of Irish descent who now feel that they would like to remain as EU citizens in what is a changing time in relations between Ireland and the UK.”
The biggest surge was seen in the first three months after the Brexit referendum, when Ireland saw an 83 per cent rise in applications from Britain and Northern Ireland for passports.
Among those applying were British MPs and peers.