The Staggering Increase in British Nationals Becoming Irish Citizenship has been Revealed

The number of applications for Irish citizenship made by British nationals has increased massively since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

According to figures gathered by the Irish Department of Justice, British applicants rose from 568 in 2016 to a staggering 1,213 in 2018.

There have already been 607 applications this year with many more expected to be received by the end of December.

Irish Citizenship Ceremony

Credit: BBC

The first Irish Citizenship Ceremony was held in 2011 with the annual applications made by British nationals averaging at 60 during the first four years.

But since the Brexit referendum resulted in the majority of Britons voting to leave the European Union, the number of applicants of British origin has risen significantly.

More than 300 British nationals were among the 2,400 new Irish citizens at the Irish Citizenship Ceremony in April this year.

But not all successful applicants attended the ceremony and figures show that between 2016 and 2017 the number of new Irish citizens of British origin rose from 98 successful applicants to 526, a 400% increase.

A hike in certificate recipients was seen again last year with 687 Britons gaining Irish citizenship.

And 312 certificates have already been issued to British nationals this year.

Speaking at the recent Citizenship Ceremony, Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan referred to the applications made by British nationals as “significant numbers.” 

Brexit concerns

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told BBC News NI that the considerably higher figures do reflect an increasing pattern since Brexit.

They said, “It is reasonable to attribute this steady rise in applications from British nationals over the last three years to concerns around the outcome of the Brexit process.”

The increasing number of applications for Irish passports also appears to be affected by the outcome of the referendum three years ago.

In 2015, one year before Brexit, just over 46,000 Irish passport applicants were of British origin compared to a massive 98,500 applications last year.

Not only does this validate the suggested link between the Brexit vote and the increased demand for Irish passports.

It has also considerably slowed down the application process, lengthening the average waiting time for a first-time Irish passport application from the UK to almost four months.

Citizenship rights

A successful application for a first-time Irish passport requires the applicant to be an Irish citizen beforehand.

People born in Ireland before 2005 and those with an Irish-born citizen parent are automatically awarded citizenship.

Other people can gain citizenship through various other means including Irish descent, adoption, place of birth or length of time spent living in Ireland.

Historically any person born in Ireland was automatically recognised as an Irish citizen with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement giving residents of Northern Ireland the right to identify as Irish, British or both. 

But in 2004, concerns over ‘citizen tourism’ were raised by the Irish government, after an increased number of pregnant foreign women began travelling to Ireland to give birth. 

It was suggested they were exploiting the Irish citizenship regulations to automatically gain an EU passport for their newborn child.

A referendum was called and 79% of Irish people voted to end the automatic citizenship right for babies born in Ireland.

This tightened the rules for both citizenship applications and in turn for obtaining an Irish passport regardless of the person’s place of birth.

However, as concerns continue to grow over Brexit, the number of British nationals applying to become Irish citizens shows no sign of slowing down.

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Erika Sanger is a journalist who has written for a range of news hubs across the globe. Born and bred in Dublin there is nothing she enjoys more than writing about her homeland. Her heart lies in the fishing village of Howth on the North side of the capital but she can often be found in the West of Ireland indulging her fascination with the Wild Atlantic Way and her soft spot for Connemara ponies.