Should the Republic return to the Commonwealth?

There is so much bad cultural blood between Unionism and nationalism, it’s good to see a few areas of common good will emerge at the weekend, or indeed across this whole six nations rugby championship, when the Irish rugby team won the grand slam for the first time since 1948. Politically, of course, the Irish team is a chimera. It isn’t quite what it says on the tin. But it says enough to most of us to command our undivided loyalty not to mention affection. It may have been that thought that prompted a multi signature letter to the Irish Times yesterday, which pleads an old cause:

Ireland’s membership of the Commonwealth would, we are sure, be welcomed by the unionist community in Northern Ireland as a significant gesture of reconciliation. It would add to the collaborative framework established by the Belfast and St Andrew’s agreements. It would demonstrate unequivocally that the Republic has finally drawn a line under the troubled history of Anglo-Irish relations that led to Ireland’s self-exclusion from the Commonwealth 60 years ago. It would represent a further important step along the road to a pluralist Ireland in which different identities are recognised and respected, a country that celebrates its multi-cultural heritage and diverse history.

The response maybe something less than the signatories hoped for.

Could the case for a return to the Commonwealth (greatly republicanised since 1949) be couched as a form of leadership by Irish nationalism in the round? Would it be a viable act of reconciliation? It would certainly constitute a form of reconciliation, but would it be viable?

No one I’ve spoken to in the DFA relishes the extra burdens it would bring… Although having a separate Irish interface with Africa might be desireable, it’s not clear that the payback would be worth the extra investment… That’s not to say there is not a significant shortfall in the country’s diplomatic effort

However the question of how nationalism (and/or vice versa) takes leadership on rapprochement with Northern Irish Unionists abides…

In the meantime the biggest obstacle to joining the Commonwealth may not be history or the bad blood, but for want to a reason to just to do it. Mark Sugrue’s letter in today’s paper just about covers it:

“Commonwealth citizens” have no extra rights of travel or work — for instance, they need to apply for a visa to visit member-state Australia, just as Irish people do. There are no extra rights on the movement of goods or capital — the Commonwealth is not a trade organisation. And despite its claim to support democracy, it includes many countries which fall far short of being functioning democracies.

It seems that the Commonwealth exists in name only and provides, at best, an excuse for an annual foreign junket for politicians. Until the Commonwealth finds a reason to exist, there is no reason for Ireland to join.

H/T to Conchubar who takes up his own case as Gaeilge

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Rory (South Derry)


    This just sums you up –

    You wanna drag the Irish nation back into the the Bristish Commonwealth!

    The fact that the 26 Counties have soveirgnty from Britain and the sacrafice that was taken to get it away from the link and governance with Britain seems to go unnoticed in the article.

    Soon you’ll want us all to swaer an oath to the foreign crown – eh mick?


  • Kensei

    Ireland did not self exclude from the Commonwealth. It declared itself a Republic, which at the time was not allowed due to the positon of the monarch.

    At the moment, can’t see the point. It’s a gesture that can be saved until it is likely to have some significance or impact.

  • “The Republic” was never a member, so cannot “re-join”, Mick.

    This issue always brings out the closet unionists. That letter was like a roll-call.

  • Dec

    I enjoyed this response:

    Join a club that excludes most of us from it’s leadership on religious grounds? Why ever not?

  • fin

    as part of a final settlement on IU it should be on the table, but not before.

    The website does contain a lot of warm overtures towards republicanism, but, of course nothing offical.

    “Ireland would be the only developed, Western member of the Commonwealth to have experienced both colonialism and a struggle for independence. When Zimbabweans speak of colonialism, the oppression of minority rule and the struggle to revive national culture, their experiences resonate with Irish history.”

    In the end however, I think it would just be another avenue for unionism to deride the foundation of the Irish state and justify their own position or could unionism change to make rejoining an option?

  • John East Belfast

    “Ireland’s membership of the Commonwealth would, we are sure, be welcomed by the unionist community in Northern Ireland as a significant gesture of reconciliation”

    As a Unionist I would be totally indifferent to it – it means nothing to me

  • George

    The British government are even letting this pointless anachronism die through lack of funding, interest, and effort.

    So that just leaves our Stockholm Syndrome Irish to blow the Commonwealth trumpet. I always know it’s spring when I hear its sound.

  • Gerry&Martin;

    Sure why not? hell we’ve joined Stormont Policing and the millionaires club (we might be comon but we love our wealth)

  • Dewi

    “As a Unionist I would be totally indifferent to it – it means nothing to me”

    Do you mean the Commonwealth means nothing to you John – or Ireland joining it?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Dewi,

    “Do you mean the Commonwealth means nothing to you John – or Ireland joining it?”

