National Anthem

180px-eirepas.jpgMy nice shiny new Irish passport arrived in the post today. After several weeks of form filling and taking multiple different passport photos to get one that was deemed acceptable by the “authorities” – the woman in the Post Office in town. It’s shiny and clean and looks like by British one except with a Harp and some funny language written all over it. Plus it’s cheaper than the British one.

Tis one of the joys of living in a country racked by violence and division is the opportunity to have dual nationality, and also some complicated rules that I don’t understand about who can play for which footy team at international level.

Now at present I have no particular need for two passports, having not made it off our fair island for a good 8 months now. But if I ever do it make off here again (sweet NZ is always calling…) then having two passports maybe isn’t a bad idea, if only cause I’m likely to lose one at some point.

Though I have in my head of this sightly James Bond image of being arrested and someone confiscating my passport in some random african nation and me sneaking out of the country under cover of darkness on my second passport. That sounds kind of weird when I write it down.

The other reason I like having an Irish passport is it lets me feel slightly more authentically Irish. In my year away in NZ I always described myself as being “Irish”, not “Northern Irish”. Which I suppose was a bit of a change given my good solid Protestant stock when most of us seemed slightly uncomfortable with our associations with the “Free State” (as my Granny called it. In fact if pushed I even tend to say “from the north of Ireland”.

There is a certain amount of Kudos that goes with being Irish when you’re a traveller, and not just the fiddly-dee leprechaun kind. We have a certain reputation for being fun loving and gregarious and generally a decent bunch. And given that Ireland’s national export for generations has been Irishmen then being Irish allows am immediate connection to the diaspora.

When I think of Ireland I think of home, despite the different currency and the speed limits I see the whole place as where I belong. Poetically and aesthetically I like the idea of this being one place.  I’m not sure this affects me in any political sense. Politics in Northern Ireland being extremely messy and something I try to avoid at all costs. Though with Big Ian and Marty holding hands it’s hard to predict what might happen.

To make the day complete I ended up the Ireland-Scotland game in Croke park partly fulfilling an ambition to get to Croke (my real ambition being an Armagh all-ireland final there). And for the first time realising that the other “national anthem” we have (apart from Ireland’s call) is actually in Irish and the Ulster boys don’t sing it because they’re making a point but because they can’t sing the words.

I guess I have a lot to learn when it comes to this “Irish” thing me thinks.

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February 2008

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