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30 October 2017

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Second passport doesn't have to mean a change in your national identity

Both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Gregory Campbell are guilty of wishful thinking, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Before I get to what Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the DUP's Gregory Campbell had to say about Northern Ireland and Irish passports, first a report from recent travels.

I'm just back from Indiana, where I go most years to Magna cum Murder, a crime-fiction convention of writers and readers.

Since the 1980s I stay relatively even-tempered about the state of the world by getting out of my system in my satirical crime novels what currently most provokes me.

Apart from the enjoyment of meeting old friends and making some new ones over there, I find this annual pilgrimage to what California and New York contemptuously call a "fly-over state" an excellent corrective to the group-think of mainstream media.

Last year, having listened to many decent people - many of them one-time Obama voters - telling me why (without much enthusiasm) they would vote for Donald Trump, I did not fall for the view that a Clinton win was inevitable.

This time I listened to some of the same people telling me that while Trump undoubtedly had flaws, he still spoke for a constituency that had been disgracefully ignored and that he was doing good work - among other things - on deregulation.

So there wasn't much sign of the buyers' remorse I'd thought possible.

Nor, I find in London, are Brexiteers of my acquaintance - including myself - showing signs of regretting voting Leave.

Indeed, I know more Remainers who would change their vote now that they know how badly EU negotiators can behave.

If anyone doubts that double-dealing and black propaganda are a constant, I recommend Adults In The Room: My Battle With Europe's Deep Establishment, the fascinating exposure by the Greek Ex-Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who took the precaution of secretly recording all his discussions with EU officials and politicians.

Mr Varoufakis is a Marxist with whom I share few economic views, but he turns out to be a brilliant observer and highly entertaining writer and reminds me yet again how much can be learned from people whose views you don't share.

It's not something that historically was popular with members of either Irish tribe, though there's less of a tendency these days for our elected representatives (other than the Sinn Fein leadership) to stick their fingers in their ears when an opponent begins to talk.

So I was interested in the recent comments of Messrs Varadkar and Campbell.

In Brussels recently the Taoiseach told the Press that a point he had made to a meeting of Nordic and Baltic leaders was that after Brexit "it's very likely that the majority of people in Northern Ireland will be Irish and European citizens because even people from a unionist background will want to become Irish and European citizens, at the very least for the convenience".

Mr Campbell responded that "to try and infer this as some sort of declaration of Irishness is just ludicrous and absurd".

The Taoiseach should not be giving the impression of claiming "that there are people in Northern Ireland who would prefer to be Irish", especially since "tens of thousands of Irish citizens are applying for British passports".

On my way home I sat beside an American who was excited because she was about to use her recently acquired Luxembourg passport for the first time. As with Ireland, a grandparent is all you need to qualify.

She did not feel Luxembourgian, but she was delighted that she would be able to get through security quickly on an EU passport.

This reminded me that I really must get round to renewing the British passport I let lapse decades ago.

After D-Day, I want to have a choice of queues.

Mr Varadkar was not wrong in what he said, but I agree that the emphasis and tone betrayed wishful thinking.

Mr Campbell - implying that there were no people in Northern Ireland who would prefer to be Irish - was demonstrating the same.

Maybe I'm being too rational, but it seems to me that for anyone who travels much, it would be daft not to get two passports if you can afford and are entitled to them.

It's all about convenience and has nothing to do with allegiance.

This is a fuss about nothing.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

The paperback of Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic will be published on April 23.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards