IRISH embassies throughout the world were busier than ever in 2014, providing help and services across an array of issues ranging from lost passports to entering into same-sex civil partnerships abroad.
The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provided assistance to almost 1,650 Irish citizens following emergencies that included deaths, arrests, accidents, child abductions and hospitalisations. The highest number of cases where consular assistance was required occurred in Spain — the most popular holiday destination for Irish people.
Spain was followed by Britain, Australia, USA, Canada, France, Thailand, UAE and Portugal.
An Irish Embassy spokesperson pointed out that while the Irish population in Britain is substantial, when problems arise Irish citizens often sort out the issues themselves.
There are no language barriers, and Irish people tend to be more familiar with social and legal structures in Britain than they would be, for example, in Spain.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan who released the figures this week in Dublin, said: “Providing consular assistance and other consular services to Irish citizens at home and abroad is at the heart of what we do in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Our staff are deeply committed to assisting Irish citizens in difficulty and to helping Irish families at home dealing with distressing situations abroad.”
He added: “Ireland’s diplomats stand ready to respond quickly and effectively to urgent cases and emergency situations worldwide.”
But Minister Flanagan focused on the need for Irish holidaymakers to be fully prepared before going abroad, and encouraged all travellers to have adequate insurance.
“By taking out suitable travel insurance before travelling, our citizens can ensure they are in the best position possible to help themselves in the unfortunate situation that something does go wrong abroad.”
Aside from assisting Irish citizens when matters go wrong, Ireland’s embassies throughout the world also provided administrative services; in 2014 this included the authentication of in excess of 60,000 documents.
These were, variously, educational certificates, legal documents and company documents — many of which were in connection with business and commercial transactions abroad.
During 2014, Minister Flanagan’s Department registered more than 5,500 people for Irish citizenship through Foreign Births Registration, an increase of 10 per cent on the 2013 figure.
The majority of these applications were received through Irish embassies and consulates in Britain, the United States, Australia, Canada and South Africa — reflecting the large Irish communities in these areas.
During 2014, the Department also issued more than 3,000 Certificat de Coutume (civil letters of freedom) to Irish citizens getting married or entering civil partnerships abroad, with the most popular countries for the ceremonies abroad being Italy, Spain, Malta, France and Germany.
Fifty applications were received from Irish citizens entering into a same sex civil partnership abroad.