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Republic of Ireland should rejoin Commonwealth, says UUP leader

Tom Elliott says the Queen’s visit last year forged a new relationship – and joining the Commonwealth would honour her jubilee.

UUP leader Tom Elliott would like to see the Republic of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth.
UUP leader Tom Elliott would like to see the Republic of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Archive

THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND should rejoin the Commonwealth to honour the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth, the leader of one of Northern Ireland’s main political parties has said.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Tom Elliott told a special sitting of the Northern Ireland Assembly that the Queen’s visit to the Republic last year – the first of a ruling British sovereign since Irish independence – had forged “new relationships between two nations that are so close geographically but maybe so far apart in other ways”.

The success of that visit, he said, “may encourage the Republic of Ireland to look at the possibility of rejoining the Commonwealth”.

“It would be helpful if that happened,” he said.

Members from all parties of the executive attended yesterday’s special sitting, though Sinn Féin was the only party not to speak during yesterday’s proceedings.

Another UUP member, David McClarty, said it was “deeply regrettable that not everyone could join in the congratulations”.

“However, those who did not got it wrong when Her Majesty visited the Republic of Ireland,” McClarty said. “Today, they got it wrong again.”

Ireland automatically left the Commonwealth – a loose association of countries, most of which were formerly ruled by Britain – in 1949 when it became a Republic, and ceased to recognise the British sovereign King George VI as simultaneously being the King of Ireland.

Ireland’s secession from the Commonwealth – and the prospect of India becoming a republic a year later – caused its remaining members to change its rules so that the British sovereign was no longer the automatic head of the association.

When India became a republic a year later, member states reached a deal where it would remain a member of the association in order to recognise its previous ties and friendship with Britain. Since then, other countries emerging from British rule have opted to remain members.

A majority of the current Commonwealth members are republics, while five are ruled by different monarchs. The Queen remains the head of 16 states, each of which is also a member.

Two candidates in last year’s Irish presidential election said they favoured rejoining the Commonwealth, which now exists as a political association of members encouraging free trade with each other.

David Norris has been a longtime supporter of the idea, while Gay Mitchell said he would rejoin the association as a quid pro quo for securing a United Ireland.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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