Minister rejects calls from UK for Ireland to rejoin Commonwealth
A JUNIOR minister has played down a suggestion by a British politician that Ireland should join the Commonwealth.
Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes said such a proposal should be considered but that the prospect of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth is a "long way off".
Mr Hayes, minister for state at the Office of Public Works, was responding to a call by a Conservative MP for Ireland to rejoin the 53-member club of nations in light of the successful state visit to the UK of President Michael D Higgins.
Michael Fabricant – a former party vice-chairman – said his proposal is "not so mad as it might at first seem".
Citing the appearance at Windsor Castle of the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, he said such a move would show a line can be drawn under the past.
He wrote in London's 'Daily Telegraph': "If a country like the Republic of Ireland joined the Commonwealth, what greater message could be sent to countries facing political upheaval and disputes on the other side of the world than an ancient country who had drawn a line under parts of its past, whilst promoting its future on the best parts of its heritage?"
He added: "But when you witness people like Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander whose comrades were responsible for the death of Lord Louis Mountbatten, attend a state banquet hosted by the queen at Windsor Castle, there aren't many better signals than that to show that times have indeed moved on."
Mr Hayes does not believe the move would happen soon, saying: "I've spoken in the past that all these issues should be looked at afresh but that's a long way off."
Ireland left the Commonwealth – made up of former British colonies – in 1949 when it was declared a republic.