The Irish Review

The Irish Review published by Cork University Press

Bernard Crick, IR 5

IR 5 coverIn issue 5 of The Irish Review (1988) Bernard Crick began an essay on the intertwined and conflicting nationalities of the British Isles with a consideration of his own passport:

I am a citizen of a state with no agreed colloquial name. Our passports call us citizens of ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’. But what does one reply when faced by that common existential question of civilised life, which is neither precisely legal nor precisely philosophical, found in foreign hotel registers, ‘Nationality?’

If that question is meant to establish legal citizenship, then ‘British’ is correct, although that is the least used name colloquially for people as distinct from goods, except in the expletive form of ‘Brits’, now used not merely by Aussies but by both Prods and Taigs in Ulster. But, rather than ‘British’, many write in the register ‘Scottish’ or ‘Welsh’. The question does, after all, ask ‘Nationality?’ And when those with an address in Northern Ireland write ‘British’ one reasonably assumes that they are Protestant and Unionist. And a few with similar addresses boldly write ‘Irish’, and some of those even carry, quite legally, an Irish passport instead of or as well as a United Kingdom passport. Once or twice I’ve seen entries which slide around the question and write ‘Citizen of the United Kingdom’, which means that they are either a Catholic who is an Alliance Party supporter or that even rarer stubborn breed, a Scottish Tory. Once I read ‘Cornish’ but I suspected, correctly, that it was a wag and not a nut.

Bernard Crick, ‘An Englishman Considers his Passport’, The Irish Review, 5 (1988), 1-10 [1]


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