Northern Ireland

Londoners seek Irish passports to secure European connection

London Irish centre
Image caption There has been a 60% increase in applications in Britain since last June's poll

The rush for an Irish passport following the Brexit referendum has not been confined to people in Northern Ireland.

There has been a 60% increase in applications in Britain since last June's poll on the UK's membership of the European Union.

So what has prompted people living in the rest of the UK to apply for Irish citizenship?

London is home to the largest Irish-born population outside of the island.

Image caption Sean Kennedy is in charge of the London Irish centre

The London Irish Centre in Camden normally deals with welfare and social issues, but over the past year the number of people seeking help in tracing their Irish ancestry has increased significantly.

Sean Kennedy is in charge of the centre.

"In the month after the referendum we saw an immediate increase and that has been sustained across the 12 months," he said.

"I was contacted by a grandfather who was born in Ireland, but wanted to leave his three granddaughters Irish citizenship as his legacy," he said.

Image caption Siobhan Bygate was born in Belfast

Siobhan Bygate lives in Buckinghamshire, but was born in Belfast in the late sixties.

Her father was from Scotland and joined the SDLP when they lived in north Belfast.

"We lived in Newington Avenue and although my parents were non-practising Protestants, they had Catholic friends so when the sectarianism of the early Troubles started, there were a few incidents," she said.

Image caption Ms Bygate and her family say they are "very concerned" about Brexit

"Friends said to him (her father) 'This isn't your battle, just leave,' so they did, I think they would have stayed otherwise, they loved it."

Ms Bygate went to school with people whose parents were Irish and who were working in the factories in Dagenham.

"A lot of my classmates were Irish and it was my central cultural reference point growing up, but I wouldn't have claimed to be Irish and it didn't occur to me to apply for an Irish passport," she said.

But that changed in June last year.

"I think I'm very concerned about Brexit," she said.

Image caption The Bygates lived in north Belfast in the late 1960s

"As a family, we're European but with Brexit, I'm worried that some of the freedoms we enjoy will be restricted.

"So I want my children to feel part of Europe, so that means embracing the Irish identity."

Ms Bygate's son, Amin, is currently sitting his AS levels.

He hopes his Irish passport will help keep his options open.

"It gives me a little more freedom and makes Brexit a little less scary. I think it allows me to feel more secure about the future," he said.

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