I have been tussling with this one for a while now.It has been pointed out to me in passing ,that anyone born after 1998 in Northern Ireland {“the Six Counties”} and whose parents have never bought an Irish passport at any time in their lives, will not be able to hold said passport at any future time and will in effect , be wholly British whether they like it or not and will be required to “buy British”, only.That’s a very interesting idea.
No one had ever pointed this out to me before and I have to admit that I somehow missed this little detail and mistakenly assumed that anyone born in Norneverland was entitled to either a British passport or an Irish one… or even both…in a spirt of Agreed dual-“nationality” , if not yet, exactly, dual-“citizenship”.
You’ll understand that being “British” is not really a matter of nationality at all given that “Britain” is really a sort of “nebulous” ever-changing concept throughout the eons and being “British” is a sort of state of mind appending to someone, either by dint of invasion, or conquer, or possibly by assent, or not, after conquest… anywhere that “Britain” has taken over or invaded at some time in history . Remember India, anyone? It is not really a “forever” state of being , no more so than the fact that there is now no more a British Empire as there is no more a Roman Empire or a proposed Thousand Year Third Reich, either . These concepts are only moments and human notions in the vastness of time. The Scots will be Scots , the English will be English and the Welsh will be Welsh ,for a period ,in the span of time . Prior to any of that, their predecessors might well have been Vikings, Picts , Angles or whatnot.
In Ireland some of the Irish may be ,or will be in a future time, Irish but only in certain circumstances.
Now, you’ll probably all know someone in your lifetime that never ever felt the need to buy a passport of any kind . I know, or have known many characters that never left the hearthside to go anywhere further than the pub or the betting shop, never mind have the need to buy a passport and board a plane for foreign climes. They lived their lives within a narrow town boundary of a few streets , without confronting the idea of their own nationality or the need for proof of it. In some cases , they never went any further than their own town streets for the entire span of their lives and saw their identity simply tied to the town or village where they were born and lived …and no further. Even at that , it is perfectly possible to travel to anywhere in the UK or the breadth of Ireland , without a passport, so long as there is some proof of “identity”, such as an identity card. Many in Norneverland might like the idea of being a “citizen” of a country rather than a “subject” of a monarchy, though. That’s a state of absolute personal identity for them and it can also be tied into the idea of their “Irishness” or maybe “Britishness”., For some in Norneverland , although securely born “Irish ” in every sense of the word to an outsider{ ie.. someone from outside the island of Ireland} , prefer to proclaim their sense of subjecthood{!} and find that easier to do by buying a British passport. These days there is precious little difference in the actual passport as an artifact, looking as it does , much the same as any other passport document throughout Europe and is as homogenised as anything else in modern life. Gone are the days of the green hardback and its golden harp. A more personalised sense of Identity can therefore be difficult to pin down.
This conundrum about ” Irish identity” and citizenship in the future , which has sprung up ,appears to have arisen in the wake of some changes to the Irish Constitution. You’ll understand that I haven’t given this any thought at all until it was recently alluded to and I was perfectly content in the knowledge that being born on the island some sixty plus years ago , I have long accepted that I am simply an “Irishman” and the “British” part of things was only an accident of my place of birth in a particular timeline ,but I think the finer details were maybe possibly, quickly swept through when articles 2 and 3 were removed from the Irish constitution a few years back when I was looking the other way. So has the wool really been pulled over my eyes and I still don’t know it? For the life of me, i still haven’t found the words or phrase that might upset anyone of a “Nationalist” or “Irish” bent as far as identity is concerned ,but here’s something of the text :
“Article 2 and Article 3 of the Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) were adopted with the constitution as a whole on 29th December 1937, but completely revised by means of the Nineteenth Amendment which took effect on 2 December 1999. As amended they grant the right to be “part of the Irish Nation” to all of those born on the island of Ireland and express a desire for the peaceful political unification of the island subject to the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. Before 1999, Articles 2 and 3 made the claim that the whole island formed one “national territory”…..”


The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 bound the Irish Government to submit Articles 2 and 3 to amendment by referendum. This was the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution and was voted in and adopted by 94% of the voting population. The new wording described the “Irish nation” as a community of individuals with a common identity and not of a particular territory. The drafting of it was all about reassuring Northern Irish unionists that should a united Ireland come about sometime at a future date , it would be at the behest of a majority of the Northern Ireland electorate voting for that.
Article 2 went something like this :
“It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.”
Article 3 went :
“It is the firm will of the Irish Nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island. Until then, the laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws enacted by the Parliament that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution.Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.”
The bit that has caused some confusion for me is my reading of the following text :
“As amended, Article 2 provides that everyone born on the island of Ireland has the right to be a part of the Irish nation. The intention is partly to allow the people of Northern Ireland, if they wish, to feel included in the ‘nation’ without making what might be perceived as a revanchist claim. This is a reflection of the provision in the Belfast Agreement recognisingthe 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 and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.”
There has been a further qualification that reads  :
“Everyone born on the island the right to Irish Citizenship. However this right has since been qualified by the Twenty-seventh Amendment. Adopted in 2004, this amendment did not alter the wording of Articles 2 and 3 but nonetheless limited the constitutional right to citizenship to those born on the island to at least one Irish parent. Article 2 further recognises the “special affinity” between the people of Ireland and the Irish diaspora.”
You might think that gives everyone with a vague claim, the choice to be “Irish” and buy their irish passport to prove it , but Jessica has claimed that this is not so and that it is dependant on whether or not that single parent possesses or has possessed an irish passport prior to the child’s birth inafter 1998. I have to admit I haven’t seen this piece of information anywhere yet.
In Article 3 there is a further amendment to make things crystal clear and to offer those Northern Unionists with fears of being subsumed into a Holy- Roman- Catholic- Gaelic- Land- of -Camogie- Playing- Green- Leprachauns -And Fiddlely- Dee- Merchants- With- Shillelaghs- Under -Their- Arms- Riverdancing -Into-The -Sunset…… as opposed to Hard- Hammered- Lambeg -Drums – Orange -Sashes-Bowler- Hats- and -Tootling -Flutes- Playing The- Sloop-John -B- Around – Churches…..
There’s no doubt that the amended, Article 3, Section 1, was expressing a very firm desire for the “Irish nation” to create a “united” Irish people. That didn’t really mean a “united country “per se ….for what country anywhere is really so united that everyone has the same point of view? It was hoped and desired that a “united Ireland” would have the wit and desire to respect the distinct cultural identity of Northern Unionists and that all the people of the entire island would give their “democratically expressed” consent to this across the land . This was all about perceived unionist fears . There’s no doubt that these unionists are a fearful lot……. but they are, in the end….. “our” fearful lot.
Under the Good Friday Agreement the people of Northern Ireland’s “democratically expressed” consent must be secured in a referendum. It added an additional legal requirement that a referendum should be held in both Northern Ireland and also in the Republic of Ireland before a united Ireland could be brought about. Section 2 also allowed Ireland to participate in the cross-border ‘implementation’ bodies established under the Agreement.
That seemed fair enough to me and if there are any hidden clauses , I would dearly love to hear about them , but I am still of the notion that any of us can make a claim for Irish citizenship if we have been born on this Irish island…except maybe if your mum or dad has never bothered buying one of those passports in the past.
So, can you be an Irishman and/or a Britishman as a right …..or a “citizen” and a “subject…. or both….. and all of these things …….all at the same time?
I’d love to find out sometime soon….possibly sometime before the next invasion from whatever quarter.