    As another Unionist, I see no point in the Commonwealth. So, the Republic joining would be of no importance to me.

  • circles

    Its not gonna happen though is it? Sugrue is bang on – there is no real reason for it at all.

    By the way – can we organise a whip round to buy Rory a dictionary? The state of his posts, man-dear! Bristish, soveirgnty, sacrafice – all in a few short lines!
    (By the way Rory – how come you spell your name in the manner forced upon us by the perfidious oppresser, have you no pride?)

  • smcgiff

    ‘When Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949 the other member-states hoped its departure would be temporary.’

    Can this be cleared up – Did the Republic leave or was it ‘let go’?

    Those signatures could have been shorted to…

    ‘Yours sincerely, Reform.’

    Does anyone know why this was c/o UCC history department?

    With that said, while I don’t see much economic reason to rejoin the commonwealth, it wouldn’t cause me to miss much sleep if we rejoined.

  • smcgiff,

    Those signatures could have been shorted to…

    ‘Yours sincerely, Reform.’


    Apparently Robin Bury has written a book now too, about “the Protestants in the south”. Informed, as ever, by his own fevered imagination, but I’m sure the unionists will love his lurid descriptions of the awful life they had to live, adrift amongst the papists. What a sad man he must be, pining away for a past that wasn’t really there and a future that never will be.

  • Rory (South Derry)


    I spell RORY the way it is that I was christened

    SOVEREIGNTY – is that ok for you!

  • Scaramoosh

    Oh yes, let’s all join the Commonwealth, and whilst we are at it, let’s ignore the endemic corruption and looting that has taken place in two Commonwealth States; Nigeria and Kenya; Tales Of How Nigeria Was Looted

    Hmm, then when one comes to think of it, perhaps this is the place for Ireland and the Cute Hoors after all…

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Rory,

    I’m surprised you didn’t point out that “circles” is also “in the manner forced upon us by the perfidious oppresser”.

  • Rory Carr

    I would be more than happy to join a commonwealth where it does what it says on the tin, i.e. a confederation or association of nations where the wealth was held in common by all its citizens, but somehow I don’t think that this model fits that bill somehow.

    Come to think of it, it really is a bloody cheek – a ‘commonwealth’ that has an hereditary monarch as its head, you might think they would at least have the good grace to blush every time they mention the name.

  • Gael gan Náire

    The reality is that in very post-colonial situation some reactionaries will try and drag you back under the colonalisers wing.

    The websites link to the Reform movement who are anti-Irish language and who untimately wish to end Irish independence tells one all one needs to know.

    The maintence of the ‘Republic’ as an independant state should be the priority of Irish nationalism.

    I for one will never submit to the Queen.

  • Mick Fealty

    Rory (SD):

    Did you actually read my post?

  • Brandywine

    “I for one will never submit to the Queen”. Get over yourself no one gives a toss who you “submit” to.

  • Mick Fealty

    Rank amateurs by comparison Scara…

  • “the only multinational, multi-sport event apart from the Olympics”

    That will alarm some people in Toronto, that not only are we proposing to lash out $2bn on the Pan Am Games (dopey call, Commonwealth Games would be a better one to bid for but anyway), but that these Games don’t even exist… The organisers of the Asian Games might also be concerned about being vanished by the grandees at the end of the letter to Madam Editor.

  • County Limerick village is control word

    Only if the commonwealth contains Boston.

    (Way too clever a post for slugger)

  • John East Belfast


    I am reasonably warmed to the idea of a Commonwealth – ie as it is voluntary it probably keeps alive the better parts of Empire – British ideas on democracy, good governance and the Rule of Law in areas that sometimes have a tendency and even do descend into tyranny and chaos. It fosters the English language and assists international trade. Hence we probably have more influence in certain God forsaken places than we would have outside.

    Indeed that influence is not just for the UK but for all members states and hence that would be a plus I suppose for the Republic and should not be dismissed lightly.

    Having said that the ROI joining it means nothing to me in the way the authors of the letter have stated.

    Indeed as an Irish Unionist at heart it is only a reminder of the split in the island.
    I wouldnt object but I wouldnt get a warm fuzzy feeling either.

    However the Commonwealth games is an opportunity for NI athletes only to compete on a bigger stage and I wouldnt want that interfered with.

  • circles

    Thanks Rory 😉

  • WRT the original departure, both Ireland and India declared their intention to become republics in 1948, prompting a discussion in the Commonwealth about what to do, leading to the creation of a separate role of the Head of the Commonwealth. IIRC when a member becomes a republic its membership automatically lapses but it can apply to rejoin – a right exercised in 1949 by India but not Ireland.

