Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Passports, please!

It's almost impossible to get a legitimate Irish passport at the moment. The passport office is on go-slow, with the consequence that many would-be holiday-makers are re-discovering any UK roots.

Meanwhile, the Israelis and the Russians seem able to manufacture them at will.

Of course, not too long ago they were for sale. Arguably — well, just about — the scheme, cooked up in 1988, had merits. A financier investing £1M+, acquiring substantial residence in Ireland for five years, might be awarded a passport on the recommendation of the Departments of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Enterprise and Employment and the industrial development agency, Forbairt.

In 1990 Charlie Haughey handed over no fewer than ten (approved that very morning by Ray Burke as Justice Minister) to Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, as these two heroic democrats lunched at the Shelbourne. The return, allegedly, was £20M. Unfortunately, Mahfouz went down soon after, £9B up to his ears in the collapse of the BCCI bank.

When Albert Reynolds was Taoiseach, Palestinian businessman, Khalid Sabih Masri, made a £1.1M loan to Reynolds' dog-food firm, C&D Foods. This sprang a passport for a man who had no other credible link to Ireland. The fall-out brought down the FF-Labour coalition. Over the years before the plug was pulled, 143 passports were issued. The day she left office, Justice Minister Nora Owen still found time to issue one to Masri's daughter.

Reynolds' successor, Bertie Ahern arranged a similar facility for a Mr Norman Turner, of Manchester, whose main Irish connection was the wish to open a casino in the Phoenix Park. The Mahon Inquiry were assured that the sum of £20,000 deposited in Ahern's bank account, just the day before the passport was issued, was totally unconnected.

When Mossad topped Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, on 20th January, four of the assassination squad were travelling on forged Irish documents.

Now, one of the ten suspects, arrested in the USA on suspicion of spying for the Russians, is "Richard Murphy". That's an indicator of origin in itself, but Mr Murphy appears to be in possession of an alternative identity and Irish passport as "Eunan Gerard Doherty".

Only the native Irish are denied the facility, it seems.

The best Irish passport story, in Malcolm's opinion, involves the despicable Charles Bewley.

Bewleywas the Irish representative, first in the Vatican (1929-1933), then in Berlin, where his anti-semitism made him go native and Nazi. A bit late in the game, in August 1939, de Valera finally sacked him. Goebbels kindly found Bewley a sinecure, writing propaganda.

With the fall of Berlin, Bewley went walkabout. The British picked him up in northern Italy, waving expired Irish diplomatic papers, and thus putting both the British and the Irish authorities into a quandary. De Valera's man, Joe Walshe, consulted with the British representative in Dublin, Sir John Maffey, and came up with a final solution to the Bewley problem.

New papers were issued to Bewley. They were not diplomatic papers. They described the arrogant and self-esteemed Bewley as "a person of no importance", thus effectively trapping Bewley, who could not expose himself to such humiliation at any border, in Rome until his death in 1969. This Machiavellian device, according to one of Malcolm's sources, was the devious suggestion of a budding apparatchik in the Department of Foreign Affairs, one Conor Cruise O'Brien.
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1 comment:

fremancourt said...

very interesting piece, trust Conor Cruise O'Brien for coming up with such an idea...you're quoting a Malcolm - is this an author of a book on identity documentation history?

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