The record number of passports issued in Ireland in 2018 looks set to be exceeded this year, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has told an Oireachtas committee.

Mr Coveney said 860,000 passports were signed off on last year, which was 8% up on the previous year.

The figures include both renewals and new issues.

However applications are up 30% so far this year compared to the same point in 2018.

Mr Coveney described the figures as extraordinary, and said the huge demand had generated some €60 million for the exchequer.

It has resulted in a major increase in the number of staff required to process applications and it is to date one the biggest impacts of Brexit, the Tánaiste told the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.

He added that the Government has looked at opening a passport office in Belfast but it is not viewed as necessary given the efficient online system.

However, he said the option to open such an office remains under review.

Mr Coveney said too that politics and relationships between communities in Northern Ireland are fragile at the moment.

He said that regardless of what happens with Brexit, the Government may have to invest more time and money in community projects to help maintain calm on the ground.

He said Brexit had created a polarising effect and Northern Ireland was in a very difficult place.