WELL, I finally did it. Yesterday, in fact. By recorded delivery.
I posted off my application to join Ireland’s Foreign Births Register, which, if accepted, will allow me to become a fully fledged Irish citizen, and thus obtain a passport with that hashtag-type symbol on it (that’s a harp, Dolan: Ed).
Begosh and begorrah, I hear you say, dear reader, and may the road rise up to meet me as I join your clan, etc, etc. But — you may add — what the devil am I coming over all Irish for all of a sudden, after 18 years living here happily as a British citizen?
The long answer: With Brexit negotiations so uncertain, and fears of a hard exit looming larger each day, I thought I’d better apply for dual citizenship, in case this continent goes to the dogs and us Brits are ordered back to Blighty, or at least are refused travel.
The short answer: My wife told me.
Actually, I’m being a tad flippant. In truth, I have often considered, on and off, applying for Irish citizenship down the years, but Brexit has crystallised that thought process.
In particular, I am going on a holiday to Holland this summer with my (Irish) wife and kids, and don’t want to be refused access at the airport, or at least be ushered into a different, longer queue, as my family are whisked along a faster line, while they taunt me about the wonders of the European Union.
Ah yes, the EU. That brings me neatly to another area of internal turmoil as I considered applying for Irish citizenship.
As regular readers will know, I am conflicted about the entire issue of Brexit. I didn’t have a vote in the 2016 referendum, but I wasn’t displeased when the Leavers won the day.
Why? I don’t like the ever-increasing power grabs by the EU over sovereign nations, I don’t think it’s a very democratic organisation, and I don’t like the fact Germany runs the entire show, with a little help from France.
I was as shocked as most of you when I heard the referendum result, but ever since, I have fervently hoped that Britain would honour it, leave the EU, and make a success of Brexit.
Sadly, the UK’s politicians have made a right Hames of it so far. They should stay in the Customs Union, for a few years at least, which would ease any fears over a hard border on this island and enable the EU economy to deal calmly with the fall-out of Brexit.
That hasn’t happened, and now god only knows how this unfolding nightmare will end.
So, I felt it was time for me to take action, just in case...
I must admit, I wrestled with the ethics of my decision. Does applying to be an Irish citizen, while being anti-EU and hoping that Brexit is a success, make me a traitor to the cause? Am I a hypocrite? Or am I merely putting my family first?
In truth, I found it easy to justify my decision: The current deadlock was not caused by the people who voted Brexit, it’s down to a bunch of hopeless politicians — nearly all of whom, it has to be said, are in fact Remainers.
(However, I would be interested to hear what you, my potential future compatriots, think of my decision. Have I sold my Brexit allies down the river, or am I merely being a precautionary pragmatist? Do email me your answer at email@example.com)
Once the moral hurdle had been cleared in my mind, I was ready to weigh up my options in my quest for an Irish passport.
The most obvious route to Irish Irish citizenship appeared to be by naturalisation, since a) my wife is Irish and b) I have been resident in this country for many years. Either ground would do.
At the end of this process, you must attend a Citizenship Ceremony and make a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State. I didn’t have an issue with that, per se, but the application fee of €175, then the €950 certification fee at the end was certainly off-putting. No offence to my Cork friends, like.
So I pursued another route — and found I could apply to join the Foreign Births Registry, as the grandchild of an Irish national. Here was where my Irish granny came into play! If it was good enough for Jack Charlton...
Applying for anything official is, of course, a nightmare.
I needed birth, marriage and death certificates for my father and his mother — and that was a doddle compared to the amount of time it took to dig out my own birth cert!
Finding three bills as proof of my address was also a pain. In this brave, new online world, a piece of paper with your actual name and address on is as rare as hen’s teeth.
I needed passport photos, a witness to sign them and verify who I was (a doctor, clergyperson or school principal can do this) and, finally, the payment: €278. Not to be sniffed at, but an acknowledgement that I wasn’t buying a washing machine here.
The deed was done... but officialdom is rarely in a rush. I now face a wait of up to six months for the approval, then I face another wait to get my Irish passport. The countdown clock on our family holiday is already ticking...
Will I get my precious Irish passport in time for my holiday? Will the Brits put back the Brexit date in any case, from its current March 29 deadline? Your guess is as good as mine!
There will be other benefits to becoming an Irish citizen.
Finally, after 18 years here, I will be able to vote in presidential elections and referenda — I can already vote in local, national and European elections.
And if that prospect doesn’t petrify the Irish establishment, perhaps the thought of me doing jury service will — something else I will be eligible to do.
Of course, your nationality is an intangible, even illogical thing; it comes from your heart. My granny spent 80 of her 98 years in England, but was Irish. My dad, who never lived in this country, always cheered for Ireland instead of England in sports.
Me? I can’t imagine not cheering on England at soccer World Cups, and can certainly not envisage cheering for Ireland in the same way. It just wouldn’t feel right, although maybe that will change as the years go by. As for today’s big rugby match... that’s an easy one. Er, come on Scotland.