John le Carré, the novelist behind spy thrillers such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager, claimed Irish citizenship just before he died, his son has revealed.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 for the upcoming documentary A Writer and His Country, Nicholas Cornwell – who writes under the pseudonym of Nick Harkaway – said he applied for citizenship before he passed away aged 89 in December.

“He was, by the time he died, an Irish citizen. On his last birthday I gave him an Irish flag, and so one of the last photographs I have of him is him sitting wrapped in an Irish flag, grinning his head off,” Cornwell said.

The news follows le Carré’s strong criticisms of Brexit, describing the UK’s decision in 2016 to leave the European Union as a “catastrophe”.

“[It’s] the greatest idiocy that Britain has perpetrated since the invasion of Suez. Nobody is to blame but the Brits themselves – not the Irish, not the Europeans,” he said.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2019, le Carré – real name David Cornwell – claimed that Brexit was “totally irrational”.

He said: “It’s evidence of dismal statesmanship on our part, and lousy diplomatic performances. Things that were wrong with Europe could be changed from inside Europe.

“I think my own ties to England were hugely loosened over the last few years - and it’s a kind of liberation, if a sad kind.”

People have since commented on the news online, with Jacobin writer Dawn Foster tweeting: “The [Guardian] article claims he took Irish citizenship because he was opposed to Brexit, when in reality it’s because these days if you say you’re English you get arrested and thrown in jail” a clear nod to a classic Stewart Lee joke.

Meanwhile, Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spokesman, took to Twitter to ask the Irish government if he could receive le Carre’s passport.

“John is my middle name. Carre begins with ‘ca’, Campbell begins with ‘ca’.

“’Le’ … both in the surname – Campbell. I write books, he wrote books.

“It’s very said that he’s gone, but he doesn’t need that passport,” he said in a video.

Others were in awe of le Carré who died as a citizen of Europe.

The BBC Radio 4 documentary A Writer and His Country is due to air on Saturday.

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