Wednesday 26 July 2017

We influenced the early Commonwealth, so it's a pity Ireland isn't taking part in Games

England's Steven Way in action in the Men's Marathon during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Photo: Danny Lawson
England's Steven Way in action in the Men's Marathon during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Photo: Danny Lawson

Not a lot of people know – as Michael Caine is apt to say – that the Irish Free State played an influential role in developing the character of the Commonwealth, that group of 53 nations which arose out of the former British Empire.

Because it was understood that the new Irish state might just be hostile to the notion of British imperialism – I'll say! – allusions to that imperialism were first watered down in 1921, with the wording in the Anglo-Irish Treaty to the role of the King.

And then with a move, partly because of Irish sensibilities, towards ever greater autonomy of the Commonwealth nations – the Irish Free State was the first Commonwealth member in the 1920s to insist on appointing its own Governor-General, rather than meekly accepting the decision of Westminster, the "Imperial" government.

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