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Irish passport rush straining system: Republic minister

By Cate McCurry

Published 28/06/2016

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has urged calm after a torrent of applications for Irish passports in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Mr Flanagan warned the "unnecessary surge" could have a significant impact on his country's passport service and could hit those people who needed one urgently.

He said the increased interest pointed to a "sense of concern" among some people with UK passports that their rights as EU citizens were about to "abruptly end". "I want to state that this is not the case," he added.

Urging calm, the Irish minister insisted that UK passport holders would continue to enjoy EU rights for the "foreseeable future" - until a formal exit was negotiated.

His intervention came after Post Offices across Northern Ireland reportedly ran out of Irish passport application forms over the weekend in response to what many saw as a shock result in the EU referendum.

Gavin Emerson, owner of Emerson's supermarket, home to a Post Office, said: "Almost as soon as Brexit was announced, we had an influx of people asking about Irish Passports. We have never handed out more forms in such a space of time."

Post Office staff who would give out about 30 Irish passport forms on a normal day distributed approximately 400 on Friday.

Armagh city's Post Office was among those that reported a huge leap in requests from people seeking Irish passports.

Overall, the number of passport forms handed out rose by more than 1,000% after the referendum.

Last night, the PSNI in south Belfast said it too had witnessed an upsurge in interest.

"Since the Brexit result, we have noticed an upsurge in Irish passport applications and queries, with the guys on the inquiry desk at Lisburn Road completing nearly 10 a day", an officer explained in a Facebook post.

Among the proponents for signing up for one was DUP MP and prominent Leave campaigner Ian Paisley Jnr. "My advice is if you are entitled to a second passport then take one", he tweeted.

As well as an increase in passport applications, there was a spike in internet searches about moving to Ireland.

Earlier this month, the Irish government had to hire an extra 200 temporary workers to cope with a surge in passport applications.

One in four people in Britain has Irish heritage. Anyone born on the island of Ireland or whose parents are Irish automatically qualify for citizenship. In some cases, those who have an Irish grandparent can also apply.

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