Ireland has jumped up in the rankings of the globe’s most powerful passports.
In joint fifth place - alongside the United States, South Korea and Portugal - Ireland was awarded 173 points - compared to the 172 it received in 2017.
The annual rankings are put together by Henley & Partners on the basis on how many countries citizens are able to visit without having to apply for a visa, with one point awarded per country.
Currently Ireland has signed visa waiver agreements with 142 countries - including the United States - and remains a member of the European Union which allows Irish citizens the right to live and work in all 28 members states, plus the four countries in the European Economic Area.
Globally, German passports remain the top dog: German citizens can travel to 177 without having to apply for a visa. Singapore ranks second with 176 points, whilst Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden and Britain ranked joint third with 175.
Dying to know who applied for an Irish passport from North Korea. https://t.co/pZzXwqML1C— Peter Kavanagh (@TheKavOfficial) January 4, 2018
Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney congratulated staff on their hard work and said, "I am very proud to see the Irish passport ranked fourth and fifth respectively in two prestigious global rankings. The ranking demonstrates again the value and power of the Irish passport and how well it is regarded internationally."
A spokeswoman from the Department of Foreign Affairs told IrishCentral the ranking, “reflects the major efforts undertaken at all levels of the Passport Service to protect the integrity of the passport and to ensure it continues to be a secure travel document, while also meeting the challenges of increases in application numbers and the need for technological advancement.”
The increase in applications primarily comes from the United Kingdom, where huge numbers of British citizens have applied for Irish passports since Britain decided to leave the European Union in June 2016.
In total last year a record 779,000 Irish passports were issued in 2017 - a 6% rise on 2016 - and most of the increase came from British citizens hoping to secure the right to live and work in the European Union after Brexit.
That don't impress me much pic.twitter.com/e9uFC2JBJO— Ben (@islandniles) July 21, 2017
Under the current set of rules anyone with an Irish grandparent can qualify for Irish citizenship and an Irish passport and as Britain has always been the most popular choice for Irish emigrant the BBC estimates that “about 6.7 million people in the UK who don't already have an Irish passport who could be entitled to one. We think that's a conservative estimate”.
A figure greater than the Republic’s current population of 4.8 million.