Irish passports rush gathers pace as Brexit fears mount
The number of Irish passports issued in Britain is set to almost double this year compared with the last full year before the EU referendum, Ireland's ambassador to the UK has said.
Dan Mulhall pinned the surge in demand squarely on the Brexit vote, with Ireland remaining inside the European Union and the UK set to leave.
Approximately 50,000 Irish passports are usually issued in Britain each year, the ambassador said.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I'm responsible for our passport operation here in Britain, and for the five years up to last year the demand was pretty flat. Last year it rose by 40%.
"That rise was all in the second half of the year, so we have to attribute that to the impact of last year's referendum. So far this year, we've seen another increase. It looks as if we are going to be close enough to doubling the number of passports compared with 2015, so there has been a significant rise, not just in Britain, but also in Northern Ireland."
Mr Mulhall said that some 500,000 Irish passports were issued to applicants around the world in the first half of this year alone.
"That's an extraordinary number of passports, well up on our previous numbers, which means that people around the world - many of them may be British people living in Europe, living elsewhere, with Irish connections - are looking for Irish passports in order to safeguard their position for the future," he added.
Mr Mulhall said a hard border was neither feasible nor practical and he stressed the need to find flexible and creative solutions to the looming problem.
"The clock is ticking now, time is moving on," he warned.
"I suppose you're hearing a bit of urgency on our part, not least to have an Executive up and running in Northern Ireland, so that they can contribute to this very important debate."
Mr Mulhall also said that Ireland ideally wanted the UK to remain in the EU customs union.
He added: "I think people are now beginning to realise the complexities of leaving the European Union, and there's a debate developing here.
"We're making our position clear, which would be ideally we would wish Britain to remain in the European Union, but that's not going to happen.
"We would like Britain to remain in the single market - that may not happen.
"But we think putting forward our view that remaining in the customs union would resolve many of these issues on the border of the isle of Ireland, that seems to us to be a practical solution."