Where do we put Ulster’s Irish passport office?

Holding an Irish passport has become quite the statement. Since the Brexit vote applications have surged for a number of reasons including re-asserting an Irish identity in Britain and the north respectively. Also by Britons that want to hold on to their European Union citizenship.

Dagmar Schiek, Professor of Law at Queen’s University Belfast said that

“The British in Northern Ireland who do not also opt for Irish citizenship would be worse off after Brexit,” 

Bearers of these little red books in the north will have extended rights including freedom to travel, work and settle in the rest of the EU. The Dublin Government also expects that they will be able to continue to apply for the Erasmus university exchange programme.

Last year 80,000 applications were submitted from the north to secure a Harp emblazoned red book in a record year.

 

Passport Applications received from the North:

2014: 48,475

2015: 53,715

2016: 67,582

2017: 81,752

The number of Irish passports issued in the North:

2014: 46,944

2015: 52,861

2016: 65,716

2017: 77,160

There is a clear nationalist consensus that this increasing demand needs to be serviced by a new northern passport office in addition to the two already operating in Cork and Dublin. Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said

“The soaring demand for Irish passports in the north, and amongst the Irish diaspora in Britain, points to a clear and identifiable need for an Irish passport office in the north of Ireland,”

The SDLP’s Claire Hanna has written to the Irish government to request that “all efforts are now made to bring Irish passport offices here to the north” to both Derry and Belfast.

On Evening Extra Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien seemed to be cooler about the suggestion about having an office based in Belfast (if the ‘authorities’ were not open to it) and sounded more intent on having a new facility in the ‘province of Ulster’  and ‘along the border’.

However it would clearly make more sense to base the Ulster passport office in Belfast given that it is the second biggest city in Ireland and would ensure higher footfall. It shouldn’t be kept on the other side of the border for political reasons.

The Good Friday Agreement stated that both governments would

“recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments.”

So if the right to hold Irish citizenship was agreed then the Irish Government – and any future Irish Government should not even consider undermining Irish passport / citizenship provision because of potential sectarian opposition.

We are long past the point where these decisions have to be over-sensitised.

Last month the Taoiseach told us that

“You will never again be left behind by an Irish government.”

It will be decisions on issues such as this that will demonstrate how serious northern nationalists should take those words.

 

  • My accusation of evasion was rooted in your dodging of the following question:

    You would have no issue with the Irish government being given an input on legislation for all matters (because all matters are presently non-devolved) via the BIIC then?

    My contention is backed up by the fact that I then re-worded it as follows, immediately after accusing you of evasion, in order to try and get an answer a second time:

    So, let me try again; you would accept that there should be a role for the Irish government over all matters now via the BIIC in light of the fact devolution is not in operation, as this would be in accordance with the wording the the GFA you have been purportedly championing all this time, right?

    When you responded by outlining (in exceptionally vague fashion) what you believed would be the case rather than what you believed should be the case – thus evading the actual question again – I had to ask a third time with the following:

    Does this mean you’d have no issue with the Irish government being given an input on legislation for all matters (because all matters are presently non-devolved) via the BIIC then?

    I wasn’t asking you about your understanding of the role of the BIIC in the event of non-devolution; as you can read, I was asking you for your personal opinion as to what you thought ought to happen or if you would have a problem with the Irish government having a say over all matters via the BIIC, seeing as that would be in literal accordance with the GFA.

  • willow

    “My accusation of evasion was rooted in your dodging of the following question:”

    No it wasn’t. It was “rooted” in this question: “you would accept that there should be a role for the Irish government over all matters now via the BIIC in light of the fact devolution is not in operation, as this would be in accordance with the wording the the GFA you have been purportedly championing all this time, right?”. In other words, your false belief that I didn’t understand the role of the BIIC in the event of direct rule.

    “So, let me try again; you would accept that there should be a role for the Irish government over all matters now via the BIIC in light of the fact devolution is not in operation, as this would be in accordance with the wording the the GFA you have been purportedly championing all this time, right?”

    I’ve already stated that in the event of direct rule the BIIC’s remit extends over non-devolved matters, so obviously that’s what should happen.

    Why are you asking this again? The only for doubting that I think it should happen is you doubted my respect for the GFA, a doubt for which there is no evidence. It is you, not me, who disrespectsthe GFA. I have been defending it.

  • No it wasn’t. It was “rooted” in this question: “you would accept that there should be a role for the Irish government over all matters now via the BIIC in light of the fact devolution is not in operation, as this would be in accordance with the wording the the GFA you have been purportedly championing all this time, right?”. In other words, your false belief that I didn’t understand the role of the BIIC in the event of direct rule.

    How utterly tiresome and tedious you are.

