Volume 3 1926~1932

Doc No.

No. 113 NAI DFA D1971/1/1

Extracts from a memorandum from Gearóid Ó Lochlainn to Joseph P. Walshe on Irish Free State Passports

Dublin, 20 August 1927

The position in regard to Passports is very unsatisfactory.

Our Passports will, it is true, gain the holders entry into countries abroad, but in places where they are compelled to seek the services of British Consuls or Passport Officers they are put to the inconvenience of having to take out a new British Passport, and to the indignity, as Saorstát Citizens, of having their own Government's Passport confiscated.

Instructions have, as you are aware, been issued by the British Government to its consular and passport officers everywhere, that Saorstát passports are not to be recognised if the holder is not described thereon as a British Subject. They steadily refuse to accept the description used, viz: 'Citizen of the Irish Free State and of the British Commonwealth of Nations'.

These instructions are, of course, being followed. Only eighteen cases from various countries have actually been reported to this Department since the first issue of Saorstát Passports in April 1924, but there is every reason to believe that these are but a few out of very many. For example, only one case has been reported from Spain (June 1926) but the Passport holder concerned wrote:-

  '... I found however, on visiting the British Consul here in Madrid that the Passport was absolutely useless and was obliged to procure a British passport. All the Irish here holding Free State passports have been obliged to do likewise.'

[matter omitted]

The fact that they refuse to recognise our passports is bad enough, inasmuch as it is bound to cause considerable inconvenience to many Saorstát Citizens travelling abroad, but the confiscation of our Passports by British Consular Officers is, I submit, a graver matter, and puts us in a very humiliating position.

If we could appoint representatives with authority to renew and endorse Saorstát Passports in all the more important foreign countries, this state of affairs could be avoided as far as countries outside the British Dominions and Colonies are concerned. These latter, however, would still present a special problem. Take the case of Australia, for instance, where an exit endorsement by the Local Authorities is required on the passports of persons leaving the country. We could of course get out of this difficulty by describing all our Citizens who travel to Australia or other Dominions where a similar regulation exists, as British Subjects. But if we gave in here we might as well give in all along the line. It is hardly necessary to point out that a continuance of the present state of things is extremely undesirable. Sooner or later we shall have to come to some agreement with the British Government on the question of the description of nationality, if only out of fairness to those Saorstát Citizens to whom passports are issued, and who, as things are at present, are likely in many cases to find that they have obtained for the trouble and expense of their application, a document which is of no use to them.


[initialled] G. O'L