Letters to the Editor – The Irish Times – 23 Sep 2014
Letters to the Editor – The Irish Times – 23 Sep 2014
Ireland could have taken same ‘peaceful path’ to independence with Home Rule
Stephen Collins – Irish Times, 18 Sep 2014
Ireland could have followed the same peaceful path towards independence that Scotland is considering today, according to former taoiseach John Bruton.
In a speech today on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Home Rule Bill into law (September 18th, 1914), Mr Bruton pointed to the way the referendum on independence for Scotland had come about.
Image: Reform Group
Irish Independent News Editorial – 18 Sep 2014
Former Taoiseach John Bruton has called for more recognition for those who brought in Home Rule
Image: Reform Group
Michael O’Regan – Irish Times, 18 Sep 2014
Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
President Michael D Higgins has described a national sorrow that soldiers who fought in the First World War and their families were shunned for decades in their home country.
Unveiling the first Cross of Sacrifice ever erected in the Republic of Ireland to servicemen and women killed in both world wars, Mr Higgins said the disrespect could not be undone although they are honoured now.
Also: 31 July 2014: Dedication of Cross of Sacrifice, Glasnevin Cemetery
On Thursday 31 July President Michael D. Higgins led a ceremony to dedicate the newly installed Cross of Sacrifice in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin 11. The erection of the cross is a cooperative venture between Glasnevin Trust and the Commonwealth Graves Commission (CWGC). The service was attended by a wide range of public, diplomatic, and military representatives, along with members of the public. The event was was addressed by President Higgins.
Image: President Michael D Higgins has unveiled the first Cross of Sacrifice erected in the Republic of Ireland. Photo: Irish Independent.
On the eve of his 80th birthday and the centenary of WW1, Ireland’s pre-eminent broadcaster, GAY BYRNE, embarks on a personal journey to discover the war secrets his father, Edward Byrne, never told him.
It is encouraging to see Tom Cooper (Letters, April 28) entering the debate on Ireland joining the Commonwealth. The Reform Group has promoted this debate on its website (reform.org).
It is regrettable that Mr Cooper suggests membership would lead to the ‘re-Britishing’ of this country. This is not the experience of the 52 members of the Commonwealth, 32 of which are sovereign republics.
The Commonwealth ceased to be Anglo-centric in 1949, when its name was changed from the British Commonwealth. We played a role in this process. The Commonwealth was formed by leaders of national liberation movements, such as Nehru (India), Nyerere (Tanzania), Kuanda (Zambia), and Mandela (South Africa), who brought his country back to the Commonwealth after independence.
The key figure in the Commonwealth is the Secretary-General, not Queen Elizabeth, who is the symbolic head. Queen Elizabeth has no authority to interfere in the affairs of Commonwealth countries.
The Secretary-General carries out the policies of heads of government in promoting democracy, human rights, equality, aid and the rule of law, all in line with the policies of our government.
Benefits include the “impact on trade, environment, and social and economic stability”, to cite the recent words of the Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma.
Reform would argue it is surprising we are not already a member, as the ties between the UK and Ireland have been profoundly strong over the span of history. Many thousands of Irish people move to the UK every year.
About 25% of the British population has some Irish heritage. We share identities, cultures, faiths, language, profession, political and legal structures and, of course, trade on a large scale. Some Commonwealth countries give, and have given, hope and new lives to our youth, providing a safety valve for our unemployed.
Let’s not forget Irish people played a major role in building the Commonwealth at all levels. Mr Cooper’s views about the Commonwealth sadly suggest an insecurity about our relationship with the UK, rather than confidently embracing our independence, while expressing our shared identity within the Commonwealth.
The Reform Group
The many traditions between the peoples of Britain and Ireland date back thousands of years with for example, early forms of Gaelic documented in western parts of Britain in the 4th century AD. Clans and Kingdoms sought to continuously clear the way for trade and prosperity across the two islands, sharing culture, language, and religion. During the President’s recent state visit to the UK, he commented rather wisely on the relationship between the two countries and stated “ar scáth a chéile a mhairimíd.” He added that whilst this can translate as “we live in the shadow of each other”, it can also perhaps mean that “we live under the shelter of each other.” The President then suggested that indeed, both translations can apply and his trip to the UK this month has perhaps cleared the way for a new beginning in the relationship between Ireland and Britain.
Some have intimated that the recent Irish visit to the UK was the first such trip by a leader of Ireland since 1175, when the High King of Ireland met the King of England to sign the Windsor Treaty. It was hoped at that time that the Treaty would clear the way for helpful relations between the two islands to address in part, the various tensions arising in Ireland from the Norman settlements; which were preceded by centuries of settlements by the Vikings. Rather aptly, this month’s visit by the Irish President to the UK has further enhanced the ties, bonds, and culture between the peoples of these two islands, with additional hopes of reducing tensions in Northern Ireland.
