Lagan Valley MLA Pat Catney says his Lisburn constituency office has been “inundated” with requests for Irish passport application forms.
The SDLP representative revealed that staff at his Smithfield Square office have seen a “surge in demand” for information about Irish passports in recent weeks.
“My constituency office is being asked for advice on claiming an Irish passport almost every day. I have already had to re-order forms from the Passport Office in Dublin as my office has nearly run out of them,” Mr Catney explained.
“No doubt with the uncertainty of Brexit many people feel that claiming their Irish passport is their safest way to secure their rights as a European citizen. My SDLP colleagues are also experiencing this surge in demand, as people here seek to protect their European citizenship and entitlements.”
The former Lisburn councillor continued: “SDLP North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon has already called on the Irish government to establish passport offices in Belfast and Derry to assist those seeking to claim an Irish passport.
“If anyone in Lagan Valley would like assistance in claiming their Irish passport, please do not hesitate to contact my office.”
Lagan Valley DUP MLA Edwin Poots, a supporter of the UK’s move to leave the EU, said he’s not surprised that local people have been applying for Irish passports.
“I’m sure people want to keep as many options open as possible and I know that a lot of people in Ireland have been getting British passports as well due to the ongoing uncertainty in terms of the EU,” he said. “If somebody wants to apply for an Irish passport then that’s entirely a personal issue, but personally I don’t see the need for it.”
Mr Poots said there is “a reasonable prospect” that the UK will end up with similar arrangements to Switzerland in terms of travel within the EU post-Brexit, and stressed that there is “no need for people to panic” in terms of applying for passports.
Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler said that given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process, he fully understands the “clamour for Irish passports”, and indeed has been asked to sign application forms for a number of local people.
He added: “I voted to remain in the EU, but I am a democrat and Article 50 has been triggered so we have to accept that we are leaving.”