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The Irish passport is rather wonderful — a montage of graphics, images, music and writing, communicating our Celtic past and present. It’s ideal if you’re stuck on a plane, with no reading material other than the mildly depressing sky-shopping and sky-café brochures.
The way each page-edge on the new passport depicts half of a Custom House river headstone, which can be curled to reunite with its other half on the previous page, is its best feature.
It must have been a political and creative nightmare deciding what to include (and what to leave out) — hence it is an odd melting pot of Irishness.
However, the graphic design raises questions: Why, for example, were the Convention Centre and the Aviva Stadium allowed such strong billing in our national identity document?
The Convention Centre is already at odds with the architectural sight line along the river, but its ugliness is only highlighted by the comparative elegance and diminutiveness of the Samuel Beckett Bridge.
The bridge doesn’t best illustrate Beckett’s minimalism — but the enormous listing beer can in the background is, for me, er, a bridge too far.
On other pages, the Aviva Stadium looks like a spaceship that has just landed in Sandymount — the houses depicted are cosy, snug, and rural, with their backs to the stadium.
Is this really Sandymount? Are the residents not aware of the giant rubber tyre, in a strange topological collapse, behind them? Was it included as a nod to rugby, because Gaelic players in Croke Park were already featuring on other pages?
The runes add a nice Irish hieroglyphic feel; the national anthem music is appropriate; the Tara brooch is intricate and delicate; but the last modern building depicted (between Croagh Patrick and James Orr’s poem ‘The Hedge-hauntin’ blackbird’) puzzles me. Once again, it looms in a disproportionate way to the buildings it runs alongside — trompe l’oeil gone wrong. What building is it? Where is it?
Why is it included?
Anyway, the thing is here to stay, so we’ll have to get used to it. A relative of mine renewed her passport about five years ago.
Not one to risk identity theft, she carefully followed the instructions for disposal of the old one: As advised, she cut it up into pieces (and she told me this wasn’t easy or quick, as the cover is made of a toughened plastic).
But it was not a good moment when she discovered that she had cut up her new passport into hundreds of pieces — and there was the old one, lying forlorn, with just four little corners of Ireland missing.
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