FactCheck: Did Arlene Foster bring an Irish passport to the polling station?

The claim has been circulating around Twitter and Facebook with a close-up image of the burgundy passport.


YESTERDAY, DUP LEADER Arlene Foster cast her vote in the UK general election.

She did this at Brookeborough Primary School in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

As is customary during elections, party leaders attending their local polling stations to vote is a bit of a media event – politicians pose for photos, and might offer journalists a few comments to tide them over until the polls close.

When Foster attended her polling station, a photo was taken outside the school of her holding a piece of paper within a burgundy booklet (pictured below). That photo was posted to her official Twitter account. 

Arlene Foster 2 Arlene Foster / Twitter Arlene Foster / Twitter / Twitter

A version of this image was shared on Facebook hundreds of times where it was claimed that the burgundy booklet was an Irish passport. 

As Foster is an ardent unionist, and a fierce proponent of Brexit, this closeup and claim began to circulate on social media platforms.

So was it an Irish passport that she was holding?


Arlene Foster Facebook / Twitter Facebook / Twitter / Twitter

Above is a photo that is being shared on social media – it seems to be the exact same photo with the exact same zoomed in image used in all the posts.

The photo is accompanied by various captions, and some contain derogatory language aimed at Foster. In one of the first posts of the image on Facebook, posted around 1pm yesterday, the caption was:


This post was shared 277 times. Other Facebook posts held captions like:

“Arlene Foster going to vote in Northern Ireland and has her Irish passport for ID, who allowed her to have a Irish passport.” (123 shares)

“What’s this… Arlene Foster has an Irish Passport?” (46 shares)

It was shared a few times to Twitter as well, though it didn’t gain as much traction there:

Arlene Foster (DUP) going to vote Brexit with Irish (European) passport in hand. #Hypocrite”
Arlene foster using irish passport to vote. Any truth or photoshop.

Over the course of the Brexit debate, some British citizens, who are eligible, are applying for Irish passports in order to keep the benefits of being an EU citizen post-Brexit. 

The Evidence

Separate to the photo taken by Foster’s team and shared to Twitter, the Press Association also took a dozen or so photos of Foster’s visit to her local polling station.

The high quality images give us a sharper view of what Foster is holding:

general-election-2019 PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

general-election-2019 PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

The last photo gives the clearest angle of the passport. Although the burgundy cover looks like it could be an Irish passport at first, when you zoom in you can see that the gold indented writing and symbol are faded.

British passport A close-up of the Press Association image.

The Irish passport cover is burgundy, and has gold symbols and lettering embedded into it, but it has ‘European Union’ ‘Ireland’, and ‘Passport’ written in both English and Irish, and has the Clársach, or the Celtic harp which is the national emblem, in the centre of the cover.

British passports are also burgundy with gold lettering, but other than that the design is different.

In the image below, also from the Press Association, the Chief Executive of the Identity and Passport Service Sarah Rapson holds a specimen copy of the new design for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland passport.

The photo is dated to 25 August 2010.

new-passport The current design for the British passport. Fiona Hanson via PA Images Fiona Hanson via PA Images

Added to that, when you zoom in on the image being shared on social media, you can see white lines around the edges of the passport, where it appears that it was edited in.

The passport also appears larger in the images shared on social media compared to the original image shared to Foster’s Twitter. 

Zoomed in A close up of the image being shared on social media.

Zoom in A close-up of the original image from Foster's Twitter.

In response to a query from, a spokesperson for the DUP said: “Arlene Foster does not hold an Irish Passport. The original picture had obviously been altered.”


In the original image shared to Arlene Foster’s Twitter account, it isn’t clear what type of passport she is holding, other than it’s burgundy. As a citizen of Northern Ireland, she is entitled to both an Irish and a British passport under the Good Friday Agreement 1998.

But it’s clear from looking at the Press Associations that there is no harp on the cover of the passport Foster holds, as appears clearly in the image being shared on social media.

When comparing the two photos, it is clear that the original image was doctored to include the gold harp and lettering. 

When you zoom in on the high-quality Press Association images, you can see that Foster was holding a passport with a faded cover; enough remains of the faded symbols and letterings to see clearly that it’s a British passport.

However, it is unclear where the doctored image originated from.

Therefore, we rate this claim: FALSE

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is inaccurate.’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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