Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Republic of Ireland back in Commonwealth? It's not as mad as it sounds, says senior Tory MP Fabricant

The Queen meeting President Michael D Higgins
The Queen meeting President Michael D Higgins

There have been fresh calls for the Republic of Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth after the success of the recent State visit.

Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949, but recent historic moves including the visit of President Michael D Higgins to the UK have reopened the debate.

Senior Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said yesterday that the proposal "is not so mad as it might at first seem".

"If a country like the Republic of Ireland joined the Commonwealth, what greater message could be sent to countries facing political upheaval and disputes on the other side of the world than an ancient country who had drawn a line under parts of its past, whilst promoting its future on the best parts of its heritage?" Mr Fabricant wrote on a website yesterday.

"The very fact that a monarch who had for so long had been the embodiment of one side of the Troubles was able to visit Ireland and to engender a feeling of such goodwill is a clear demonstration of a new chapter." The Lichfield MP said it would be a great way for Ireland and the UK to move on.

"The past will never be forgotten, nor would it be right for that to be the case," he said.

"But when you witness people like Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander whose comrades were responsible for the death of Lord Louis Mountbatten, attend a State banquet hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle, there aren't many better signals than that to show that times have indeed moved on."

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed the suggestion.

"We have long supported the idea that the Republic of Ireland should rejoin the Commonwealth," he said.

"After all, there are many republics including India who are a part of the Commonwealth and don't feel in any sense that their sovereignty or independence is compromised.

"Given the very strong connections both in terms of people and culture and history between our two countries, I think this would be the natural next step to take, and building upon the success of both the Queen's visit to Dublin and President Higgins' visit to London.

"This would seem to me a progressive step that would recognise the bonds of friendship between the British and Irish people."

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said his party had no fixed position on the matter, but said he expected it would be discussed in due course.

FACTFILE

  • The Commonwealth of Nations, formerly the British Commonwealth, is a group of 53 countries.
  • It was formed in 1931 mainly out of the countries which were originally part of the British Empire.
  • Queen Elizabeth II is the formal head of the Commonwealth.
  • Ireland was a member until 1949, when it became the Irish Republic and left.

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