  • Dave

    Joining the Commonwealth isn’t on the political agenda. Indeed, if it is to be proffered that membership is required in order to bring a warm glow to the citizens of a foreign country, then we should put joining the Arab League, the World Zionist Organization, et al, on the same Table of the Howling Loons at which the idea is to be discussed.

  • lurker

    This is typical of the pompous, condescending way that a lot of British and N.I. Unionists regard ‘the Irish’. Quotes like this (from the letter):

    “.. important step along the road to a pluralist Ireland in which different identities are recognised and respected..”

    really get my goat. The Republic of Ireland is just that – a republic – in which all citizens are equal, unlike the anachronistic ‘constitution’ of their beloved state, with its institutionalised bigotry.

    The British Commonwealth (or whatever it’s name has been watered down to these days) is nothing but the ghost of something that was – a device to massage the egos of those who hanker after the glories of a long gone empire.

    I would be more amenable to the idea of the Republic of Ireland joining (even if I don’t understand what advantage it would convey) if they instituted a rotating head, to replace the British monarch

  • Dave

    I don’t think it’s proffered as a transition to a united Ireland (a sovereign, independent Irish nation-state), but rather as a transition to a United Kingdom. That is the wet dream of the signatories, and they have the advantage of a few hundred million of MI5s annual budget to promote it through the medium that agency deploys to exercise its control, i.e. purchased puppets in politics and the media.

  • KieranJ

    Mick, this has got to be the silliest post you’ve every submitted to the website.

  • “Only if the commonwealth contains Boston.” Isn’t that what the policy wonks call the Anglosphere?

  • Greenflag

    Fin ,

    ‘When Zimbabweans speak of colonialism, the oppression of minority rule and the struggle to revive national culture, their experiences resonate with Irish history.’

    Up to a point but no post independence Irish Government has inflicted on it’s people what Zanu PF have in Zimbabawe . Nowadays it would not surprise me if there were Zimbabweans who might even prefer to return to the dark days of colonialism and eat – rather than having to starve under their ‘elected’ sovereign government.

    Although a million people left the Irish Free State /Irish Republic from 1922 to 1960 in search of economic opportunity elsewhere i.e almost a third of the population these numbers pale beside those of Zimbabwe where some 5 million have fled starvation and economic chaos out of a population of 13 million.

    I have no strong views on the Commonwealth one way or the other . If it helps our sportspeople and others why not ? We must be the only ‘english speaking country ‘ bar the USA not to be a member ? Membership of same should be judged on it’s practical merits . But rejoining as a ‘sop’ to unionist sentiment is and would be a nonsense imo.

  • fin

    Greenflag, I was only pasting from the website, and it was more their take on Irish history will interested me.

  • Grassy Noel

    The responses on the Irish Time poll section are well funny!

  • fin

    Although Greenflag
    I’ve not checked the figures but based on yours, that amoints to 38.5% vs you say almost a third (33.3%) so not a huge pile of difference. Also bear in mind that most Zimbabweans are going to neighbouring ‘friendly’ countries, unlike the Irish who went across the world or to their former colonial power.

  • I would love to see it – not for political reasons though. I would just love to see the Republic of Ireland sending its Athletes to the Commonwealth Games. I also think that once they are in it, the Irish will enjoy it.

    From a political point of view, I dont know what the big deal is. The issue has nothing to do with Sovereignty. ROI is now part of the British Isles Council. It is also now a mature, independent, Nation which has plenty to contribute to and benefit from to the Organisation.

  • Alias: Henry Wilson

    Absolutely not. What a dumb idea.

    Why is it always nationalists who have to make concessions of goodwill to Unionists?

    Moral pressure has no effect on the diehard unionists. It didn’t in 1914 when Redmond became a recruiting sergeant for the Empire without seeking any assurances on Home Rule in return (to pick one example), and it won’t now.

  • veritas

    what, and give allegiance to the pampered, wacky Germans who pass themselves as the Royal Cabbage Family…

    Will never happen.

  • Cahal

    Yeah, sure we’ll join. Right after the US joins.

  • Mack

    Should Northern Ireland return to the Irish Free State?

    Post the 1921 treaty Northern Ireland exercised it’s right to opt-out of Saorstat na Eireann. But times have changed. It’s no longer called Saorstat na Eireann, but just Ireland.

    Northern Ireland’s membership of the Irish Republic would, we are sure, be welcomed by the nationalist community in across the island of Ireland as a significant gesture of reconciliation.

    The time is right, surely, both moves could be made in tandem. Perfect.

