More people in Northern Ireland applied for an Irish passport than a British one for the first time ever in a calendar year, according to new figures.
Her Majesty's Passport Office in London recently confirmed that 48,555 people in Northern Ireland applied for a British passport in 2020, at least 356 fewer than the 48,911 people who applied for an Irish passport.
However, official figures for Irish passports in the region are based solely on applications made through the Northern Ireland Passport Express (NIPX) and do not include those applications made directly in Dublin.
The records, which were obtained by the Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, highlight that applications for Irish passports eclipsed UK passport applications in Northern Ireland in the first year after Britain formally left the European Union.
However, figures for 2021 show that UK passport applications (63,774) overtook Irish passport applications (56,709) once again, but Irish passport applications are currently vastly outpacing UK applications in 2022.
In January, Her Majesty's Passport Office processed an average of 198 UK passport applications per day from Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, applications for Irish passports made through NIPX averaged 419 per day in January and February, more than doubling the rate of UK passport applications.
The Irish Times reports that the overall number of UK passports still greatly outnumbers Irish passports in Northern Ireland, although more than one-third of the region's population now holds an Irish passport.
Northern Irish citizens are entitled to hold either an Irish or British passport or both under terms set out by the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Professor Colin Harvey, from the school of law at Queen's University Belfast, told the Irish Times that the figures are "not surprising" in the context of the British withdrawal from the EU.
"Ultimately, Northern Ireland was removed from the EU against its will. There is an attachment to the EU as well and the benefits that flow from European Union citizenship too."