So – what colour’s your passport? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Mine’s is red, which doesn’t necessarily tell you a lot. But big news this morning is, if I were a university-age student and had an Irish passport, there’s a good chance I’d get a place in a Scottish university without paying fees. Why? Because students from the EU get exemption from fees in Scotland. Except, that is, they’re from England, Wales or Northern Ireland….Hold on. Shouldn’t that mean students from here, regardless of whether they carry a British passport or an Irish one, will have to cough up the fees? They kicked this one around on Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh this morning for fifteen minutes at least and were as far ahead at the end as the start.
But as so often is the case, it’s not what’s happening that is revealing, it’s how people react to it. They had some people on air from my own alma mater, St Columb’s in Derry, and not surprisingly the students there are clutching their Irish passports and hoping they’ll be able to swing it. More interestingly, they talked to people at Grosvenor High School in East Belfast , and they were talking in very similar terms : hoping to God this thing comes off because it’ll make a huge financial difference.
I’ve been in Grosvenor High School a number of times over the years. I can’t speak about now but then it was an impressive place. Well-organised, friendly principal, hard-working staff. In the entrance area, they had if I remember aright, signs in every language saying “Welcome to Grosvenor”. Did I say every? Um, not quite. No “Cead mile failte” in Irish. Not even a “Failte”. Tells you something, that, I think: the school was prepared to identify with any language in the world except Irish. In short, it was making clear it had no Irish identity. Now their students are busy filling in forms to get Irish passports.
Sort of astonishing, isn’t it? Students from a unionist background applying for Irish passports so they can study in Scotland, a country that looks as though it just might go for independence and shatter the Union. We do indeed live in interesting times.