  • Limerickman

    The minute it would happen would change me from pacafist to gunman.

  • Nathan


  • Iano

    Northern Ireland is in the Republic as ani fule no.


    I have to agree with a previous poster, why is it Irish Nationalists who always have to make concessions and reassure Unionists. Articles 2 & 3 were sacrificed and the Unionist IFA want to deny Northern Nationalists their birthright by stopping young footballers playing for Ireland so this reaching out only goes one way. It is the revisionist Unionists who largely control the media in Dublin, Belfast & London that are pushing this. The thought of Knighthoods, baubles and psychophantic visits to Lizzy Windsor and her Germans/Greek/Danish family in Buck House has them all quivering and orgasmic, especially the Lorcans and Jemimas in Dublin 4 & Wicklow. Why would a largely Catholic country like the Republic want to join a club with an anti-Catholic sectarian head of state and bigoted constitution? Off with their heads, “Allons enfants de la patrie……”

  • hartshill

    Sure why not? hell we’ve joined Stormont Policing and the millionaires club (we might be comon but we love our wealth)

    Posted by Gerry&Martin; on Mar 24, 2009 @ 01:36
    We’re all ‘one community’ now according to McGuinness and doesn’t Mary Mac seize every opportunity to invite The Queen of England to Ireland ( thanks be to.. she is still refusing.). reminds me of the satirical song ‘Old mother England loves us still…)

  • Mick Fealty

    County Limerick,

    Not too clever for all of us… 😉

    But, face it, Massachusetts is a bit of a stretch to Dublin:

  • Mick Fealty


    Apart from the bleedin’ obvious (ie Keiran and Rory (SD))… which of you stopped reading the post and following links after the headline?

  • Mick

    This thread strikes me as a means of developing the accepted defeat of Sinn Fein with the Good Friday Agreement and developing that into a theme for Nationalism.

    There wouldn’t be much left of the Nationalist party that suggested going back into the Commonwealth and that would be especially true of Sinn Fein.

    It would not be regarded as negotiating from strength but as cowtowing to people who don’t seem to understand the depth of feeling there is in Nationist circles about this historical power who, after abusing people for so long, want them just to be friends to help their economy.

    I’m with Rory (South Derry) in this as I think he has an appreciation of the matter. Sometimes it might be better to wait until Britian needs to join an Irish commonwealth of free peoples.

  • Post 23 was not mine. Mick please address this problem. Folks, who amongst you have visited my wonderful website?

  • Mick Could you shut poster 24 off at source.

    It’s certainly not mine.

  • Mick enough of this egotistical nonsense. None of the above are mine. This is getting boring for all concerned. Please do the necessary to remove this evil. This is self-indulgent tripe of the highest order and must be eradicated.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    I just KNEW there was more than one John O’Connell. No one entity could contain that much sh*t.The scary thing is that he is starting to replicate himself. Mother Ireland, have we not enough troubles without this?

  • CW

    The very fact that nutters like Ruth Dudley-Edwards and Eoghan Harris (“the Sindo’s finest!”)are signatories to this petition is reason enough for it to be taken about as seriously as the existence of the flying spaghetti monster.

    Membership of the Commonwealth would provide no tangible advantages that the EU doesn’t already provide – and those that it doesn’t – are in any case provided by the Council of the Isles. As proven by this very thread, unionists here have said it would make no difference to them in anyway.

    And I very much doubt that Sonia O’Sullivan et al will lose much sleep over continued exclusion from the Commonwealth Games.

  • Paddy Matthews

    Those signatures could have been shorted to…

    ‘Yours sincerely, Reform.’

    Does anyone know why this was c/o UCC history department?

    I suspect that would be due to Geoffrey Roberts.

    There are a number of Northern names on the list who might be mildly persuasive on their own where middle-of-the-road Southern opinion was concerned (David Ford, Roy Garland, Brice Dickson).

    The problem is that the majority of Southern names on the list are people who are not held in particularly high public esteem, along with a sprinkling of frequent letter-writers who might aptly be described as the orange ink brigade.

    And the fatal flaw is that it’s from the orange ink brigade and their associates that the initiative is actually coming.

  • NCM

    Ok, I admit, the joke’s going over my head here. Could someone please clue me in?

  • 0b101010

    It will happen — it practically has to — but not any time soon. It’s the final card to play right before reunification.

  • Dave

    The actual agenda behind it has nothing to do with pluralism or tolerance for diversity. Those attributes have always stood proud in Irish culture, as they have in most other European nation-states. None of the 250,000 British people who have chosen to live in an Irish nation-state are found complaining about it, so there is no evidence presently whatsoever that an Irish nation-state is oppressive to others who have chosen to live in it or that any ‘reform’ should be considered.