    I think I should know what I meant by what I was asking you seeing as I was the one doing the asking. Also, that re-phrasing (that you’ve just quoted above) of my original question was preceded by me already expressing frustration with your evasion, so it’s evident from simply reading through the correspondences in chronological order again that I already felt you were engaging in evasion by that point. Here are the relevant comments pictured in immediate succession: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d6f6547ee9c14e888ccfc42fe27dea191f4accb92daf9554af5510c741422e60.png
    You had already outlined in the top comment there what you understand the BIIC to be, but you continually refused to answer whether you thought the Irish government should have a say over all matters or whether you would have an issue with them having such a say.

    You followed the passage pictured above by asking, “Evasion of what?”, and I posed my query pretty much in its original form again, as you can see: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f85f691e092a9f2462c364b98d6edbbcc1fae4de251bc3702b29fa9a22d79b7c.png

    I was trying to find out if you believed the Irish government should (not would) have a say over all matters through the BIIC – if you’d endorse the idea, in other words, because the GFA requires it – or if you’d be against them having a say. All three forms in which I posed the question are consistent with that.

    Why are you disputing this?

    Why are you asking this again?

    I amn’t. If I’ve interpreted you correctly – in spite of your vagueness – I acknowledge that you accept there will be a role for the Irish government in all matters if devolution is not in operation, but that it is probably an aspect of the GFA that you are merely prepared to tolerate for the good of the agreement rather than one of which you’d be vocally supportive. I think it’s fair to assume it’s not something you would unilaterally advocate.

  • Derrick O’Leary

    In 1912 it was “no home rule for Ireland” backed up by a threat of violence whatever the majority wanted. Then it moved to Ulster, then finally as much of Ulster has could be held, including two counties with a nationalist majority, while still having an overall Unionist majority…but trapping a significant number of the overall majority behind the new border. Sounds like gerrymandering to me.
    Had home rule been accepted and implemented in 1912, there is a distinct possibility that all of Ireland would have remained in the UK at least until the Statute of Westminster, and even then remained a Dominion like Canada. That the Dominion of Ireland would have taken a full part in World War 2 and that even if a majority had gone for a Republic afterwards at some point, it would have been in the light of a very different relationship between Britain and Ireland and within the island. From a Republican perspective, the failure of home rule and subsequent partition might even have been a blessing in disguise.
    These kind of possibilities have been the current of historical discourse in the south for years, after the mythology of independence began to be questioned by new generations. Is it not time that some Unionists had a new, myth-busting look at this history?

  • willow

    “In 1912 it was “no home rule for Ireland” backed up by a threat of violence whatever the majority wanted. Then it moved to Ulster, then finally as much of Ulster has could be held, including two counties with a nationalist majority, while still having an overall Unionist majority…but trapping a significant number of the overall majority behind the new border. Sounds like gerrymandering to me.”

    No. That’s called self-determination: drawing a border to reflect the self-determination of the people on either side. Gerrymandering is manipulating constituency boundaries so that a minority wins more seats than it ought to, e.g. in Derry before 1970.

  • Derrick O’Leary

    Or Northern Ireland, an entity from nowhere, post 1922. Drawing a line to create something that didn’t exist to turn a unionist minority in Ireland into a majority in part of one province.
    Would you be in favour of redrawing the border again?

  • willow

    No. You didn’t read what I said, did you? You don’t know what gerrymandering means.

  • Derrick O’Leary

    Yes, you stick strictly to “manipulating constituency boundaries so that a minority wins more seats than it ought to, e.g. in Derry before 1970” to exclude
    “manipulating internal UK boundaries so that a minority wins more seats than it ought to, e.g. in Northern Ireland as envisaged by Unionists after Home Rule became a certainty and before 1922” or even “manipulating Dominion boundaries so that a minority wins more seats than it ought to, e.g. in Northern Ireland after 1922”,
    when in fact the spirit is the same and, more to the point, both Northern Ireland and the Free State were supposed to have the same level of independence. The freedom actually granted in the Treaty turned out to be greater than many MP’s had bargained for and indeed greater than Lloyd George’s government really understood. Neither state was entitled to a citizenship distinct from British citizenship, a matter ignored by the Free State but not accepted by the UK until 1949.

    In other words, based on the original proposals for partition before the War of Independence, north and south would have remained equally parts of the UK – but northern Unionists insisted on a territory within that devolved part of the UK where they had a guaranteed majority. So definitely gerrymandering then.

    Nobody fully realised the path that the Free State was on when the Treaty was signed granting Dominion(+) status to the south and partition happened.
    So yes. Gerrymandering.

  • willow

    You’re confusing gerrymandering with self-determination. Unionists were a majority in the area that became Northern Ireland.

    By your logic nationalists (a minority in the UK) were proposing gerrymandering by seeking to partition the UK to create for themselves a jurisdiction in which they were a majority.

    Doesn’t work does it? Yet unionists were only doing in the context of Ireland what nationalists were doing in the context of the British Isles.