APPLICATIONS submitted by Britons for Irish passports have soared by more than 70 per cent since the UK voted to leave the European Union. My wife is included in this number, courtesy of her grandfather, Joseph Beckett Steele, who migrated to England from County Antrim in the early years of the last century to work in the iron ore mines of the Furness Peninsula and fight for his country during the First World War. Strange how events unfold as years pass by . . .
The Irish passport office reported an initial surge several months ago and was obliged to take on extra staff to cope with demand. Newspapers reported yesterday that the surge has increased by 73 per cent over the corresponding period last year. We initiated our process in the aftermath of the June 23 vote. Machinery is in motion, although it’s clanking slowly.
In line with the many thousands of others applying for Irish passports, we intend to guarantee our right to live and work anywhere within the European Union. If this requires us to ditch our British passports for those of another country, then that’s life. Two million British people living and working in the EU have been ditched by the British electorate. Good job there wasn’t a vote over the Dunkirk evacuation, that’s all I can say. Sorry, you’re on your own now, Tommy.
Irish government policy appears to be more altruistic than that of its neighbour. Anyone born on the island of Ireland is entitled to a passport, not merely those from the republic. Indeed, a high proportion of applicants in this latest wave are from Northern Ireland. Anyone born abroad whose parents or grandparents were born on the island of Ireland is entitled.
Proof of entitlement must be provided. Original birth, marriage and death certificates of the parent and grandparent through whom descent is being traced must accompany the application. Acquiring these documents is a bit of an undertaking, but Anne and her sister have succeeded.
And me, I’m just a tagger-along on this journey through Celtic bureaucracy and family history. With no Irish ancestry more recent than a great-great grandfather who married a Swiss seamstress, I have to settle for being a dependant. I can live with that.