It is that time of year again. Getting the sun cream bought, the guide books dusted down, the suitcases patched up. For those of us choosing and having the means, getting out the passports. And then the inevitable… The child’s five year passport is out of date. How could it be five years since we last scrambled down to get this sorted? Panic sets in. Flying around to get forms, photographs, signatures. All in the space of an hour. Then a trip down to the lovely staff in the passport office, who are as helpful as they possibly can be.
My panic trip hit a bump in the road as I had not realised they had shifted office from Molesworth Street to Merrion Row. But Google Maps sorted us out nicely. And our child’s brand new passport was ready for us. The new ones are gorgeous with little designs and quotes all through them. I was dreading next year when I have to get mine renewed, as the past ten years have not be kind to me and I like the current photo, so that there are fancy Celtic doodles all over it might soften the blow! A little tip though, the Irish Passport Office twitter account is amazing for getting in touch when you are panicking and they really do everything they can to assist if possible.
Wouldn’t it all be so much easier if there was a passport office situated in the North? Coming from Belfast is not too bad, but for families more North and more West, it must be difficult. Our former Mayor, Short Strand’s Senator Niall O’Donnghaile, currently has a campaign to that effect going through the Oireachtas in Leinster House. It seems like a no brainer and in theory there is support for the idea, but yet we still have to make the pilgrimage to our capital city. In the context of so many new applications following Brexit this is a particularly pointed and practical matter.
But there is a more important politics to Niall’s campaign. We voted in 1998 for the Irish constitution to change from Articles 2 and 3 claiming sovereignty over the physical island of Ireland to a new dispensation where all citizens on the island are Irish citizens, while respecting that many will be British citizens. No longer would we talk in terms of territory but rather equalities of citizenship. It all seemed very plausible and I certainly went along with the intent. But as we have seen, equality of citizenship has not been delivered.
There is an Irish passport holder in Magherafelt, married to an American man, and they are trying to get his long-term visa sorted. But because she is not a British citizen the British Home Office say he is not eligible for the marital visa. The Good Friday Agreement, signed by the British Government, along with the Irish government, promised us equality of citizenship in our own land.

This couple’s  circumstances tell us there is a problem at the heart of implementation of the Good Friday Agreement that reaches far deeper than we could have ever feared. The only way to address it is by the assertion of Irish identity here in practical ways. An Irish passport office sitting on a street in Magherafelt would be a start.

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