Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott says Republic of Ireland's decision to use map of island on new Irish passport is a 'stupid decision'

Eamon Gilmore: It is a topographical map... it is not intended to be a map of the administrative or political arrangements

Passport services staff member Karen Griffin at the launch of the new passport
Passport services staff member Karen Griffin at the launch of the new passport

The inclusion of an all-island map on the new Irish passport is a "stupid decision" designed to make a political point, an Ulster Unionist MLA claimed last night.

Former party leader Tom Elliott also rejected claims from Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore that the map of the entire island "was not intended to show political or administrative arrangements".

The redesigned passport also includes verse in Ulster Scots for the first time from poet James Orr, a move which has been welcomed by the Ulster-Scots Agency.

The cross-border agency's chief executive also called on the UK Government and Northern Ireland Assembly to follow the Irish government's example.

"Ulster-Scots people have made a huge impact across the British Isles and beyond. Any recognition at governmental level is to be welcomed," Ian Crozier said.

Extracts from the Irish Constitution stating the birthright of anyone born north or south of the border to be part of the Irish nation are prominent throughout the passport. However, at yesterday's launch of the new passport, Mr Gilmore played down the significance of the inclusion of the map of the island, stressing that it was "a topographical map... it is not intended to be a map of the administrative or political arrangements".

It also emerged yesterday that there was no consultation with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

Dismissing any suggestion of territorial connotations, Mr Gilmore said: "The design of passports is not something that we discuss bilaterally or negotiate with another state."

However, Mr Elliott asked last night: "Why did the Irish government need to do this?

"The only reason that I can assume is that they wanted to make a political point and demonstrate they were still holding to the long established territorial claim.

"This was a stupid decision in terms of building good relationships with their neighbours."

Among the design features in the 34-page passport booklet are verses from three poets – Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, William Butler Yeats and James Orr.

Orr, from Co Antrim, and known as the Bard of Ballycarry, wrote in Ulster-Scots.

An excerpt from his poem Written In Winter, along with a specially commissioned drawing to illustrate the verse, covers two pages of the visa sections of the new passport.

Other images include Grianan of Aileach, an ancient fort in Co Donegal linked to the Ulster Ui Neill high kings, and the Rock of Cashel.

Drawings of Gaelic games, dance, fishing and music also feature, along with the national anthem, written in music throughout the booklet.

Asked why there were no images from Northern Ireland, Mr Gilmore – who is Dublin's foreign affairs minister – said drawings and symbols through the passport were "all-island images".

Northern Ireland vote sought for Irish presidential elections 

BACKGROUND

James Orr, the radical activist, poet and weaver, is widely regarded as the father of Ulster-Scots literature.

He was from a Scottish Presbyterian background and lived and worked in the Scots-speaking Co Antrim village of Ballycarry.

Orr was one of many young Presbyterians of the time inspired by the European Enlightenment and he took part in the 1798 Rebellion. He has now become the first Ulster poet to be featured in the redesigned Irish passport, with the inclusion of an extract from the poem Written In Winter.

Also featured is poetry from WB Yeats and Nuala Ni Dhomhmaill.

Other landmarks featured are Kylemore Abbey, the Aviva Stadium and the Samuel Beckett Bridge over the Liffey, with the Custom House and Dublin Convention Centre in the backdrop.

Half-form images of 14 different river gods -- like those on the Custom House and Liffey bridges, in Dublin city centre -- are at the edge of each page. The images only fully form when two different pages fold back on each other, and Mr Gilmore says this is an additional security feature.

Passports issued from 3 October will have the new design.

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