The inclusion of a map of the entire island on the new Irish passport could be an attempt by the Republic’s government to stake a claim on Northern Ireland, a UUP MLA has said.
The passport, launched yesterday, also features an Ulster-Scots verse and extracts from the Irish constitution which state the birthright of anyone born north or south of the border to be part of the Irish nation.
While concerns that landmarks in Northern Ireland such as the Giant’s Causeway would feature on the newly-redesigned passport have proved unfounded, the inclusion of the all-island map has not been welcomed by former UUP leader Tom Elliott.
“The Republic is a state of its own,” Mr Elliott told the News Letter. “There are some bodies and organisations such as churches which operate on an all-island basis, but this passport is issued by a government body.
“My concern is that this is the Irish government trying to stake a claim on Northern Ireland.”
Mr Elliott said he feels the inclusion of the image is inappropriate and will consider the matter further.
Earlier, 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 on Thursday.