Proof of Existence

Today, for the first time in forever, I was asked for ID. I would explain what I was doing at the time and why the person asking me felt it a necessity to do so, but then I’d have to kill you and my weekend is too full of happy plans to disturb it with an around the world serial assassination mission.

Usually, if I need ID, I will take my passport with me. Its flimsy red plastic cover may be nothing compared to the beefy hard-backed blue one I had in my childhood but it is instantly recognisable as a piece of personal identification and usefully mentions that if I get into trouble, marines will descend from helicopters to rescue me. They have to. It’s what citizenship is all about.
However, as you may realise, I do not carry my passport around with me on a daily basis. Such a thing would be ridiculous and anyway, I am one of the few people in the world who has a decent photograph in theirs so if I lose it or it gets stolen it will have to be replaced with a glary biometric image of me. I can’t afford to replace it anyway. You have to go via the embassy and pay €145 for the privilege; twice the price those on the mainland pay.

Fortunately, what I do habitually carry around with me is the card section of my driving licence. Unlike the UK, when you are motoring in Ireland (as the citizens advice website so charmingly puts it) you must have your licence with you. If you are stopped by the Garda and you don’t have it with you, you will be taken to court.
He Who Knows Everything was once stopped at a Garda checkpoint. At first they seemed more concerned with eating their breakfast rolls than bringing motoring order to a small corner of Wexford, but when we stopped and asked them if they were a checkpoint they said they were so we played along.
“Have you your licence with you?” asked the Garda.
“I have.” He Who Knows Everything replied and handed it over.
The Garda looked at the driving licence. There was a long pause.
“It’s a UK one.” He Who Knows Everything said helpfully.
“Oh, right. That’d be one of the new ones then, would it? Right you are.” The Garda said, gave it back and returned to his breakfast roll.
The Garda have also been distinguishing themselves this week by failing to apprehend a burglar who stopped for a pint while 20 officers and a Garda helicopter attempted to find him. Really. (

Anyway. Part of the problem with giving somebody my driving licence as a form of ID is that, because it is a UK driving licence, it has a UK address on it. This breaks the First Rule of Getting Through Bureaucracy Alive, namely: Do Not Give Any Information That Is Not Specifically Asked For Because It Will Only Cause Problems. This is why it is wise to use a passport as ID. It tells them who you are but does not show any extra worrying information which will cause them to frown, flag their Very Important paperwork and condemn you to an eternity of trying to prove you exist in real terms and not simply as an abstract concept.

What I really ought to do is transfer my UK licence to an Irish one. I am a little nervous about doing this because it means entrusting my very important documents first to the post office and then to a body which manages to have a 33 week waiting list for driving tests in my county alone. I don’t mean to imply that the Post Office is the slowest form of transport known to man and that it takes them longer to bring me something from France than it would take me to drive there and back to pick it up myself. Twice. I don’t need to imply it. I know it to be true.

The thing is though, what happens if I post off my documents and, while they are away gaining citizenship, I get stopped by the Garda demanding proof of my qualification to drive a vehicle on a public highway? In all likelihood, they will be so astounded that somebody would drive a taxed and insured car filled with petrol rather than pink diesel that they will assume I am some kind of drugs pigeon and tear my poor beleaguered Micra to pieces searching for the hiding place.

Still. I won’t mind. I’ll be having a good time with the Marines.


sarah said...

the GARDA?? is that what you call the police? i never knew that. in all my years of watching BBC Prime and Sky News with my gran, i still dont know these things.

what if i went on who wants to be a millionaire and they asked me that question? my life would be over

Theo said...

That's what they call the Police in the Republic of Ireland. The BBC and Sky are both UK organisations.
I won't mind if you are wondering what the difference is. I once gave my address to a call centre bloke in the US (not in that way), and he asked if that was "the Republic of Ireland in the UK".

The difference is that they are different countries. It's a small fact but a significant one, I feel.