More than 350 people have returned to Ireland from Britain today on a combination of flights and ferries, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson has said.

Two special consular flights, one operated by Aer Lingus and one operated by Ryanair, were organised by the Department.

A smaller number were also accommodated on ferry routes.

The first flight landed a few hours ago and the second is due to arrive into Dublin Airport later this evening.

The Department said that a very limited service will continue during the period of the current travel restrictions in order to assist Irish-bound passengers who were transiting through British airports when the restrictions were imposed, or Irish residents who can prove that they were only temporarily in Britain, and need to get back to Ireland. 

A spokesperson said: "This service is not available for citizens normally resident, studying or working in Britain. It will be available for essential travel only and must be arranged through the Department of Foreign Affairs."

Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he expects there will be daily flights for the duration of the current travel ban which runs until the New Year. 

Responding to a question about the EU Commission request that members states lift their blanket bans on travel from the UK he said that was a request, not an EU decision and the Irish government has made its own decision. 

Mr Coveney said the travel ban will be reviewed and may be replaced with a system of checks in the New Year.

Speaking at Shannon Airport, Ryanair's Chief Executive Eddie Wilson said: "We believe there is a lot more demand than two flights to get people who are stranded in the UK back home for Christmas.

"We will work with the Government on that."

The airline believes there will be demand for Irish people who travelled home before the travel ban was imposed to return to the UK after Christmas.

Mr Wilson said: "A lot of people are in Ireland who will need to get back to the UK after Christmas.

"We are going to be looking at a number of flights that will go in a one-way direction back to the UK after the Christmas break.

"Clearly that will cost us a lot to fly in one direction."

Meanwhile, at the request of the Irish Government Aer Lingus has organised a charter flight to enable the repatriation of eligible people from the UK.
 
Aer Lingus flight EI4179 is scheduled to fly from London Heathrow to Dublin this evening.
 
Those wishing to determine whether they are eligible to travel should contact the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs on +353 1 613700 for assistance.