After Brexit: Why I want to apply for an Irish passport
I’m not hijacking the birthplace of my father to avoid a couple of visas, nor am I casually jumping ship
‘Irish nationality is something that I’ve considered and discussed for a long time, and something that I’d take very seriously.’ Photograph: Getty Images
I grew up in Nottinghamshire. You’ll probably know us for Robin Hood, but I prefer to tell people that it’s the birthplace of ibuprofen. See which one comes to mind the next time you’re nursing a nasty hangover.
I’ve just graduated from the University of Birmingham. My mum’s a Londoner, and my Dad’s an Irishman, born and raised in Co Leitrim. When it comes to the notion of home and heritage, I’m a bit of a mongrel – and delightedly so.
While England has always provided my literal home, my inherited Irishness is something I’m incredibly proud of. The balance is something I’m reluctant to try to quantify, because I think affinity and identification are far too rich to reduce to an idea of being “half of this, half of that”.
That’s why I find concerns about the surge in applications for Irish passports from people living in Britain problematic. Many of the argument s were articulated by Dr Ronan McCrea in The Irish Times recently.
He argued a post-Brexit surge of UK citizens seeking Irish nationality was detrimental to the idea of Irish citizenship.
“Citizenship is fundamental to the collective self-government involved in democracy. The welfare state is also very dependent on the idea of citizenship,” he wrote.
I’m not saying that Dr McCrea’s concerns are invalid. Far from it.
However, the arguments veer a little too close to the “us and them” rhetoric we’ve become accustomed to as a result of the UK’s EU referendum.
I found out about the Leave result at Glastonbury festival, at about 7am. Semi-drunk in a man-made utopia, I was flicking through pictures of a sniggering Nigel Farage and a beaming Michael Gove – think of that for a haunting juxtaposition, if you will.
My immediate response (after a lot of swearing) was to text my dad and ask his thoughts on me applying for an Irish passport.
Citing Dr McCrea’s article, I think this would put me in the category of those wanting to “use Irish citizenship as a flag of convenience”.
Irish nationality is something that I’ve considered and discussed for a long time, and something that I’d take very seriously. While it’s a decision that would require a great deal of contemplation, the Leave result wonderfully focused the mind (perhaps wrongly, who knows?).
But this wouldn’t be me hijacking the birthplace of my father in order to avoid a couple of visas, nor a casual jumping of ship, either.
In the age of multiculturalism and the eclectic, I find archaic the notion of a “common national identity” as essential to a healthy, functioning society: citizenship doesn’t inform empathy, humanism does. Ireland is a nation that has always revelled in its heterogeneity. I challenge you to find somewhere that’ll give you a warmer welcome.
It’s easy to view those seeking an Irish passport from a Brexit catalyst as exploitative. But people from all over the world have loved and cared for this beautiful, crazy country their entire lives, and their wish to consummate that could be a wonderful thing to come out of a sorry few months.
Rather than jumping straight to Project Concern, why not view it as chance to engage in dialogue with people who clearly care about opportunity, diversity and unity?