Ireland and the Commonwealth: “Our door is always open…”

I’m sure there is some value in repeatedly asking questions to which the answer is no. Although Reg Empey’s asking (to no one in particular) if the Republic might take its place in the Commonwealth of Nations just days after the Toaiseach ruled out such an eventuality to a question from the audience at LSE was interesting.

More interesting though was the response from the Lib Dem Peer Lord Saltaire:

“Ireland has a very strong record in international peacekeeping since the Second World War, and a long tradition of development assistance to Africa, so it has many of the links that one would wish to see, and it self-evidently meets all the criteria for Commonwealth membership.”

In other words, “Yep, you’ve got the profile (hey, who doesn’t?), let us know if you ever change your mind?”

Just now, Ireland has all the multilateral action it can handle. I suspect this may be a runner, if we ever get to the point a united Ireland is a likely event. And despite all the glib predictions in that regard, the most recent public pitch almost sunk the case without trace.

So don’t hold yer breath…

  • seamusot

    The withdrawal from the effective compulsory membership of the Commonwealth by the Blueshirts of the Free State in 1937 (?) allowed a healing balm to be applied to the opposite sides in the Civil War over partition in the previous decade. Like a good bandage, if the wound is not sore leave it be.

  • Alan N/Ards


    I was at a Paddies night do on Saturday night. It was in a church hall and had over 100 prods at it. I don’t know how they vote but I guess they were all unionists. The band was playing songs like Galway Bay, Mountains of Mourne etc. The Sash wasn’t in the repertoire. There were shamrocks on the walls and green was the prominent colour. There were also irish dancers as well. It was a great night. While we won’t touch the tricolour with a 40 foot barge pole it is wrong to say we reject all things irish. Todays Newsletter has a report of drunken youths, wrapped in tricolours spouting ira slogans in Cornmarket yesterday. That’s the sort of irishness I reject.

  • grandimarkey

    “Todays Newsletter has a report of drunken youths, wrapped in tricolours spouting ira slogans in Cornmarket yesterday. That’s the sort of irishness I reject.”

    This is the article in question
    It is one of the worst pieces of journalism I have read in a while. It’s genuinely awful. Out of 15,000 people, one anonymous woman phoned the Newsletter to complain about ‘dozens’ of youths. It’s so vague and partisan it’s kind of difficult to even finish the article.

    I don’t doubt there was offensive behaviour taking place in parts of Belfast yesterday (if you put 15,000 people together in one place there’s bound to be some trouble makers) but it seems to have been very much in the minority, I think it can be said that the day passed off without any incident of note. The Newsletter was really struggling to find something to be offended by.

  • carl marks

    While we won’t touch the tricolour with a 40 foot barge pole it is wrong to say we reject all things irish.
    so i think its fair to say that you have proved my point about Ireland jioning the commonwealth would not change unionist opinion on a united Ireland,

    I haven’t seen today’s newsletter but could you tell me was there as much coverage given to the loyalist attack on the police last night?
    Oh just checked the NLs website, large bit about songs at the parade , smaller bit about police falling out with each other, nothing about the flag protesters attacking police.
    And i think this proves my piont about unionists ignoring unionist violence.

  • carl marks

    Just read the article myself, strange that nobody but this woman noticed it. Wasn’t on any other news report, also the News letter seems to be the only one to notice Nationalist youths at the trouble after the flag protest weird that.

  • Kevsterino

    Yeah, Carl, it looked like the NL had allocated space for republican trouble makers and that was the worst they could find. I wish they would have printed what they chanted that was so offensive to the nice old lady.

  • SK

    The Newsletter? Pandering to the base sectarian prejudices of it’s readership? Well now I have to sit down…

    It made a front page story out of an anonymous call from a single mystery shopper because it’s a sectarian rag, and that’s what sectarian rags do. It simply couldn’t let the day pass without finding something with which to smear “themmuns”.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Why do you think unionists reject the republican tricolour? Republicans love telling us that the orange represents us (unionists) yet with ease they put to death many (irish) unionist people in the name of the Republic. Do you expect us to forget this? Is this flag the only way that you can define your irishness? Am I not as good an irishman as you because I don’t embrace your flag?

    I have stood repectfully for your flag and anthem at rugby games in Dublin when I supported the all island team. I didn’t sing the anthem because it’s not my anthem. Am I less irish than you because I didn’t sing it? I’m looking forward to the day when my kind of irishness is respected at rugby games in Dublin. It must make people like you mad when some irish unionists celebrate the patron saint without a tricolour in sight or indeed the obligatory skinful of alcohol.

  • Kevsterino

    Alan, I always heard the orange represented protestants, not necessarily unionists. Protestant Republicans?

  • carl marks

    Alan this post is about whether or not the Irish republic should join the commonwealth.
    But allow me to point out to you again (we had this same talk 6 months ago)
    If you dislike the tricolour because of the sectarian violence carried out in its name then if you are honest you must also hate the union flag because of the sectarian violence carried out in is name, ANYTHING ELSE IS HYPROCISY!
    Why would it make me mad if you chose to celebrate your Irishness without a tricolour (I was in Crosskeys pub, trad music no tricolours and even a few prods) as for a skinful of alcohol, well i had a few but it wasn’t a skinful.
    Now could i suggest you stop dealing with stereotypes it may suit your worldview to see the Irish as drunken flag waving bigots (much like those loyalists we see at the twelfth?) but i suggest you get out and meet a few until then spare me your myopic bigotory.