    Instead, you have a small bunch of political, media, and academic hacks who are proffering an agenda that is aimed at undermining the Irish nation-state, and aimed at promoting British nationalism. That form of organised subversion would not be tolerated in any other nation-state but would be properly regarded as treason. However, since most of the hacks reside in a foreign state, it matters not which intelligence agency rewards them or whose national interest they serve.

    Basically, the agenda they serve is to promote the censorship of Irish culture with the aim of undermining Irish nationalism and its supporting nation-state. Since this campaign of censorship of Irish nationalism can no longer be inflicted by force (thanks to independence), their tact is to encourage the Irish to engage in self-censorship, both cultural and political. This, of course, cannot be specified as the agenda, so it is cleverly disguised as promoting pluralism, multiculturalism, reconciliation, a shared future, an Ireland of equals, etc.

    The self-styled “Reform Movement” states its aims as:

    [i]i) Re-thinking the national symbols like the anthem to reflect Ireland’s changing face and new diversity;

    ii) Rethinking Ireland’s relationship with the United Kingdom. This should reflect the deepening social, cultural, and political bond between the two nations;

    iii) Promoting membership of international bodies such as the Commonwealth;

    iv) Supporting initiatives like the Council of the Isles as a genuine way of healing ancient divisions;

    v) Review of the Constitution with particular reference to the preamble and its narrow view of Irishness;

    vi) Fostering pluralism, democracy, and tolerance among all people of the island;

    vii) Questioning the compulsory role of Irish in our schools and making Irish and English equal official languages[/i]

    You can see, for example, that the promotion of Irish culture by the Irish state is to be disallowed, nullifying a core principle of the nation-state. That is a profound agenda that seeks to eradicate the claim of the Irish nation to a state, and to their right to national self-determination. In effect, the agenda is to encourage the Irish nation to renounce its claim to a nation-state and to get them to place themselves among the stateless nations of the world. It’s the War of Independence refaught by the losing side by other means.

    It is also an agenda that is complete violation of international law, specifically Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” And it is a direct violation of first article of the Irish constitution.

    Now, let’s look at a couple of this despicable organisation’s Q & As:

    [i]Are you unionists?
    No. Reform is a rights based organisation, which is trying to achieve constitutional change within the Republic.[i]

    They are British nationalists whose agenda is aimed at suppressing the culture of another nation. If they cared about “pluralism and secularism” then should seek to promote those elements within their own state, promoting the “constitutional change” that removes the claim of the English nation to their state, and promoting the removal of British culture from their shared states so that the 99% of the world’s population who are not British may enjoy “pluralism and secularism” within that territory.

  • Dave


    [i]Why would you want a British passport if you are Irish?
    On the flag of this republic are the colours of green and orange, symbolising the two traditions of our Island. Many Southern Irish people, though a minority, through history, conscience or decent feel part of the British tradition in Ireland. It is our belief that though a minority, these people should be entitled to claim British citizenship, Irish Citizenship or both. We believe that this fundament principle of allowing people to choose their identity, which is extended to members of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, should be extended across the whole Island.[/i]

    This undermining of Irish sovereignty is promoted here as “allowing people to choose their identity.” Except, of course, that anyone can choose any identity they want, but they can’t choose their nationality as that is determined under international law in the country of their right. Identity is deliberately obfuscated with citizenship. Even in Northern Ireland, everyone born there is born as a British citizen, since that is their birthright as determined by sovereignty. They may, under the GFA, apply for Irish citizenship, but it is NOT conferred upon them by birthright (a birthright is the default, requiring no action on the part of the person who is born there), so the actual ‘birthright’ of those born in Northern Ireland under the GFA is not Irish citizenship but the right to apply for (and be given) Irish citizenship. There are far more Poles in Ireland than there are British and they unlike these MI5 stooges do not seek to undermine Irish sovereignty, so those born in Ireland will just have to remain as Irish citizens or go apply to whatever other country they feel they would like to belong to.

    Ireland needs to start promoting its nationalism in an organised manner to counteract the foreign agencies that are acting to undermine it from within and from without. They’re rebels without a bloody clue.

  • It’s amazing how quickly the thought police on the internet and the newspapers letters pages react to [i]any[/i] raising of Ireland and the Commonwealth.

    Why have some nationalists/republicans have such a brittle sense of identity that somehow an independent Ireland can be washed away by even considering the idea of the Republic being involved? Beats me.

