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

  • Mack

    Mick –

    As (a) Nordie(s), whether you/I assert your/my birthright to Irish citizenship or not, you’re/I’m still a Brit unless you/I tell the British Home Secretary you’re/I’m not.

    A good summing up of the theory.

    In practice a Northern Irish person could assert their Irish citizenship & renounce their British citizenship at their moment of need. In practice that means that if someone identifies as an Irish citizen and not as a British citizen and are willing to act on it if pushed, then in practice & in law they’d be identical to someone who was already a confirmed Irish not British citizen.

    So, in practice I don’t think it’s neccessary to take the step of renouncing your British citizenship unless the British legal system attempted to enforce it – which given The Agreement, they probably won’t.

    Anybody got any idea how many Angels can dance on the head of a pin? I think it’s 6.231

  • George

    Mick,
    indeed there is. It seems to be so cleverly worded that it means you can say you were never an Irish citizen because you never acted as you were entitled to while at the same time saying just because you never acted as you were entitled, it cannot be presumed in law that you were never an Irish citizen.

    I think it’s an astounding piece of drafting.

    Mack,
    my interpretation of subsection 6 would be that it’s there to cover people who are born in Ireland and otherwise would have no nationality.

    It does not relate to people born in Ireland who are also entitled to other citizenship as it would fall foul of constitutional equality provisions.

    The restrictions for subsection 2, which states that everyone born on the island is a citizen, are to be found in subsections 4 and 5.

  • Mack

    George –

    Slightly confused, can’t work where sub-section 6 is.

    Section 6 of the original (1956) act dealt with Irish citizenship by birth or descent, which is how most, um, native people born on the island acquire it. The replacement section 6 in the 2001 amendment deals with the same (otherwise there would be no mechanism by which native Irish could acquire citzenship). The 2004 amendment seems largely to consist of additional constraints to deal with the children of immigrants to Ireland.

    At least that’s how I’ve been interpreting it.

  • Mack

    Incidentally, presumably how you acquire Irish citizenship depends on the year you were born in too. With all northerners born prior to 2001 being Irish citizens unless they renounce it.

  • George

    Mack,
    this is bloody complicated but here we go.

    1956 Act:

    6(1) Every person born in Ireland is an Irish citizen from birth.

    This was pretty straightforward, no ifs or buts.

    The 2001 Amendment changed section 6 to this:

    6.—(1) Every person born in the island of Ireland is entitled to be an Irish citizen.

    (2) (a) Subject to subsections (4) and (5), a person born in the island of Ireland is an Irish citizen from birth if he or she does, or if not of full age has done on his or her behalf, any act which only an Irish citizen is entitled to do.

    (b) The fact that a person so born has not done, or has not had done on his or her behalf, such an act shall not of itself give rise to a presumption that the person is not an Irish citizen or is a citizen of another country.

    The 2004 amendment means it now reads:

    6.— (1)
    (a) Subject to section 6A (inserted by section 4 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004), every person born in the island of Ireland is entitled to be an Irish citizen.

    (b)The fact that a person so born has not done, or has not had done on his or her behalf, such an act shall not of itself give rise to a presumption that the person is not an Irish citizen or is a citizen of another country.
    (2)(a) Subject to subsection (5), a person who is entitled under subsection (1) to be an Irish citizen shall be an Irish citizen from the date of his or her birth if—

    (i) he or she does any act that only an Irish citizen is entitled to do, or

    (ii) in the case of a person who is not of full age or who is suffering from a mental incapacity, any act is done on his or her behalf that only an Irish citizen is entitled to do.

    Section 6A deals with the children of non-Irish nationals.

    Now what does “any act that only an Irish citizen is entitled to do” encompass?

    I don’t know exactly but what I think this means is that once someone from Northern Ireland does something that only an Irish citizen is entitled to do, which they can do at any time in their life, in law they become an Irish citizen from birth.

    PS: I was talking about section 6 subsection 3 in my previous post about it dealing with people who had no other nationality. The bit about “A person born in the island of Ireland is an Irish citizen from birth if he or she is not entitled to citizenship of any other country.”

  • kensei

    DependsAs (a) Nordie(s), whether you/I assert your/my birthright to Irish citizenship or not, you’re/I’m still a Brit unless you/I tell the British Home Secretary you’re/I’m not.

    Thing is though, is there any rights an Irish citizen in the UK does not have that a British citizen does? An Irish citizen can vote in all elections AFAIK, and avail of all services, vfree movement, the lot. So if you never get the passport to assert that nationality, how do you tell the difference exactly other than a theoritical thing based in legislation?

    I’m open to being correct here by practical example, but it looks de facto the same situation as the Irish law. Angels. Pins.

  • joeCanuck

    there are people on this thread whose purpose seems to be telling Catholics/Nationalists that they are British

    Yes; I would call them idiots except that’s not allowed. And, on the other hand, on previous threads we have had opposite footed idiots people telling Protestants/Unionists that they are Irish.

  • Mick Fealty

    Clarity Ken, blessed clarity… That’s all it is for me…

  • Billy

    JoeCanuck

    “And, on the other hand, on previous threads we have had opposite footed idiots people telling Protestants/Unionists that they are Irish”

    No argument from me on that one. I don’t do that and don’t agree with people who do.

    As I said, my understanding (and one of the big advantages) of the GFA was that it allows people to classify themselves as Irish or British or both.

    One is automatically entitled to either or both
    at birth and, in my opinion, doesn’t make a choice until you apply for a passport or chooses to specifically renounce one or the other.

    Frankly, the argument is all rather pointless as there are many Protestants who travel on Irish passports and many Catholics who travel on British passports – no big deal.

    I just don’t like anyone telling me that I’m this nationality or that nationality and have no choice – particularly when they’re factually incorrect.

    There are people from both “sides” who do that here and they’re all wrong (to put it politely).

  • “I just don’t like anyone telling me that I’m this nationality or that nationality and have no choice – particularly when they’re factually incorrect.”

    I don’t think anyone did that. There were quite a lot of people telling you that you had this or that citizenship – which is not the same thing.