A leading Unionist politician in Northern Ireland has urged the Dublin government to consider re-joining the British Commonwealth.

Ulster Unionist Party chief Tom Elliott believes recent events, including the Queen’s visit, indicate Ireland could return to the Commonwealth family.

He is to discuss the suggestion as guest speaker at a Trinity College event to mark International Commonwealth Day on March 12th.

Elliott will focus his speech on the successful and historic state visit of the Queen to the south last

May and the warmth of the reception afforded to the British Monarch. Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949 but Elliott believes it is time to return.

“The Queen’s visit to the Republic indicated a new relationship between the two states,” Elliott told the Belfast Newsletter.

“Developments during the past 15 years have witnessed a sea change in the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and also the Republic and the entire United Kingdom.

“The Queen’s visit to the Republic was a resounding success. She received a tremendous welcome wherever she went and some commentators were moved to raise the question of whether or not the Republic should rejoin the Commonwealth.

“As part of the Commonwealth the Republic would not only cement its new relationship with Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, but would join a family of over two billion people worldwide.”

Elliott has previously made the suggestion at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Dublin event organiser Robin Bury told the paper that Commonwealth Day is an opportunity to ‘promote understanding on global issues, international co-operation and the work of the Commonwealth’s organisations, which aim to improve the lives of its citizens’.

He said: “The theme for Commonwealth Day 2012 is Connecting Cultures and we are delighted that Mr Elliott will help us mark this year’s celebrations in Dublin.

“Ireland could use its impressive experience in world organisations like the UN to influence the future development of the Commonwealth, an organisation with 32 republics, radically changed since Ireland left.”

Ulster Unionist Party chief Tom ElliottGoogle Images