A wealth in common with the UK

It is encouraging to see Tom Cooper (Letters, April 28) entering the debate on Ireland joining the Commonwealth. The Reform Group has promoted this debate on its website (reform.org).

It is regrettable that Mr Cooper suggests membership would lead to the ‘re-Britishing’ of this country. This is not the experience of the 52 members of the Commonwealth, 32 of which are sovereign republics.

The Commonwealth ceased to be Anglo-centric in 1949, when its name was changed from the British Commonwealth. We played a role in this process. The Commonwealth was formed by leaders of national liberation movements, such as Nehru (India), Nyerere (Tanzania), Kuanda (Zambia), and Mandela (South Africa), who brought his country back to the Commonwealth after independence.

The key figure in the Commonwealth is the Secretary-General, not Queen Elizabeth, who is the symbolic head. Queen Elizabeth has no authority to interfere in the affairs of Commonwealth countries.

The Secretary-General carries out the policies of heads of government in promoting democracy, human rights, equality, aid and the rule of law, all in line with the policies of our government.

Benefits include the “impact on trade, environment, and social and economic stability”, to cite the recent words of the Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma.

Reform would argue it is surprising we are not already a member, as the ties between the UK and Ireland have been profoundly strong over the span of history. Many thousands of Irish people move to the UK every year.

About 25% of the British population has some Irish heritage. We share identities, cultures, faiths, language, profession, political and legal structures and, of course, trade on a large scale. Some Commonwealth countries give, and have given, hope and new lives to our youth, providing a safety valve for our unemployed.

Let’s not forget Irish people played a major role in building the Commonwealth at all levels. Mr Cooper’s views about the Commonwealth sadly suggest an insecurity about our relationship with the UK, rather than confidently embracing our independence, while expressing our shared identity within the Commonwealth.

Robin Bury
The Reform Group
Military Road
Co Dublin

Irish Examiner – Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Where next in British-Irish Relations?

Press release from the Reform Group, Dublin—8 April 2014

The Commonwealth of Nations has radically changed since Ireland left some sixty-five years ago. It is a global organisation with fifty-two countries, thirty-two of which are Republics and where twenty-one million people of Irish descent live. It is led by an elected Secretariat, the British monarch having a purely titular role. It promotes human rights, democracy, gender equality and through the Commonwealth games, a wide range of sporting activities.

At the recent British Irish Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Dublin, Ireland was encouraged to re-enter the Commonwealth of Nations. It would provide Ireland with an additional platform for trade and economic growth, allow Irish athletes to compete further on the world stage via the Commonwealth Games, promote Ireland in countries that have hitherto had limited links with the country over the past 65 years, and strengthen our connections to those countries who are strongly tied to the culture of Britain and Ireland.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s response was positive. He said:

The question of the Commonwealth obviously is one not for an immediate decision but I do think we can build on the trade links that are there.

Kenny added that Ireland does not have the resources to have diplomatic representation in many countries where the Commonwealth exists around the world. He emphasised that the recent trade mission to Singapore, which three ministers from the island of Ireland and Britain led, opened new trade for Ireland. He emphasised that the “Commonwealth has leverage to open new markets”.

We keep being told that relationships between Ireland and the UK have never been better and that reconciliation is top of the agenda. As the President and the Queen meet this week in London, is it now time to “finish the job” in British-Irish relations and bring an independent Republic of Ireland back into the Commonwealth?