PASSPORT TO …PIMLICO by Harry McAvinchey


How lucky are we that we live in a place where you are entitled to two nationalities as a birthright? You can get an Irish passport or a British passport .Or if you have more money than sense, maybe even both.There are people out there who would sell their kidneys for that kind of privilege. We largely take the fact for granted, or maybe even argue over it .You know the drill …don’t you go shoving your Irish/British passport down my throat I’m Irish/British and I don’t want you going on  about giving me that kind of choice. I know who I am , dammit!! I’m Irish/British!!

Well yes , there’s a lot of history to get over in Ireland , but there’s no doubting that we’re all blessed for choice here.We can have a choice of Nationalities or both at the same time.What’s not to like? People are very sensitive about it though. Never mind the pragmatic benefits. Some people will claim it is easier to travel worldwide on one or the other , just as many claim that to profess to being British while on holiday paints a huge bull’s-eye on your back which says “Arrogant Football Lout  On Tour”. I’ve actually come across this easy racist stereotype while on holiday in Europe and it was only when I explained that i was actually Irish that the faces lit up with smiles. Stereotyping , you see. It’s everywhere. Every one of us is guilty of it. In my life I’ve had both passports over the years , very much  depending on the ease of availability and the price at the time. There were design aesthetics to be considered too, but nowadays passport design is a homogenous affair anyway. The Irish one and the  British one look very similar now. Like the way we all wear the same kind of clothes or eat the same foods’s a sign of a shrinking world I suppose. A passport is a very important document though. My youngest daughter discovered this to her chagrin when her’s was stolen a few months ago in London while she was partying..The Passport Office has been in the news recently, what with backlogs and queues. In this light she decided to replace her stolen British passport with a new Irish one.The thing is, the Irish Passport Office will not send the documents to an English address. It would have to be posted within Ireland, so of course, her Dear Pater would have to do all the legwork.

The other thing was , to get a new pasport, you either needed an old one or some kind of photographic identity card. She had no driving licence and her whole identity had been wrapped up in the “stolen passport” which she would need to prove who she actually was …Catch 22 , you see. I wrestled with this one back and forth on the phone until the chap in the Post Office mentioned an “Electoral Identity Card”. I don’t possess one of these photographic cards myself, but the guy pointed out that the Sinn Fein office across the road could sort one out double-quick.We proceeded across the street and indeed the young girl behind the desk very efficiently dealt with our query and printed out the form , and filled it out in five minutes. My wife was so surprised that she was opening her purse to pay the wee girl, such was her relief.The girl of course waved her away. We just had to post the form off for my daughter’s signature and she could apply for her free card. So there you are, some of us unknowingly take these things for granted, but try getting on a  plane for home without some I.D.

She’s not out of the woods yet mind. There’s the matter of the photographs. Although her photographs are  perfectly adequate for the British passport, the Irish passport requires jumping through a few more hoops. There’s the matter of no spectacles of course, no smiling, no glare or squinting , but now your chin and your forehead have to sit perfectly, just so, between the  neat lines on a  little photographic schema. I’ve been through this myself of course . Gone are the Che Guevara bearded days of yore with the shades and that. Now I look like one of the meanest criminals that ever looked back at you . The Kray twins spring to mind…..  The photographer in London just doesn’t get it yet though, but hopefully we’ll all get there after a few more  imperfect tries.

The moral is, of course, to never take your identity for granted.

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