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McDonald says Commonwealth debate should happen in the context of a conversation about Irish reunification

Her comments come after the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson said Ireland should join the Commonwealth.

Image: LEAH FARRELL

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has said that while she is not a supporter of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth, she believes all sides must be listened to. 

Her comments come after the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson told the Fine Gael National Conference this weekend that Ireland should join the Commonwealth.

Both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have stated that it is “not something that’s on the agenda”.

However, there was some debate about the reaction Donaldson got from the Fine Gael membership over the weekend, where there was an applause after the statement. 

Simon Coveney stated that the audience was merely trying to show “warmth” to the DUP MP for his overall contribution to the debate, however, he admitted that there are some within the Fine Gael party who are advocates for Ireland joining the Commonwealth. 

Speaking about the issue today, McDonald said that if Fine Gael “believe it is the right thing to do to join the Commonwealth I respect that – I fundamentally disagree with them – but I absolutely respect their right to say that and to present that position and set out the logic of the position”.

“I don’t see any benefit of rejoining the Commonwealth. I take the view that we can only move forward, that we move away from imperialism and the damage that colonisation has done to our island. 

But she added that if Fine Gael believe it might be a runner “let them put the proposition forward”. 

This is not the first time McDonald has discussed the matter. Last year, the Sinn Féin leader told TheJournal.ie that she is open to discussions on Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth.

She said there must be an open debate in order to encourage unionists to participate in a discussion about a united Ireland.

McDonald said she cannot call for an openness, and then censor voices before the debate has begun.

“You can hardly make that call and then say ‘we are not going to discuss any particular item’. And there are some people who think that rejoining the Commonwealth is a worthy proposition.

“I think those that hold that view need to put that view forward, and I think it needs to be looked at, and debated, and it needs to be discussed,” she said at the time. 

Today, she reiterated that view, stating that a debate about the Commonwealth should happen in the context of a conversation about reunification. 

“I am constantly on the record of saying that we need an inclusive respectful debate. I am not a supporter or an advancer of the proposition of reentering the Commonwealth. I don’t see any value in it – but I do respect that there are others who have that view and in the context of the discussion about a new Ireland and a reunified Ireland, I think every voice has to be heard,” she said. 

“So let Fine Gael come and put that proposition on the table and put it on the table of a full discussion around the ending of parturition and Irish unity,” McDonald said, adding “that it is not lost on people that the party that say it is dangerous to discuss Irish reunification, that now is not the time, have no difficulty in debating” the Commonwealth. 

She called for a “full, inclusive discussion on all of these issues”, stating that as Brexit looms over Ireland, “I think it is absolutely, clear that there is an unanswerable case for a full incl debate about Irish reunification”. 

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