FOR the past thirty years I have held a dirty secret.  It has been a source of embarrassment and there were times when I was advised to not talk about it for fear of judgement within the republican community.

But with people coming clean about their past I’m ready to admit, I was formally recognised as a British subject for three consecutive passports.

We’re going to Turkey this year and we all know the history of British Passport holders in Muslim countries.   That’s the kind of person I am, I have already imagined dying in a plane crash getting there and if that doesn’t happen I have imagined a beheading instead.  There’s a reason why people like me rarely leave West Belfast.


It was off to the Kennedy Centre to pick up an Irish Passport application form.  I inserted my five coins into the machine outside the Post Office and followed the instructions for passport photos.   As the machine started speaking to me, it froze and took pictures without my say so.  Next thing was my fiver was down the drain and a selection of mangled pictures came out.  I didn’t take a hammer to the machine.  But got my phone out and snapped the supplier contact details for sending a strongly worded email later on.

I had four pictures at home from my Provisional Licence, they would have to do.   I got the pictures signed by my local councillor and returned to the Kennedy Centre.  The girl put one of the pictures inside the template and said my face was too far away from the edges and I hadn’t supplied enough ID.

This time I decided to get a real human to take the pictures, that way if they got knocked back again I would have someone to shout at.  The chemist woman asked me to remove my glasses because the flash bounces off the lenses.  Spectacle wearers will be aware of this problem and if like me, will have no decent pictures of themselves.

I’m severely short sighted.  There’s a fine line between moles eyeballs and mine.  If I broke my glasses, I would have to ring in sick to work.  I couldn’t even see the girl to focus on the camera so was afraid of one eye going to the shop and then I would have a squinty passport photo for the next 10 years.

The pictures were signed again, the form filled in again and the contents of my accordion box file emptied into the envelope to prove my identity.  My large moon face touched the edges and the Post Office girl was happy.

The form went off to Balbriggan and then Ireland shut down because of the snow.  But after a few weeks of freaking out thinking I lost my holiday, my declaration of Irish citizenship has arrived.  Does anyone know of any good cures for fear of flying?

**Article first published in March 2013**