  • Jar Jar Binks

    Eoghan Harris is a Senator, Palpatine is one as well but in a galaxy far, far away, and he does not understand that it is up to the British government to decide the qualifications to get a British passport and that it is up to the British Embassy to see whether people qualify or not.

    Looks like the Reform movement could do with a little, er, reform!

  • Mick Fealty


    I also detect a brittleness within Irish nationalism generally at the moment… I would argue that it parallels a similar brittleness that Unionism was immersed in the pre 2003 period …

    Politically, for the moment, there is little chance that the Republic is going to lead on this, anniversary or no anniversary. All of its small resources must be trained towards one thing and one thing only: getting through the recession in the best possible shape. That’s a level of responsibility that does not yet rest on any NI party’s shoulders.

    And it is primarily a Foreign Affairs issue. And it should be judged primarily in those terms. When the signatories to the letter say “The country is going to need all the friends and connections it can get in the perilous economic times that lie ahead”, they strike a chord with me. Despite appearances, with the Peace Process more or less over, the Republic needs to find ways to up its international leverage.

    A more effective way to attain that higher level of leverage would be to see the Lisbon treaty goes through this time, and move to a European Presidency and secretariat…

    The Czech presidency has been a warning that the resources required by the various multilateral conferences and trade agreements required lie way beyond the resources on any of the smaller countries…

    I’m aware (Dave et al) that this is anathema to many… but then the important thing is to have the debate out squarely and fairly in the open with all of the options on the table… The government tried it by stealth last June and got told in no uncertain terms where they could stick that treaty the Taoiseach hadn’t read…

    There also needs to be a much wider public conversation on on vexed and difficult matters like sovereignty and it’s tradition of ‘neutrality’… The timidity and general reluctance of its politicians to lead in these areas is leading to serial indecisiveness.

    Then maybe the Commonwealth option can be looked in a more sober light than the gingery discussion here would suggest it might..

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Joining the Commonwealth?

    No way!

    It would mean nothing, bar partaking in the games every 4 years.

    Besides we ain’t gonna have an incongruous English Queen as head of the Irish state. We’d end up like the Welsh at the 6 Nations Final with an English Prince representing them. An elected Irish representative suits us best.

  • Mick,

    … Then maybe the Commonwealth option can be looked in a more sober light …

    It is being looked at in a ‘sober light’ by most sensible people, and is found entirely unnecessary and pointless. What you clearly consider ‘sober’ is the light of your own reflecton. But most people can see through that!

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Besides such a notion would have to be put to the Irish people in the form of a referendum…and the result would be a resounding NO. The media would be unable to control the outcome. BTW, watching O’Reilly’s TV3, anyone would think that the 26 counties were part of the UK.

  • Kensei


    There also needs to be a much wider public conversation on on vexed and difficult matters like sovereignty and it’s tradition of ‘neutrality’… The timidity and general reluctance of its politicians to lead in these areas is leading to serial indecisiveness.

    No, the problem is that the EU is sharply diverging from what its citizens want. Refendums were lost in France and Holland, which should be sobering. Instead of examining the direction Europe is going in and the distance from the people Lisbon was forced through everywhere except Ireland. The current uncertainty will probably get it through here now. But the big, deeper issues that have not been resolved lie with a Europe that is pushing in directions its citizens do not want to go and not Ireland. I’m certain it can trundle on in present fashion for decaded, but eventually there will have to be a reckoning.

    Let’s debate neutrality: it is a popular policy. A party that suggests dropping it will get hammered. The benefits of getting mixed up in the foreign policy of big players are somewhat nebulous and have downsides. If we are piggybbacking on US, UK and EU defense, great. As far as I’m aware, Ireland has no plans to relocate close to North Korea. Why exactly do you keep pushing this one?

    Then maybe the Commonwealth option can be looked in a more sober light than the gingery discussion here would suggest it might..

    Have you found a point for it yet? I am 100% certain that Irish Nationalism, Southern at least would be happy to jump on that bandwagon if it offered tangible benefits. It does not, and that type of gesture to Unionism makes no sense in the current context. In the context of a serious shift in balance between Westminster and Dublin, it makes sense a reasuring move.

    What is not sober about this?

  • Oilifear

    If our membership is as one (Northern Ireland + Republic of Ireland) then I for one would be all for Ireland being rejoining to the Commonwealth. If readmission is under the terms of partition then I don’t see much value in it. (I don’t mean that a united Ireland must preceded our rejoining of the Commonwealth, just that Ireland’s membership of the Commonwealth would be as one.)

    What would also be nice is the recognition that we did not leave, we were kicked out.

  • Oilifear

    “… join a victims’ association managed by the former abuser …”


  • why?

