The call by a Conservative MP, Michael Fabricant, for Ireland to rejoin the British Commonwealth following the successful state visit to the UK of President Michael D Higgins comes as no surprise. However, the response by Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes who said “such a proposal should be considered”, does.
The Irish state formally left the British Commonwealth in 1949. At that time, this policy was seen as a natural further step in the direction of a fully sovereign Irish state. Today, 65 years later, there are Irish political figures, not just Brian Hayes, calling for the restoration of the Commonwealth link.
However, despite the machinations of those who favour the restoration of the link to the Commonwealth, there is no significant degree of support amongst the population for re-entry. Rejoining the Commonwealth would have the effect of gradually “re-Britishing” the Irish state and would amount to a rejection of the separatist aspect of Irish nationalism.
Because the British monarch has always been 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!. In terms of international affairs, we would once again become a White Commonwealth Dominion.
Much of Europe would interpret our move as a ‘return to the fold’. Alongside the armies of Commonwealth nations, the Irish Defence Forces would be expected to participate in Armistice Day ceremonies. The re-Britishing of the 26 counties would once again bring about attitudes of subservience and servility amongst sections of our political and social elite.
This statement by Brian Hayes must be clarified by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. I regard Ireland’s sovereignty as sacrosanct. Irish separation and the existence of a Republic are non-negotiable basic principles. Ironically, it was a Fine Gael Taoiseach, John A Costello, who in 1949 ended the last formal British link over most of Ireland. It is imperative that we ensure that some in modern Fine Gael don’t try to undo that achievement.
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