The idea of changing people’s names into Irish on driving licences could cause security headaches, it is believed.
East Londonderry SDLP MLA John Dallat said the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Coleraine had told a constituent recently that they would have to officially change their name if they wanted the Irish version on their licence.
“My constituent was told she would have to change her name by deed poll when she called to have her licence renewed using the Irish form of her name,” he told the Irish News.
However, the DVA later clarified that having your name in Irish on your licence does not require a formal change by deed poll.
Sinn Fein MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir issued a statement soon after, also highlighting the issue.
“I welcome confirmation from DVA officials that drivers are not required to use deed poll to have their name printed in Irish on their driving licence,” he said.
A spokesman for the Department of Infrastructure confirmed that their driving record holds “only one version of the name”.
It added: “If a customer chooses to use the Irish version, that will be the name that is recorded on the driver record and the printed licence.”
In April last year Israel launched an investigation after the Sinn Fein Mayor of Dublin, Mícheál Mac Donncha, got into the country despite a ban. Israel later said his name had been misspelt on a security watch list.
Former RUC Special Branch officer Dr William Matchett said such name changes on driving licences had rarely happened during his time in policing, up until 2014.
“If there are different spellings of a person’s name on a database it could cause security problems and ruin it for genuine Irish language lovers,” he said.
“It will not be until something goes wrong that this becomes a problem – and usually it will be the intelligence community that will be blamed.
“It could also cause confusion if someone is travelling overseas, for example in France, and then have to explain why their name has changed on their driving licence.
“And it could cause a headache to update UK security databases and systems. But I doubt it will cause a huge issue on the island of Ireland.”
He noted that high-profile cases of IRA figures caught on operations overseas showed that they did not normally travel under their own name, but under false passports.
TUV leader Jim Allister said that allowing people to have two different official names will create security issues.
“A driving licence is an important document when it comes to identification, so this is not just another example of the powers that be pandering to the insatiable demands of the Irish language lobby,” he said. “Having people running around with two official names will obviously create security problems.
“The sort of practical issues which this matter raises illustrates the problems which will come with Irish language legislation were it to implemented.”