Passing the port in stormy weather….

Another decade has passed and my passport is due for renewal this year. A great deal has happened since 2013 – both in my own personal life (which I won’t go into) and within the wider world – which I won’t dwell on either as it’s been covered extensively both here and elsewhere.

But of course one particular event which has affected people’s choice of passport(s) cannot be ignored. As a result we’ve seen the unprecedented phenomenon of diehard unionists (and many English people of Irish descent) applying en masse for Irish passports. Let’s be honest though – if it had been the reverse situation and had Ireland rather than the UK left the EU – nationalists would no doubt be clamouring for British passports rather than endure the inconvenience of being stuck in a long airport queue in Gran Canaria. It’s also probably safe to assume that even before Brexit many unionists already had Irish passports and many nationalists already had British passports – and many from both tribes held two passports – mainly for reasons of expediency.

Not that I have a problem with any of this though. Most of us (myself included) are guilty of hypocrisy to some extent. From the atheist/agnostic who suddenly experiences a religious conversion so that they can get their child into a good school to the Irish football supporters who passionately follow English clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal week in week out, yet express great delight when England get knocked out of the World Cup – it’s a common trait of human nature the world over. Many (if not most) of us will take advantage of a convenient opportunity even if it means sacrificing our so-called principles.

At the end of the day a passport is simply a document of convenience to get you from Country A into Country B and back again regardless of what colour it is. To misquote the late John Hume “you can’t eat a passport”. Or can you? The lucrative black market trade in fake passports would suggest otherwise. For an economic migrant a UK or EU member state passport can be particularly “edible” as it is quite literally a passport to a better life.

That other Nobel prize-winning alumnus of St Columbs College, Derry, the late Seamus Heaney famously wrote the line “Be advised, my passport’s green” in response to his work being included in an anthology of modern British poetry. Although it was before my time, I’m reliably informed that Irish passports were indeed green back in those days. In any case “my passport’s burgundy/No glass of ours was ever raised / To toast the Queen” doesn’t quite scan.

And it’s interesting to note that the current Irish passport in one of its inner pages contains a quote from another northern poet James Orr – who wrote in Ulster-Scots. [main photo]

So we all know that deep down a passport is more than just a simple document. Stamps on passports can give automatic bragging rights for those who want to boast about all the exotic locations they’ve been to. I have precious few of these on my passport though as all of my travelling over the past decade has been either within the UK or the European Union – except for the journeys to Morocco and Uzbekistan. But that’s another story – which you can conveniently read about here in the chapters entitled “Moroccan Autumn” and “On Silk Routes”.

But in some cases you will be issued with a loose strip of paper rather than a stamp – as unlike a stamp, a piece of paper can easily be removed. As I found out when crossing the Cypriot border from the Greek part into the de facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. A Turkish Cypriot stamp would not exactly endear a traveller to Greek passport control. Apparently Israel has a similar set-up, given that a permanent ink-stamped Israeli imprint can deny the passport holder entry into certain Arab states.

Disgruntled Brits who voted remain can now vent their frustrations at passport control by flaunting their “I voted remain” passport cover. I found out about this by chance while perusing the Twitter account of lyrical literary and avant-garde cinema name-dropping musician Lloyd Cole beloved of pretentious arts students during his mid to late 1980s heyday. This is probably the first time he’s been mentioned on Slugger O’Toole. So I hope this doesn’t cause too much of a “commotion” with the mods or result in a lost weekend for anyone… But maybe you can make a brand new friend in the comments section below (See I what I just did there?)

So in our own unique region we should consider ourselves lucky to be from one of the few places in the world where we have a choice of two national passports – or both should we so desire.

For an overview of the design of the Irish Passport have a look here, but I think the design has recently been updated. Brian

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