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What your Irish granny (or grandad) can do for you – Irish citizenship and passport

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

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In 2017, the number of applications for Republic of Ireland passports increased dramatically - applications from Northern Ireland rose by 20% while applications from Great Britain rose by 28%.[1]

So what fuelled this significant increase? Well of course the Brexit referendum took place on 23 June 2016 – there was lack of clarity then about its impact and more than two years down the line, we’re not much clearer about the implications it will have. How will it affect those who currently have a UK passport but who wish to work, holiday or live within the European Union?

Many British citizens realised they could take advantage of their Irish ancestry to apply for citizenship of the Republic of Ireland and an Irish passport to enable them to continue to work, live and travel freely within the EU. As a British citizen, you can also be a citizen of other countries (known as dual citizenship or dual nationality) [2] and the Republic of Ireland also allows dual citizenship.

However, not all countries do allow this, and you should check the rules for each country if this is something that you’re considering.

Interestingly, 2017 also saw large numbers of applications for Irish passports from non-EU countries and the top five after Northern Ireland and Great Britain were:[3]

  • USA - 17,017

  • Australia - 5,373

  • South Africa - 4,650

  • Canada - 2,553

  • New Zealand - 2,034

A conservative estimate of the number of people in the UK who don’t already have an Irish passport but who could be entitled to one is about 6.7 million people,[4] while it’s estimated that as many as 40 million U.S. citizens are eligible to become dual citizens of the Republic of Ireland and the US.[5]

The perception of Ireland as a neutral country is thought to be an important factor for those from non-EU countries applying for Irish passports, along with the right to carry an Irish passport, live and work in Ireland and the EU, and receive consular help from Irish embassies and consulates abroad.

So how do you go about applying for an Irish passport? Well you must have Irish citizenship before you can apply for the passport.

You may be entitled to Irish citizenship by birth or descent, based on when and where you were born and / or your ancestry.

Alternatively, you can apply for Irish citizenship by naturalisation based on residence, marriage to an Irish citizen or other conditions.

The Irish Department of Justice and Equality has a handy step-by-step guide to walk you through whether you may be entitled to Irish citizenship along with a set of FAQ’s.

If you’re claiming citizenship by descent this needs to be from an Irish parent or grandparent and this is how your Irish granny or grandad can help you.

Note that the rules for claiming citizenship through descent from an Irish great-grandparent are a little more complex and the following guidance is provided by The Irish Department of Justice and Equality:

‘You may be entitled to Irish citizenship because one of your great-grandparents was born on the island of Ireland. This entitlement is not affected by where you were born. To become an Irish citizen, your great-grandparent's grandchild (ie your parent) who is of Irish descent must have registered in the Foreign Births Register between the years 1956 and 1986, or if you were born after 1986 they registered before you were born. The Foreign Births Register is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.’

If you’re claiming Irish citizenship by descent and you were born outside the island of Ireland and the parent through whom you are claiming Irish citizenship was also born outside Ireland, you must be registered on the Foreign Births Register in order to obtain Irish citizenship. Once you’re entered onto the Foreign Births Register you are an Irish citizen and therefore entitled to apply for an Irish passport.[6]

Since 1921, the island of Ireland has been 2 separate countries which are the six northern counties of Fermanagh, Armagh, Tyrone, Londonderry, Antrim and Down which make up Northern Ireland and are part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The remaining 26 countries make up the Republic of Ireland and is often simply referred to as Ireland.

So if you’re claiming citizenship by descent from an Irish parent or grandparent, does it matter where in Ireland they were born? The answer is no, as claiming citizenship through descent from an Irish parent or grandparent applies those born anywhere on the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland.

Documentation that you will need to supply for the person from whom you are claiming descent includes their Birth, Marriage and Death certificates. Roots Revealed can undertake research for the required Birth, Marriage and Death records to prove Irish ancestry to enable you to progress your application for citizenship.

For more details, please visit the Genealogy Services page.


Natalie Bodle, a native of Northern Ireland is the author of the Roots Blog and founder of Roots Revealed. She is a professionally qualified genealogist and is a member of APG. She is also a qualified tour guide and a member of TGNI.

Roots Revealed provides genealogy research services to clients who are searching for their Irish, Northern Irish and Scots-Irish ancestors, in addition to genealogy tours and family history courses. For more information about the full range of services provided by Roots Revealed, please visit www.rootsrevealed.co.uk or get in touch by emailing enquiries@rootsrevealed.co.uk


[1] Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs, Ireland. Passport Statistics. https://www.dfa.ie/passporttracking/passportstatistics: accessed 25 July 2018.

[2] Gov.UK. Dual citizenship. https://www.gov.uk/dual-citizenship: accessed 25 July 2018.

[3] Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs, Ireland. Passport Statistics. https://www.dfa.ie/passporttracking/passportstatistics: accessed 25 July 2018.

[4] Maybin, Simon. (02 September 2016) BBC News. How many Britons are entitled to an Irish passport? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37246769: accessed 26 July 2018.

[5] Value Walk. (17 March 2017) Are you lucky enough to be Irish? https://www.valuewalk.com/2017/03/irish-passport: accessed 26 July 2018.

[6] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Ireland). Born Abroad: Citizenship by Descent - Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/citizenship/born-abroad/born-abroad-citizenship-by-descent-faqs: accessed 26 July 2018.

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