A Passport to Nationalist Insurrection?

I recently discovered Jamie Bryson, and as with the discovery of any hidden gem, I’ll confess I’m rapt. It’s not yet clear to me whether Jamie believes everything he says or whether he’s simply realised that hyperbole is a sure fire path to notoriety.

But after his latest offering, I’d have to say the balance of opinion has to come down to the latter view.

In my dalliance with Jamie’s pontification on all matters unionist, nationalist and fantasist, it is on the matter of passports that I fear our loyalist superhero has, Fonz-like, jumped the shark.

Nationalist Insurrection Around Every Bonfire-Lit Corner

In the right for citizens of Northern Ireland to hold two passports Jamie sees a slippery slope to joint rule of the North by the Republic and Great Britain.

But it’s far from clear that a right to more than one passport, whether one resides in a disputed territory or not, can by itself be seen as a cog in any mechanism leading inexorably toward a change in sovereignty for said territory.

For sure, passports are by definition documents of identity. Yet they’re also documents of practicality. In almost all cases, it’s difficult to cross international borders without them, and the right passports can make that passage all the easier.

According to Jamie, “The majority of people pursuing Irish passports do so in order to assert their rights as Irish citizens living in what they believe is an illegitimate state.” Where’s the evidence?

Hitchen’s razor is alive and well. Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

‘Flegs’ be preserved, the end is nigh!

It’s futile to speculate on the motivations that drive people’s decisions to get one passport over another. I do however recognise that in a disputed territory, we should expect less homogeneity around matters of identity.

The 2010 census, the first in which respondents were asked about national identity, was particularly revealing in this regard. In Northern Ireland a full fifth (21%) declared themselves as having a “Northern Irish” only identity, 40% declared British only, and 25% declared Irish only.

In Northern Ireland a full fifth (21%) declared themselves as having a “Northern Irish” only identity, 40% declared British only, and 25% declared Irish only.

Far from being a tool to weaken British sovereignty, as Jamie fears, passport choice is little more than a reflection of self for a province in which identity and belonging is ever-evolving.

Rome won’t fall, and joint rule over Jamie’s beloved six counties won’t materialise from the pages of an 8.5cm x 12.5cm booklet bearing the words An tAontas Eorpach on its front.

For the record, I hold British and Irish passports for the convenience, using the former for almost all travel, with the latter standing ready for trips to the EU after March 29th, 2019. I’m an amateur though; my daughter has three passports and counting.

Shane is an entrepreneur, publishing executive, political commentator and author. Originally from Comber in Northern Ireland he now lives in Washington, DC. You can follow him on Twitter @shanegreer.