Does Whitehall think the Irish are stupid…

Interesting the BBC have the news that UK ID Cards (if they ever see the light of day) will offer Irish nationals in Northern Ireland a ‘personal’ rather than a ‘national’ ID card… One key difference as Pete points out below is that the national card at least has the utility of being a travel document, whereas a personal card does not. Travel cards can only be issued by the citizen’s own government. Straightforward enough? You’d think so. Except, that the vast majority of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland are already covered by their British citizenship. Just as the vast majority of British citizens in Northern Ireland could receive travel documents from the Dublin government, since, under the jus soli principle (constitutionally enshrined in the Belfast Agreement), that group is substantially the same. At the heel of the hunt all people born in Northern Ireland are both British Citizens (unless renounced by lodging a declaration made to the Home Secretary) and Irish Citizens (unless renounced by lodging a declaration with the Minister for Justice). That won’t stop a lot of people rushing for the cards that don’t allow you to travel… If Mr Johnson gets enough time and space to force it into legislation…

And then there is the civil liberties argument about what any government should legitimately know about the business of its citizens. This from the General Secretary of NO2ID:

The report (ID cards will not display Union Flag, 30 July) that the Government is being “sensitive” to the feelings of Irish nationalists by issuing a UK identity card with a shamrock on it and a notionally
nationality-free version for Irish citizens, would be merely laughable if it did not at the same time insult the intelligence of those same nationalists.

The card is near irrelevant. It is the registration on the National Identity Register database that comes with it that matters, all the information recorded on it, and all the duties your will acquire to report your whereabouts and personal circumstances to it. That will be for life if you are British, and for all the years of your residence in Britain if you are Irish – provided are ever coerced or conned into “volunteering”.

Perhaps Whitehall thinks the Irish are stupid.

How many Irish nationalists does the Home Secretary suppose want to make the British Home Office the sole authority for their identity, whether that comes prettified with a shamrock or not? Given that they have an absolute right of residence, and he cannot force them to join his Register through their passport applications as he intends to do with British citizens from 2012, he is on a loser there. The interesting question is how many Brits he would be encouraging to discover an Irish grandparent and take up Irish nationality rather than submit to the scheme, when the time comes to renew their passport. Millions could.

Mr Johnson is not calming Irish nationalism; he’s creating a whole new cause of it.

Yours faithfully,


Guy Herbert
General Secretary, NO2ID
Box 412, 19-21 Crawford Street
LONDON

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty