The number of British-born people applying for Irish passports on the basis of their ancestry has risen sharply in the past year as fears about Britain leaving the European Union have increased.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that thousands of British citizens who qualify under ancestry rules have applied.

In the last year the number of adults has risen to 3,736, an 11 percent rise. Even at the Irish grandparent level the numbers have risen by 33 percent.

The Guardian newspaper interviewed several British citizens as to why they were taking up Irish citizenship.

Kevin Warnes, a teacher from West Yorkshire, stated that Britain possibly leaving the EU after the June referendum had motivated him.

“I have two children and I want them to retain their EU citizenship. I want them to be able to travel, live and work freely in a Europe of open borders, to explore their near world with as much liberty as possible.”

Siobhan Mooney from London has never even been to Ireland but told the Guardian she was getting “quite panicky” at the prospect of a British withdrawal. “I thought, well, if I get my Irish passport then at least if the UK is kicked out I’ve got some legal protection if I want to go and enjoy free movement in Europe.” She said she knew at least two other people who were considering doing the same thing.

Glen O’Hara, a professor of modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes University, said, "It’s nice to know that there’s a fallback position in case Britons really do prove willing to give up their rights as European Union citizens”.

“I am a European Union citizen as things stand, I regard myself as a European and I don’t see why anyone else has the right to drag me out of that. So I’m thinking of taking a relatively painless joint citizenship route to ensure that I can keep my EU identity and rights, whatever other UK citizens decide.”

Experts say there will be a flood of British applications if Britain ultimately decides to pull out.

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Irish passports getting popular. Many British people fear European ban after June Brexit referendum vote.Irish Echo