The Passport

The first time Irish passports were used was by the Irish delegation to the League of Nations in August 1923.

Gerry Costello

What is A Passport:

A passport is a travel document, usually issued by the government of a nation, that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel. Standard passports contain the holder’s name, place and date of birth, photograph, signature, and other identifying information. Passports are moving towards including biometric information embedded in a microchip embedded in the document, making them machine-readable and difficult to counterfeit. A passport specifies nationality, but not necessarily citizenship or the place of residence of the passport holder. A passport holder is normally entitled to enter the country that issued the passport, though some people entitled to a passport may not be full citizens with right of abode. A passport is a document certifying identity and nationality; having the document does not of itself grant any rights, such as protection by the consulate of the issuing country, although it may indicate that the holder has such rights. Some passports attest to status as a diplomat or other official, entitled to rights and privileges such as immunity from arrest or prosecution, arising from international treaties. Many countries normally allow entry to holders of passports of other countries, sometimes requiring a visa also to be held, but this is not an automatic right. Many other additional conditions, such as not being likely to become a public charge for financial or other reasons, and the holder not having been convicted of a crime, may be applicable. Where a country does not recognise another, or is in dispute with it, entry may be prohibited to holders of passports of the other party to the dispute, and sometimes to others who have, for example, visited the other country. Some countries and international organisations issue travel documents which are not standard passports, but enable the holder to travel internationally to countries that recognise the documents. For example, stateless persons are not normally issued a national passport, but may be able to obtain a refugee travel document or the earlier “Nansen passport” which enables them to travel to countries which recognise them, and sometimes to return to the issuing country. A country may issue a passport to any person, including non-nationals. A passport is often accepted, in its country of issue and elsewhere, as reliable proof of identity, unrelated to travel.

The Irish Passport:

Irish Passport in 1927

Irish Passport in 1927

The Irish Free State was created in 1922 as a dominion of the British Commonwealth modelled explicitly on the dominion of Canada. At the time dominion status was a limited form of independence and while the Constitution of the Irish Free State referred to citizens of the Free State, the rights and obligations of such citizens were expressed to apply only “within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State”. The first time Irish passports were used was by the Irish delegation to the League of Nations in August 1923. The Irish Free State first notified the British government that it proposed to issue its own passports in 1923. The Irish initially proposed that the description they would give their citizens in their passports would be “Citizen of the Irish Free State”. According to a report from The Irish Times the first time that Irish passports were used was by the Irish delegation to the League of Nations in August 1923. The British Government objected to this. It insisted that the appropriate description was “British subject”, because, inter alia, the Irish Free State was part of the British Commonwealth. The Irish government considered the British viewpoint. The Governor-General subsequently informed the British Government that the description that would generally (there were some exceptions) be used would be “Citizen of the Irish Free State and of the British Commonwealth of Nations”. Without reaching agreement, the Irish government issued its first passports to the general public on 3 April 1924, using this description. The British Government was not satisfied with this compromise. It instructed its consular and passport officers everywhere, that Irish Free State passports were not to be recognised if the holder was not described in the passport as a “British Subject”. This led to considerable practical difficulty for Irish Free State citizens abroad with many having to obtain British passports in addition to their Irish Free State passports. The British Consular Officers would also confiscate the Irish Free State passports, a practice the Irish authorities regarded as “very humiliating”. The issue continued to be a thorny one until the early 1930s.

1927 Irish Passport Associated Request Page

1927 Irish Passport Associated Request Page

In 1939, two years after the adoption of the Constitution of Ireland renaming the state “Ireland” the Irish decided to make significant changes to the form of Irish passports. As a courtesy, the Irish authorities notified the British authorities. In a memorandum dated 1 March 1939 entitled “The Form of Eire Passports”, the British Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, Thomas WH Inskip informed his Government of developments which had recently taken place “regarding the form of passports issued by the Government of Eire”. In the memorandum, the Secretary of State reported that “hitherto [the passports] (which have not, I understand, been amended since 1936 have borne two indications of relationship to the British Commonwealth of Nations”. These, the memorandum noted were the reference to the King including his full title in the “request” page; and a front page, where underneath the words “Irish Free State” (in Irish, English and French) appear the words “British Commonwealth of Nations”. The proposals notified by the Irish authorities included replacing the reference to “Irish Free State” with “Ireland”; amending the “request” page to drop reference to the King; and dropping the reference to the “British Commonwealth of Nations”. The Secretary of State proposed that he reply to the Irish authorities in terms that “His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom greatly regrets the proposed elimination of the King’s name from Éire passports; that in their view, the omission, when it comes to be known, is bound to create a bad impression in the UK and to widen the separation which Mr de Valera deplores between Éire and Northern Ireland”. The Secretary of State noted in his memorandum that to “say more than this might raise questions [relating to whether or not Ireland was still in the Commonwealth] which it was the object of the statement of the 30th December 1937, to avoid”. This was a reference to the communique published by Downing Street noting the adoption of the Irish Constitution, stating that in their view Ireland continued to be part of the Commonwealth and affirming the position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. Ultimately, the Irish proceeded with their plans including that the term “Citizen of the Irish Free State and of the British Commonwealth of Nations” would be replaced with “Citizen of Ireland”. This has remained the description up to present time, with current Irish passports describing the holder as a “citizen of Ireland” on the request page and giving the holder’s nationality as “Eireannach/Irish” on the information page.


.    Irish Passport 1950          Irish Passport 1978        Current Irish Passport

Pas3 1950   Pas 4 1978   Pas 5

This page was added on 10/02/2015.

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