Irish Senator Frank Feighan has suggested it is time for Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth (formerly the British Commonwealth), the intergovernmental organization of 53 member states around the world, mostly made up of former colonies of the British Empire.
Addressing Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate) yesterday, the Senator from Co. Roscommon appointed to the 25th Seanad by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, told his fellow Senators that the debate on the Brexit referendum presented the perfect opportunity for the Republic of Ireland to reevaluate its relationship with its closest neighbor.
“Given the power of the peace dividend in succeeding to build many bridges in the last twenty years on this island and with Britain, one of those issues which has been occasionally highlighted in the last number of years is whether Ireland should rejoin the Commonwealth,” the Senator said in his address.
“And today, I want to reopen the debate again about the merits of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth.”
Referring to the 65 years since Ireland officially became a Republic and left the Commonwealth as “decades of deep political and societal upheaval but which are now thankfully firmly behind us,” Feighan stressed that as many as 33 Republics are current members of the Commonwealth and that some member states, such as the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, are also home to a large number of the Irish diaspora.
@FrankFeighan Couldn't agree more about commonwealth - shared heritage with all these countries. How do we apply?— Tom O'Leary (@_TomOLeary) June 21, 2016
“Among the Commonwealth’s many noble objectives is the promotion of democracy, rule of law, human rights, good governance and social and economic development,” Feighan continued, arguing that the peace and tolerance achieved through the peace process in recent years has led us to a point at which becoming a Commonwealth member is the next intelligent step.
He asked the Seanad: “Would rejoining not help further develop a pluralist Ireland where all our different identities are always mutually recognized and respected? Would it also not just strengthen existing trade, business, cultural and political relationships but nurture new ones across the world?
“By doing so, will it not promote Ireland’s values to a global audience while strengthening and growing important economic and cultural ties internationally?”
Although the Taoiseach ruled out Ireland’s membership during a visit to the UK in 2013, Feighan claims Kenny “equally acknowledged the growing links between Ireland and Commonwealth, in terms of trade, diplomacy, culture,” an argument that could be backed up by the Taoiseach’s recent campaigning in England on behalf of the UK remaining in the EU.
.@FrankFeighan Rejoin the commonwealth? Are you having a laugh?— Carol Cronin (@karlachameleon) June 21, 2016
This is not the first time that the Fine Gael politician and former TD (member of parliament) for Roscommon South has acted controversially. While serving in the Dáil, he wore a red poppy on Remembrance Day each November, a token worn throughout the UK to remember those who died in the service of the British Army during the First and Second World War.
“I made a decision to wear a poppy in the house on Remembrance Day to commemorate the thousands of men from across the island of Ireland who fought in the Great Wars,” Feighan said yesterday, again addressing his choice during the Seanad address.
“I wanted to publicly show that we had well and truly moved on from that dark, bloody era in the North before the evolution of the peace process - a time when the politics of fear and divisiveness tore apart communities living side by side.
“I wanted to affirm the wide acceptance that there is now a new political dawn in this country which has allowed us to move on from the divisions of the past and which had created so much tension on our island and between Ireland and Britain.”
Feighan was also subject to public abuse in 2011, at times fearing for his personal safety, after he sided with the Fine Gael government on a decision not to reopen emergency services in a Roscommon hospital, an emotive issue for many of his constituents who wished for Fine Gael to follow through on their election promises to restore the service.
It has now been shown that the decision not to reopen the service was correct as medical advice showed the safety of patients could not be ensured but Feighan had resigned himself to never running for public office again because of the fallout of his vote. He did not run for reelection in this year’s general election but was chosen by the Taoiseach as one of his eleven candidates to the Seanad.
Listen to an Irish Times interview with Feighan about his mixed political career below:
Although various Republics are within the current Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II of England is still its figurative head of state and she is recognized as a monarch within 16 of its countries.
According to The Commonwealth’s official website, its current purpose is to “support member governments, and partner with the broader Commonwealth family and others, to improve the well-being of all Commonwealth citizens and to advance their shared interests globally.”
Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949.
Do you think rejoining the Commonwealth could be a smart move for Ireland, or is the Emerald Isle better off as an independent Republic? Share your thoughts in the comment section, below.