  • Alan N/Ards


    There you go then. I wish republicans would stop pretending it is. You know the tricolour would have been the right flag for an agreed Ireland. It’s a shame republicans have put it beyond the pale forever. If there ever was to be an agreed Ireland I wouldn’t have a problem with the green and orange being in any new flag. The problem for me is the people who have made this flag untouchable for unionists.

    As I said before many unionists do not reject all irish symbols as you have said. You would have enjoyed last Saturday night albeit an alcohol free night.

  • DC

    Just stick with the union flag alan.

  • carl marks

    Again do you feel the same about the union flag as you do about the tricolour or do dead republicans/nationalists/Catholics mean nothing to you?
    After all you sound like a person who thinks he is a Christian maybe you should ask yourself what Christ would do, would he ignore the beam in his own eye.

  • PaddyReilly

    The problem that an independent Ireland has is that it can never really oppose the neighbouring island in anything, except its own independence. What is bad for Britain is highly unlikely to be good for Ireland. Economically and geographically, Ireland is linked to Britain. And this is before one takes into account the risk of retaliation that might occur, if Ireland were seen to be aiding Britain’s enemies.

    So Ireland’s stance is generally one of neutrality, most successfully adopted during World War II. I seem to recall seeing some American passenger lists for immigrants from Dublin in the 1930s: under nationality was written ‘British’. Until Ireland refused to join the war, Irish nationality effectively did not exist: the Free State was just a Bantustan.

    Not joining the Commonwealth is a way of distancing oneself, ever so slightly, from the British agenda. If Ireland were to adopt the pro-British stance in everything, outsiders would regard it merely as another Isle of Man.

    If you’re in the business of wooing even a tiny proportion of the northern unionist population so you can get over 50%+1 a few years earlier than the great tipping point the baby-counters tell us is just over the horizon of the next census (or maybe the one after that) why not start by accepting a bit of sentimentality?

    To tell the truth, I am not. For me, the great tipping point, however fictional and far off it may seem to you, is a more certain event than the conversion of even the tiniest percentage of the Unionist population in advance of their declining into a majority.

    Moreover, the proposed exchange is an unequal contract. We can tell whether Ireland, Republic of, has joined the Commonwealth: but there is no way of forcing even a small number of Unionists to vote for reunification, or even telling whether they have done so. So instead I propose that, in the event of a United Ireland, Lisburn City Council (and Bangor, Ards, Abbey, Carrick etc) be allowed to ‘like’ the Commonwealth on Facebook.

    This of course brings things in line with the British model. As certain areas—Scotland, Wales, Cornwall—may consider themselves Celtic nations, they may each independently entertain relations with the Celtic Congress. But it is no business of the U.K. to join or subsidise this organisation. We leave that to the concerned peripheral areas.

  • Alan N/Ards


    I was responding to Kevsterino’s claim that unionists reject everything irish. I was trying to make the point that this is untrue of every unionist

    I totally agree that the union flag is beyond the pale because of the actions of loyalists and some members of the armed forces. I don’t have a problem saying that. I also know that it is not a flag republicans can embrace. If it offended you flying over city hall then I am glad that it is down. I am not trying to be offensive regarding the tricolour just honest.

    I personally don’t attend events were there is the possibility of
    drunken morons wrapped in the flag of their choice being anywhere near me or my family. I know that there are many people who are not
    drunken morons at these events but each to their own. I would like to add that I took a kicking in 1978 by tricolour waving thugs in Dublin after the ROI V NI game. I can still hear them calling me an effing orange bastard as they booted me. Kind of ironic cosidering the orange on the flag.

    As far as the republic joining the commonwealth I have not really given it much thought apart from the sporting aspect. Plenty of boxers in the south might like the opportunity to compete.

  • Kevsterino

    There are exceptions, of course, to every rule, Alan.

    Where do you stand on the Irish Language Act?

  • carl marks

    Alan N/Ards
    Now all you have to do is apoligise for this,

    . It must make people like you mad when some irish unionists celebrate the patron saint without a tricolour in sight or indeed the obligatory skinful of alcohol.
    or explain it!

  • It shouldn’t really be a big problem for Ireland to join the Commonwealth. Lots of other republics are members. It’s not as if one needs to swear an oath of loyalty to the UK monarch. And if it meant something to help heal divisions in N.I., why not?

  • Alan N/Ards

    You of course are right. I was being stereotypical regarding the alcohol and for that I apologise. As for the tricolour comment I also apologise. I hope that this is acceptable to you. As someone who strives to follow the teachings of Jesus I know that I am not perfect and that I fall down on a daily basis. You have given me much to think about and I thank you for that.

    I have been on record on this site supporting the irish language. I have also criticized unionist politicians for their pettiness regarding the language. I have also criticized republicans for turning it into a political football.