    Why? Examining this rationally, we see the following:
    – No extra rights for Irish people as outlined as the letter from Mark Sugrue
    – Having an English Queen as new Head of State. How does this square with having a republic and is this not a slight dilution of independance?
    – Games. One valid point.

    Also if we look at Reform’s aims’ list (post no. 7):
    i) Why? Does it offend people having an Irish anthem for Irish people?
    ii) This is already been dealt with today with good Hiberno-British relations and in an EU context.
    iii) Again, no true benefits outlined. Why would people discuss or vote for something whose merits are inexistant or unknown?
    iv) I don’t think anyone’s against political co-operation between states and if it helps heal ancient divisions, then great.
    v) Hands up, who wants to reform the Constitution? Is this a priority for anyone at all today? And I only mean people within the state itself.
    It would be nice to see the actual Constitution that they are proposing so that its merits or otherwise may be discussed.
    vi) All already values of a republic.
    vii) It’s ironic that intolerance of the Irish language should be used to promote … eh “pluralism, democracy, and tolerance” (vi). Brilliant.

  • Ronald Binge

    Where are posters getting having the “English Queen” as head of state if the Republic joined the Commonwealth? Ignorance or spin designed to create a reaction?

    It wouldn’t affect in any way the sovereign status or the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland.

    Seeing as ignorance is so rife about it, and probably deliberately so, any suggestion is purely theoretical in any case. The reaction certainly points out the utter unwillingness of more vocal nationalists to accept any kind of compromise to facilitate a United Ireland.

  • Paddy Matthews


    The reaction certainly points out the utter unwillingness of more vocal nationalists to accept any kind of compromise to facilitate a United Ireland.

    Ehm, the postings above from Kensei, 0b101010, and even the first posting from Oiliféar are not quite a die-in-the-last ditch “Never, Never, Never”. More a “not now”.

    If a United Ireland was seriously on the table, I would expect Commonwealth membership to be a given.

    But Reform and its acolytes, who are the ones pushing this initiative, are not in the least bit interested in “facilitating a United Ireland”, unless it was an alternate-reality one in which Irish nationalism had been forcibly crushed in 1921 and we were happy little British citizens under the Crown and Union Jack.

    You can make a reasoned argument for closer ties with Britain or those Commonwealth countries with large Irish-descended populations – but I don’t see why Commonwealth membership would of itself make much difference to that.

    But when the people making the argument in this case have a history of forcefully-expressed hostility to any expression of Irish nationalism and its associated national identity, and a completely uncritical take on British and Unionist behaviour over the last century, then the argument is going nowhere. Its proponents are, to use an in vogue term, toxic.

  • Mack


    Ollifear’s idea above is a good one. Ireland should join as a combo and send joint representitives from Stormont and the Dail to represent us.

  • Ronald Binge

    “If a United Ireland was seriously on the table, I would expect Commonwealth membership to be a given.”

    Yes, but I’m still mystified about two things. One, why do some posters believe that Commonwealth membership = the Queen as head of the Irish State and two, why the bashing of Reform and why does it matter? You might as well have a go on other matters at, for example, the Irish National Congress, the Aubane Historical Society or the Border Minorities Group. All are small societies with vocal views but none have any more weight than the other. What one group or another wants is part of any debate but no more than that.

    Ultimately the say so with respect to Commonwealth membership is purely the responsibility of the Irish Government, and no one else.

  • Paddy Matthews


    Why the bashing of Reform and why does it matter? You might as well have a go on other matters at, for example, the Irish National Congress, the Aubane Historical Society or the Border Minorities Group.

    I know nothing about the Border Minorities Group, but I know that if I was trying to persuade Northern Unionists of the benefits of Irish unity, I wouldn’t want people associated with either of the first two groups in charge of the operation for precisely the same sort of reasons.

  • Earnan


    Hhahaha god you crack me up man.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Never, Never, Never (as Paisley said)….. will an ENGLISH monarch be head of state of our Republic of Ireland…..and Fuck them all who proposes so (with a Capital F). I’ll put my life on the line for this one. There is no going back, a state visit of the Queen Liz to the Irish Republic I’m on for…but she will never be head of state of our Irish Republic. Unionists may love the thoughts, ie English Monarchy etc… but fuck that, Irish folk do have dignity and fuck any English royality as head of state of Ireland or the Irish people. Do I hear Unionists some seconding that too? Go on, we are not fucking lackeys….. we don’t need the symbolism either!

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    BTW…the italics are atrocious, whoever implemented them.

