By Ashleigh Ekins – 29 July 2015
I am now an Irish speaker, a supporter of gaelic sports, and have officially endorsed a united Ireland: I have become an ardent nationalist – or so Official Ireland thinks. Get used to it: because there’s a new design Irish passport waiting for you next time you renew; and for those of us who find nationalism odious at best, and have no other option but an Irish passport, this one is especially uncompromising.
This newest edition of the Irish passport was stuffed through my letterbox today, and what I found inside has left me shocked. Shocked, and dumbfounded, and dismayed. Plastered all over the visa pages are all kinds of scribblings, images of the GAA, all kinds of quotes about so-called Irishness and other writings in incomprehensible languages. To top this off, there is a particularly hard-line piece of nationalist symbolism featuring a so-called map of “Ireland”, with no border. No border? No acknowledgement of self determination for Northern Ireland? – and this propaganda features prominently at the front of the passport facing the identity card portion of the book. Finally, to add insult to injury, the signature strip – which used to be incorporated into the ID card – has now been shifted over to the new propaganda page, and the recipient is now required to sign this, to endorse it.
I will ignore the fact that, as passports go, this is rubbish security.
A passport is a travel document. It should be ‘bland’, it should be ‘official’, it should allow the bearer travel ‘without hindrance’, all these things. It is also unfortunately an immutable legal document about which the holder has no choice, no say; it should at the very least be inoffensive; it should not represent a political statement of nationalism not shared by all those who are required to carry the said passport. It is quite ironic that the ‘united Ireland’ symbolism represents a political aspiration opposed by a significant section of the people within the geographical area supposedly represented by the imagery. And no one buys the argument about this image being ‘topographical’ – it is a divisive and inappropriate use of symbolism which is also not inclusive of those of us in this State who wish to free ourselves from association with nationalist symbolism and triumphalism, and find a way forward for an Ireland which we hoped would be inclusive, broadly defined, and diverse. This passport sets this process back by decades; not to mention that it is an even greater embarrassment abroad.
I call upon the government of this State to reverse the changes to the design of the passport, and I call upon all EU member states to consider a generic EU passport as a real and viable alternative.
Ashleigh Ekins is Honorary Secretary of the Reform Group.