Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Whole island map on new passport

Eamon Gilmore played down any significance in the inclusion of a map of the island in the new passports

The new Irish passport includes verses in Ulster Scots as well as a map of the entire island for the first time.

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 also prominent throughout the redesigned passport.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore played down any significance in the inclusion of a map of the island.

"It's a topographical map... it is not intended to be a map of the administrative or political arrangements," he said.

Dismissing any suggestion of territorial connotations, Mr Gilmore added that the Irish government did not consult with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers about any aspect of the revamp.

"The design of passports is not something that we discuss bilaterally or negotiate with another state," he said.

"The map that is on the passport is a topographical map, and it is in the context of the statement in article two of the Constitution, which makes it clear that essentially anybody born on the island of Ireland is entitled to an Irish passport."

Among the design features in the 34-page 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, was one of the Ulster Weaver Poets in the 18th century, influenced by Robert Burns, and who 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.

Other images include Grianan of Aileach, an ancient fort in Co Donegal linked to the Ulster Ui Neill high kings, the Cliffs of Moher, the Samuel Beckett bridge on the River Liffey, Croagh Patrick, the Aviva stadium, Cork Opera House 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 of landmarks in Northern Ireland, Mr Gilmore - who is also Dublin's Foreign Affairs Minister - said drawings and symbols through the passport were "all-island images".

"In relation to Northern Ireland, we have on page three a map of the full island, the extract of article two of the Constitution, which makes it clear that entitlement to an Irish passport is for anybody who was born on the island of Ireland," he said.

The first of the new passports will be issued this Thursday.

Despite a massive cut in the cost of making the new ID - down from 14 euro per unit to seven euro - there will be no cut in the fee for a passport.

Mr Gilmore said capital costs for new printing equipment and online processing system will have to be met.

The current fees - typically 80 euro for a 10-year passport - are in line with many other countries, and slightly cheaper than the likes of the UK, the US or France, the Tanaiste said.

Separately, talks are ongoing within the Office of Public Works to move the Passport Office from its current premises on Molesworth Street.

Officials are seeking new offices in central Dublin.

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