  • Objectivist

    A hard-hitting Irish Times letter on this subject:

    Madam, – The Irish State formally left the British Commonwealth in 1949 with the establishment of the Republic of Ireland. At that time, this policy was seen as a natural further step in the direction of a fully sovereign Irish state, separate from Great Britain. Yet today, almost 60 years later, there are Irish and British figures across a wide spectrum of Irish life calling for the restoration of the Commonwealth link (March 23rd).

    Many of the signatories to this letter are members or patrons of the Reform Movement and the Irish Unionist Alliance. They are a small, unrepresentative, Anglocentric, neo-unionist minority who wish to restore a “British Dimension” to the 26-county state, and appear to have influence out of all proportion to their actual size. The very fact that this topic is being openly canvassed by a group of influential people cannot be ignored and must be regarded as an open challenge to the continued existence of the Republic of Ireland state separate from Britain.

    Rejoining the Commonwealth would be a backward step. It would gradually “re-British” the Irish State and would amount to a rejection of the separatist aspect of Irish nationalism. Because the British monarch is always head of the Commonwealth, this would mean that, symbolically speaking, the monarch would occupy a higher position politically than that of our own democratically elected head of state.

    Despite claims to the contrary, there are no discernible tangible benefits for nationalist Ireland in rejoining the Commonwealth. For instance; there would be no big transfer of funds to Ireland, as with our membership of the European Union. There are no new trade, cultural or diplomatic opportunities to be had. In any case, our trade policies are largely determined by our EU membership.

    The restoration of Commonwealth ties would not help the situation in the North, as its advocates would claim. Indeed, it could make matters worse by emboldening reactionary unionism and sowing demoralisation among nationalists.

    Furthermore, the timing of this missive, as Ireland faces its severest economic challenge since the foundation of the State, is both cynical and disingenuous. It informs us that we will need all the friends and connections we can get to counter “the perilous economic times that lie ahead”. Having failed to keep the Irish people in subjugation by force of arms, Ireland’s British nationalists are now offering financial rescue as an inducement for Commonwealth re-entry. This is a further attempt to deconstruct the Irish state and restore the British dimension. It will fail. – Yours, etc,


    Delaford Lawn,


    Personally I could stomach it as a trade-off for a UI.

  • Ronald Binge

    “Never, Never, Never (as Paisley said)….. will an ENGLISH monarch be head of state of our Republic of Ireland…..and Fuck them all who proposes so (with a Capital F). I’ll put my life on the line for this one. ”

    No-one has proposed this. Nor is it remotely possible or desirable in any way. Please explain how you have jumped to this conclusion.

  • “Among the many practical advantages of membership of the Commonwealth is the right to compete in the Commonwealth Games – the only multinational, multi-sport event apart from the Olympics. The next games will be held in India in 2010. Ireland’s participation in those games would be good preparation for the London Olympics in 2012.”

    So the World cup, the European athletics, auto racing, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing,Brazilian jiu-jitsu,chess,curling,darts,equestrian,fencing, figure skating,football, gymnastic etc. championships are not “multinational, multisport events”? Is that what they are saying? Quite bizarre.

    On the substantive issue, I see no compelling argument for rejoining the Commonwealth at present. My primary block to joining it is the permanence of the British monarch as the Head of State. Yes – it may only be symbolic – but as we have seen from the Northern Peace Process, symbols matter. We have long and bad memories of British rule in the 26 counties, and joining an organisation on the basis that the British king/queen is someone permanently and institutionally in a position of leadership – however symbolic – over us, is simply unacceptable to me. The European Union provides a timehonoured alternative for political-cooperation, as do the institutions established under the GFA such as the North-South and British-Irish Councils. While often a critic of the EU, the broadbased nature of support for its continuance – at least along the lines of the status-quo – is a testament to its relevance and benefits to its citizens. I am unaware of what benefits Commonwealth membership would provide to the people of the 26 counties in the context of overcoming the emotional-block of the link to the British monarchy, an institution whose past holders brutally oppressed the Irish people for hundreds of years.

  • Paddy Matthews


    Does anyone know why this was c/o UCC history department?

    And a follow-up on this point in today’s Irish Times:

    Madam, – Lest any confusion arises from the institutional attribution of the letter “Time to rejoin the Commonwealth?” (March 23rd), I wish to confirm that the department of history, University College Cork, has no association with the campaign in question, nor, with one exception, are any of the signatories staff members of the department. – Yours, etc,



    Department of History,

    University College Cork.

    Slap on the wrist for Geoffrey Roberts.

  • dub

    Shame that Dermot is unacquainted with the use of the subjunctive in the English language.

  • dub

    the “are any” construction is also unfortunate. What has happened to our academics?