During the centuries following the signing of the Windsor Treaty, events reflected the complexities of religious and political tensions and conflicts of the times. However, in 1914, one hundred and fourteen years after the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Irish Home Rule Bill was passed, with the support of over 80 Irish MPs in the House of Commons. With the enactment of Home Rule pending, a way was cleared to rebalance the dynamics between these two islands, whilst incorporating the connections and bounds across the Irish Sea.
However, as we commemorate the centenaries of World War One, we acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of Irishmen who followed the calls of their parliamentarian leaders, such as Willie Redmond. They joined their comrades from Scotland, Wales, England, and others to defeat Germany in the fields of France and Belgium; with tens of thousands giving their lives in the process. We are also preparing though, for the centenary of the 1916 rebellion, in which a group of Irish people liaised with Germany to stage an uprising in Ireland for independence. As we have heard and read in recent RTE broadcasts, their actions resulted in the deaths of approximately 40 children, along with hundreds of Irish policemen and soldiers in the weeks, months, and years that followed. Indeed, an RTE documentary this month referred to the above matters and commented that instead of clearing the way for Irish unity, the most significant casualty of the 1916 rebellion was a united Ireland.
Having left the UK, it is now 65 years since Ireland became a republic. However, following years of hostility, animosity or indifference towards the Britain, the events of the last twenty years have seen peace and relative prosperity flourish across these two islands. Indeed, when the economy recently crashed in Ireland it was the UK that stepped up so prominently to help the Irish people. With billions of euro in trade between the two countries occurring on a monthly basis, there are literally hundreds of thousands of jobs dependent on UK-Irish connections. The bonds between these two islands are now being voiced openly across the British and Irish media, with inter-government collaboration now at unprecedented levels. The once jaundiced and myopic reductionism of narrow nationalism is being replaced by a balanced, respectful and congruent validation of the shared identity between the peoples of Britain and Ireland.
On the last night of President Higgins’ state visit to the UK this month, he attended a celebration of Irish music at the Royal Albert Hall, entitled ‘Ceilúiradh.’ The concert included a combined performance by musicians from the Irish Defence Forces (IDF), the Irish Guards, and the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR). The latter two of these are of course Irish regiments in the British Army, which include many Irish service members. Building on last year’s combined deployment between the IDF and the RIR to Africa, the concert perhaps illustrates the motto of the RIR, ‘Faugh a Ballagh’ or ‘clear the way.’ Indeed, is it time to clear that way for further improved relations with the UK and see an independent Republic of Ireland return to the Commonwealth?
The Commonwealth is a truly global association of fifty-two independent nations, thirty-two of which are republics. There are twenty-one million people of Irish descent residing in Commonwealth countries and the organization’s charter is focused on promoting human rights. Decisions are made democratically via an elected secretariat, and the Queen fulfils a purely ceremonial role. Membership of the Commonwealth would significantly recognise and strengthen the ties we have to so many countries within which the Irish have sought shelter (or ‘scáth’) over the years. It would also expand Irish opportunities for trade, as the Taoiseach emphasised at the recent meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. Ultimately, with new economic, cultural, social, and sporting opportunities ready and waiting, perhaps Ireland could consider the remarks of a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, the West Indian, Sammy Ramphal, when he implored Ireland to re-enter the Commonwealth and ‘come home.’
Reform Group (c) 2014
Madam – Dan O’Brien (Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014), gives thoughtful consideration to the value to small states of multilateralism in general and the Commonwealth in particular.
However, there is ample evidence to counter his assertion that the Commonwealth is “not a hugely important organisation for any of the 53 countries in it”.
As he himself acknowledges, smaller, more vulnerable states have more to gain from being in to ‘clubs’ where all members are bound by the same rules.
For that reason, and many others, membership of the Commonwealth is central to those of our 31 members with populations of less than 1.5 million, the internationally agreed definition for a ‘small state’. A quarter of the members of the G20 also belong to the Commonwealth.
This offers opportunities for interface, and direct and crucial global advocacy facilitated by the Commonwealth plays a vital role in ensuring that due consideration is given to the concerns of developing and vulnerable nations when decisions are made that can have very significant impact on their trade, environment, social and economic stability, sustainability and resilience, and addressing serious capacity shortages.
Marlborough House, London
Image: Commonwealth Secretariat
Published on 10 Apr 2014
Her Majesty gives a speech at the State Banquet for the historic Irish State Visit at Windsor Castle. The visit, the first official State Visit by a President of Ireland, is taking place over four days in London and Windsor Castle.
Image: Sunday World
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