Loyalists applying for Irish passports due ‘to Brexit scare stories’
Brexit scare stories are prompting Northern Ireland loyalists to apply for Irish passports, a DUP MP has said.
East Antrim MP and Brexiteer Sammy Wilson said he signed two or three applications for Irish passports every week, some of them on behalf of DUP voters.
Mr Wilson was giving evidence to the Lords EU committee in Belfast when he was asked whether the marked rise in Irish passport applications north of the border since the EU referendum had taken him by surprise.
"It doesn't surprise," he said. "You know something as an MP that every week, and you know I represent a strongly unionist constituency, and I probably sign two or three Irish passport applications a week.
"People who vote for me, who call themselves loyalists, do this because they think, 'Aye Sammy, you never know once we leave the EU I don't want to have to apply for a visa to go on my holiday to Spain'. So that's the kind of thing that has provoked that.
"They may well regret mind you in a couple of years' time when they find they have spent all this money on an Irish passport that they didn't need to do, but anyway they have got the opportunity and they have taken it."
The veteran unionist said people were being "canny" in response to misleading stories.
"There has been so much misinformation about - (like) when we leave the EU you are going to require a visa to get into other European countries and everything else," he told the peers. "People being canny will safeguard, if they have got the opportunity to do it they'll safeguard themselves."
Mr Wilson said he hadn't applied for an Irish passport himself. The exchange was not the only reference to Irish passports during the day-long committee hearing session at Stormont.
The topic also came up when Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd and MP Mickey Brady gave evidence.
In a light-hearted remark at the close of proceedings, Mr O'Dowd pointed to his fellow republican and told the assembled peers: "If any of you need your Irish passport form signed he's your man."