The number of applications for Irish passports rose by 26% in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the previous year, it was reported on Monday (17 April). According to The Irish Times, the Irish government confirmed the increase which, if it sustains, will see one million applications made over the course of the year following the UK's decision to exit the European Union.

The number of passport applications marked a sizeable increase on that of 2016, which was up by 9% on the year before in the comparatively small country, with a population of 4.76 million. Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said there were a number of factors responsible for the increase, though a spokesperson for the department acknowledged the possible role of Brexit.

The spokesman said: "The increase in application numbers is attributable to a variety of causes including an expanding population and a significant increase in outbound travel in recent years.

He added: "The decision by the UK to leave the EU may have also had some impact, although the department does not ask people why they are applying for a passport, only whether or not they are eligible."

According to the report, the increase in applications had resulted in earnings of €46.74 million (£39.6m, $49.67m). In 2016, the passport service cost the Irish government €31.63m.

The news on Monday came as a top official said he believed the UK government had begun to realise its withdrawal from the Union is "an act of huge self-harm".

John Callinan, assistant secretary at Ireland's Department of the Taoiseach, told a trade union event last week that he saw that the UK government was now seeking to limit the damage Brexit would do the country.

Callinan, who the Irish Times said was overseeing Ireland's engagement with the Brexit process, also spoke of the internal divisions in the UK government. He added that even within government there was "no single, settled position".

A man adjusts an Irish flag as it flies next to a European Union
Irish Government projects it will see one million passport applications this year. Reuters