  • carl marks


  • Otto

    You’re right Paddy. Them unionist hoors are all Paddy hating lesbians so they are. Why even try?

    For what it’s worth though, soppy old shite that I am, the event which locked in my support for a UI, tricolour and all, was seeing the union flag flown with respect at the restored Islandbridge in 2006. I thought, “that’s a proper grown up country that is – one that’s ready for a respectful and long-term commitment. With prospects even.”

    Seeing some shiny defence force training dudes raise a big Tricolour at the masters at the K Club did no harm either. I’d have to admit that growing up here the tricolour seemed mainly to be the thing you draped dead IRA volunteers’ coffins with.

  • carl marks

    You’re right Paddy. Them unionist hoors are all Paddy hating lesbians so they are. Why even try?

    I seem to be saying this to you a lot WTF wanna explain that?

  • Otto

    I’m continuing with the wooing theme Carl. Paddy says there’s no point in trying. I think he should have faith but reconsider his approach.

  • carl marks

    OK Otto fair enough, but if you have seen any evidence that the wooing thing is working then you have better eyesight than me.

  • Otto

    I’m not sure it’s been tried Carl. But, randomly and off the top of my head, if you take last night’s telly we had a BBC Presbyterian speaking very favourably of the United Irishmen followed by an Irish language program written by an old Bangor Grammar boy from solid unionist background. Last week at the Skainos on the Newtownards Road we had the wife of an ex-loyalist prisoner running an Irish language workshop/conference thing and on the radio I heard the principal of Hazlewood College say that five of the school’s Gaelic team, are north Belfast prods. I had my boy at a mini-rugby event recently and the brother of one of the boys playing was practicing his hurling on the touch line. To be honest I see green shoots and a thirst for integration everywhere. That’s not the same as overt nationalism but it’s certainly a sign of a cultural thaw which is, I’d reckon, a requisite first step.

    Perhaps you see the flag thing as proof nothing’s changed. I’d say it’s the opposite and the victimisation of Alliance is proof that loyalism’s decaying residue is more afraid of lundies than taigs.

  • seamusot

    I wish to support Otto’s remarks and firstly declare a Hugeonot’s background with Molyneaux being my maternal name. I wish the island to be a place of peace, erudition and literature. I wish to see young girls from Shankhill offered the opportunity to dance the floorboards off all other comers in the next Riverdance twirls. Perhaps Comhaltas Ceoltoiri might tune in a few Lambegs. The art of boxing ironically has doubtlessly best supplanted sectarianism. Rather than kill thine enemy, seek firstly respect.

  • carl marks

    Otto seamusot
    I hope that you are both right,
    I am in a mixed marriage, my daughters refer to themselves as Prespyfeniens my in laws are decent people who spent St Pats night in the bar with me.
    But (and there is always one of those) they certainly seem to be in a very small minority, Unionists/ loyalists/ protestants whatever you want to call them have in general a blindness to violence carried out by their side ( just read this site on the flag protests from the PUL posters we get either a failure to admit there is anything happening or attempts to blame it on someone else , see DC and his fixation with Alliance), indeed getting unionists to admit that discrimination against Catholics was rife in Northern Ireland in near impossible.
    Over the 12th last year the whole St Pats and St Matthew thing was given the same treatment,
    At a time when both Dissident republicans and loyalist terrorist are upping the Ante and trying to bring us back to the dark place we see Nationalist and republican politicians condemning the Dissidents but (and please correct me if I’m wrong ) no unionist leader has come out and condemned outright loyalist violence.
    The Newsletters reporting of last Saturday, ignoring loyalist violence and instead concentrating on unsubstantiated reports of nationalist violence says it all.
    Now I’m glad there is a cultural thaw but i see no sign of the majority of unionists taking the first steps to sorting this which is admitting (as most Nationalists have done ) that they were and are part of the problem, until that happens we will see no real progress.

  • Otto

    “Unionists” are the politicians Carl, not the people – and they’re losing their grip.

    To beat the thawing metaphor to death the unionist ship is made of ice. It needs a “cold house” to survive. When a bit falls off, like Basil or John, panicked unionist leaders claim the missing piece was actually just rotten, the remainder is sound and it’s plain sailing from here while support grows. The reality is that if the water keeps getting warmer more and more bits are going to keep falling off until the whole thing melts altogether.

    Paddy – Groovy jock kids singing for you 🙂 (May contain cheese)

  • tacapall

    Well said Otto its refreshing to hear views that at least has the capacity to move us forward. I believe there will be an historic agreement between the people of Ireland and Britain some day that will bring to an end hundreds of years of animosity, indeed both the Irish and British government has hinted recently of the pace and the expansion of those ever closer ties between the two countries. I cant personally see re-joining the commonwealth being something that would ever move us forward or be accepted by the Irish people as being necessary in order to placate unionists, in terms of Irish history its a step backwards. New vision requires new thinking and like we talked about before, the idea of privileged birth in 2013 is not a logical position that would encourage that new thinking.

  • carl marks

    As i said before, I really hope your right if for no other reason than my daughters future,
    this is one instant in which i would not mind being proved wrong!