Sir Jeffrey Donaldson suggests Republic of Ireland could rejoin Commonwealth
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has suggested the Republic of Ireland could rejoin the Commonwealth in the future.
He made the comments while speaking on a panel debate on the future of Northern Ireland at the Kennedy Summer School in Co Wexford.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Independent Irish Senator Michael McDowell were also on the panel.
The Irish Times reported that Sir Jeffrey said that the Commonwealth was no longer an "exclusively British institution".
The Republic of Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949 after formally declaring itself a republic.
It currently includes 53 member states, almost all former British colonies, in a loose political association with the Queen as its head.
"It has many republics. the largest republic in the World, India, is a member," Sir Jeffrey said.
"The Commonwealth offers new opportunities to deepen the relations of these two nations. Is there a place for Ireland in the Commonwealth and what does it mean? Could it be a good thing?”
During the debate he also said that he "strongly believed" the UK would not leave the EU without a deal.
Sir Jeffrey said that he did not think Brexit would get in the way of the Good Friday Agreement, but accepted it could have an impact on relationships between the two communities in Northern Ireland.
The Lagan Valley MP said that Brexit had "upped the tempo" of a debate on future relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and lamented the absence of the North-South Ministerial Council.
“If we had that working, I don’t think we would be in the situation we are now in,” he said.
Mr Eastwood said that he also believed that a Brexit deal would be reached and that the DUP would end up "kicking itself" for not accepting the backstop as he thought any deal would include a border in the Irish Sea.
The Foyle MLA told the audience that he believed mistakes by both Sinn Fein and the DUP over their red lines had caused the current Stormont impasse.
“It can’t be a zero sum game. The DUP have made a mistake on that and so have Sinn Fein. We are in a situation where nobody can win,” he said.
Belfast Telegraph Digital