The number of Irish passports issued in the UK has risen in the years since the Brexit referendum, according to figures.
The data emerged when it was revealed that the famous British author John le Carré went to the grave as an Irish citizen.
Data from Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney show that between 2016 and 2020, just over 422,000 passport applications were made in the UK.
Between 2017 and 2020, 358,900 passports were issued, compared to 63,500 in 2016, the year of the survey when the UK left the EU.
The increase in passport applications was most marked in 2019, when the London Embassy issued 120,800, which is twice as many as in 2016.
The figures do not include figures for Northern Ireland, where all citizens are entitled to dual British and Irish citizenship on Good Friday.
Neale Richmond, MP (TD), said Ireland was “proud of the global Irish community” and would welcome any new passport holder into the country.
The numbers come after it turned out that Le Carré, one of Britain’s most famous spy thriller authors, had died an Irishman.
The creator of the most important English spy, George Smiley, was so opposed to Brexit that, in order to remain a European and reflect his heritage, he took Irish citizenship before his death last December, 89, his son revealed this week.
“When he died, he was an Irish citizen,” says Nicholas Cornwell, who writes as Nick Harkaway, in the BBC Radio 4 documentary, which airs on Saturday night. “On his last birthday, I gave him an Irish flag, so one of the last photos of him is sitting wrapped in an Irish flag and laughing.”
Le Carré was entitled to Irish citizenship through his maternal grandmother, Olive Wolfe. Under Irish citizenship rules, anyone who has or has had a grandparent from the country is entitled to a passport when entering a foreign birth register.
Unexpected evidence shows that since Brexit, many people of Irish heritage born in the UK have sought to exercise this right to enable them to retain their rights to work, travel and retire anywhere in the EU.
In 2019, the Irish Foreign Office announced that more than 43,000 Britons had applied for an Irish passport for the first time.
“The strong effects of Brexit and the attack on the rights of many UK citizens have clearly encouraged many to exercise their Irish citizenship rights.
“We are proud of the global Irish community and proud of every passport issued. Needless to say, if any of our diasporas want to return home, it will be more than welcome,” Richmond said.
In 2020, just over 450,000 Irish passports were issued, according to government figures, 13% of which were sent through the Irish Embassy in the UK.