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Unionists in new ID card uproar over removal of Union flag

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Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Handout issued by the Home Office of the new identity card for UK citizens which has been revealed by the Home Secretary

Handout issued by the Home Office of the new identity card for UK citizens which has been revealed by the Home Secretary

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Handout issued by the Home Office of the new identity card for UK citizens which has been revealed by the Home Secretary

Handout issued by the Home Office of the new identity card for UK citizens which has been revealed by the Home Secretary

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Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Unionists reacted with fury last night at the Government’s decision to leave the Union flag off the new ID cards for fear of upsetting nationalists in Northern Ireland.

While the red, white and blue symbol was deliberately not included in an attempt to “recognise the identity rights” of everyone in the province, the design does include a shamrock.

That is little more than “political correctness gone mad”, unionist politicians claimed as they warned it meant even fewer people in Northern Ireland were now likely to sign up for the voluntary scheme.

David Simpson, DUP Upper Bann MP, said: “It’s a prime example of political correctness gone mad and the weak grip on reality that this Government seems to possess.

“In a week when it emerged the Government was trying to prevent compensation payments to injured British soldiers we now learn that it intends to remove our national flag from ID cards.

“Regardless of the feelings or sensitivities of nationalists in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, the Union flag of this country should be displayed on our national ID card.”

Ulster Unionist Lord Maginnis said: “What a muddle-headed, silly government this is. It’s pathetic. I’m certainly not going to volunteer for an ID that compromises my Britishness.”

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The Government took the decision after an impact assessment set out that the cards must recognise the “identity rights” of the people of Northern Ireland.

It stated: “While some symbols have been included within the card’s design to indicate the document has been issued by the UK Government, we have sought to design features which could reflect all parts of the United Kingdom, such as the inclusion of the shamrock to represent Northern Ireland within the tactile features, and we have sought to avoid symbols such as flags.”

The DUP has long-opposed the ID card scheme arguing it would do little to stop terrorism but the latest development means it has even less chance of being taken up, it claimed. And Gregory Campbell, the party’s East Londonderry MP, said incorporating the shamrock for Northern Ireland, along with the rose for England, Scottish thistle and Welsh daffodil exposed the Government’s incompetence at dealing with identity issues.

“The Union flag is made up from the flags of St Andrew, St George and St Patrick,” he added. “Incorporating the flag should not give anyone offence.

“Instead they have compounded the problem by using symbols that don’t represent the people of Northern Ireland. The decision will simply ensure the number of people that take this up will probably fall to zero.”

The design was unveiled yesterday by Home Secretary Alan Johnson who insisted the card was a “safe and secure” way of proving identity and would help combat identity fraud.

On the front of each card is the holder's name, picture, date of birth, sex and signature. Like the UK passport, it also displays nationality, where it was issued and when it expires.

A chip embedded in the back of the card holds a digital image of the holder's face and two fingerprints.

The cards will be made available across the north-west of England early next year and across the country in 2011-12 but will only be compulsory for foreign nationals after a Government climbdown.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, residents of Northern Ireland can identify as either Irish, British or of dual nationality.

If they opt for Irish nationality they will have access to an “Identification Card” available to European Nationals living in the UK.

The Tories have pledged to scrap the cards if they win the next election.


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