THE demand for Irish passports since the Brexit vote over two years ago is continuing to surge with 2018 confirmed to have been the busiest year on record.
Figures from the Irish Passport Service show over 822,000 passports were issued around the globe in the last 12 months, with more than 6,500 a day during peak periods.
The number of British people applying for Irish passports rose dramatically again, with 98,544 applications from the UK mainland alone – a rise of 22% on 2017 and more than double the number made in 2015, before the leave vote in the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016.
As for people living across the border in Northern Ireland, there was a much steadier rise of 2% to around 85,000 applications this year.
Overall, 292,958 of the total 822,581 new Irish passports issued as of mid-December were to children, with the youngest applicant aged just two weeks.
Of the 529,623 passports issued to adults, the oldest applicant was 99 years old.
The Irish Government is continuing to prepare for an expected surge in applications if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal in March as part of ongoing contingency planning.
As many as 300,000 additional passport applications are expected to flood in in the event of a no-deal Brexit, while the Passport Service expects up to 100 additional staff would be needed.
Speaking in 2018, Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond called on the government to use the rush for Irish passports to its advantage.
"While many in the UK are concerned with the looming disaster of Brexit, we must seize the positives from this new wave of people reconnecting with their Irish heritage," he said.
"Our post Brexit UK-Irish relations can be built on a strong, connected, diaspora."
Fianna Fáil spokesman for foreign affairs, Niall Collins, previously said it would be "interesting to note the number of applications for Irish passports after the UK officially leaves the union at the end of March 2019".
He added: "This is evidence of the impact of Brexit on the thinking of many members of the Irish diaspora living in Great Britain, and I suspect of many unionists living in Northern Ireland who want to retain their citizenship of the European Union."
The Online Passport Renewal Service was extended last month in the face of the continued high uptake, having originally been launched in March 2017.
The UK topped by far the list of countries from which residents used the online system to apply for a passport in 2018, with 35,084 applications lodged.
In second place was the United States, which saw 7,199 applicants use the new service.
More than 7,000 passports were stolen or lost over the 12 months prompting Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, to warn citizens to take care of the "valuable" document.
He welcomed news that 2018 was a record-breaking year for the Irish Passport Service and confirmed 822,581 travel documents were issued worldwide in total.