All things being equal we have a club to join

IrishRegimentsFlagsDan O’Brien – 13 April 2014 – Sunday Independent

‘States have no eternal friends, only eternal interests.” So said Lord Palmerston, a leading 19th-Century European statesman, prime minister of Britain and Ireland on two occasions and landlord of a 12,000-acre estate in Sligo. Palmerston’s view is the ultimate realpolitik view on relations between states.

While it goes too far – countries whose peoples share values and many personal connections can and do have important bonds of friendship – it is mostly correct. Interests are always the main determinant in how states behave.

Last week provided further evidence of the normalisation of how the Irish and British states behave towards each other with President Michael D Higgin’s state visit to the UK.

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The Queen’s speech at the Irish State banquet

banquet05_2876536cPublished 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.

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Image: Sunday World

Ireland and the UK: A new beginning

0008c3ea-642President Bill Clinton recently commented on the Northern Ireland Peace Process and asked the politicians involved to “finish the job.” However, he could easily be referring to the broader relations between Ireland and the UK. We are currently moving through the 100th anniversary year of the passing of the Irish Home Rule Bill, and with over half a century as an independent Republic, is it now time to take relations with our closest and strongest ally to another level?

President Higgins’ visit to the UK this week is a wonderful expression of the collective identity between the peoples of these two islands. Ireland and the UK are both integrated and interdependent. Tens of thousands of Irish people move to the UK every year. Forty percent of visitors to Ireland are from the UK and about 25% of the British population has some Irish heritage. Ireland is the UK’s fifth biggest market. There are almost 50,000 Irish Directors of UK companies, more than any other nationality in the UK. There is more than 1 billion of trade between the UK and Ireland every week and 50 Irish companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange, more than from any other overseas country.  Such links are directly associated with the establishment of approximately 200,000 jobs in each country.

Following the Queen’s recent visit to Ireland, the British and Irish governments signed an agreement that commits the UK and Ireland to work towards closer integration, in order to benefit the peoples of both islands. Since that time, we have seen the establishment of single visas for those visiting the UK and Ireland, joint British-Irish trade missions, and the formation of a new single maritime boundary for the UK and Ireland. Preparations are underway for the UK and Irish governments to exchange senior civil servants and initiatives are being developed for complementary energy policies between the two islands. Britain and Ireland are undertaking shared centenary commemorations of World War One (WWI). Also, military personnel from Britain and Ireland have combined for the first time since WWI, when they formed a single force last year and deployed to Africa.

Social and cultural life between the two islands continues to flourish. In 2012, the Olympic torch toured the UK and incorporated a visit to Dublin. Other sporting practices include the continuation of the British and Irish Lions rugby team. There is also the ongoing practice of combining British athletes from Northern Ireland with Irish athletes to form single-island teams for hockey, cricket, rowing, and rugby union. Indeed, the Garda and PSNI also now combine to form a single rugby union team. Other cultural practices are seen in entertainment, with many UK television programmes viewing the UK and Ireland as a single audience, such as the X Factor (which opens it auditions this year in Ireland), Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model, and many reality and chat shows with Irish presenters and contestants. There is of course the strong links between the premier league and Irish audiences. In addition, the British TV station “UTV” is to launch formally in Ireland over the coming year.

One hundred years ago, Ireland had over 80 MPs sitting in the House of Commons. Today, Irish politicians represent an independent nation, but do so with an appreciation of the interdependence and cultural ties with the rest of the UK. This is clearly seen within the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. Enda Kenny recently addressed the Assembly in Dublin, during which he argued for further development and links between Ireland and the UK. As a result of these ties, Irish people, like their ancestors, continue to seek new lives around the world, primarily in countries with a shared connection to Britain and Ireland. These countries include New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and South Africa.

Such countries were developed largely by the efforts of Irish men and women and they all share a common heritage and link to these islands. They regularly build on these unique international links by developing markets and economic opportunities; and the connections extend to a sporting heritage too. The link for these countries is of course their membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. Since Ireland left this organization in 1949, it has developed to contain 32 Republics. Indeed, South Africa, as a Republic, re-entered in the 1990s, under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. Twenty-one million people of Irish descent now reside 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 fulfills a purely ceremonial role.

At the recent British Irish Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Dublin, Ireland was encouraged to re-enter the Commonwealth of Nations. It would provide Ireland with an additional platform for trade and economic growth, allow Irish athletes to compete further on the world stage via the Commonwealth Games, promote Ireland in countries that have hitherto had limited links with the country over the past 60 years, and strengthen our connections to those countries who are strongly tied to the culture of Britain and Ireland.

Relationships between Ireland and the UK have never been better and as the President and the Queen meet this week in London, is it now time to “finish the job” in British-Irish relations and bring an independent Republic of Ireland back into the Commonwealth?

Reform Group (c) 2014

Commonwealth Day Observance, 10 March 2014

Commonwealth-FlagsCommonwealth Day Observance, 10 Mar 2014

The annual Observance on Monday 10th March at Westminster Abbey, organised by the Society, was a great success. We were privileged to welcome Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex along with High Commissioners and visiting diplomats and 800 young people from 83 schools.

Malala Yousafzai gave the main address and, along with Lord Coe and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson delivered a powerful reminder of the capability of the Commonwealth to be a force for good.

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> Commonwealth Day Observance 2014


Bruton on trade mission with NI and UK counterparts

RichardBrutonRTE News – Wednesday 12 February 2014

The first trade mission led by ministers from Dublin, Stormont and Westminster is under way in Singapore.

Representatives of 40 companies from the island of Ireland are part of the delegation at the Singapore Airshow, the largest such event in Asia.

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Image: / Getty Images

Kenny and Cameron make ‘poignant’ joint visit to WWI sites

Dave-Enda-WWITaoiseach Enda Kenny has described his visit, alongside the British Prime Minister David Cameron, to a series of Irish and British World War I memorials in Flanders as “poignant and powerful”.

During a carefully balanced schedule, the two prime ministers spent three hours visiting the most solemn and symbolically important World War I sites, with both men acknowledging the sacrifice of the war dead from the other’s country.

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> Read letter in Irish Times

Picture: RTE News

Irish and British agree economic master plan for closer integration

Cameron-UKgovColm Kelpie, Irish Independent – 18 July 2013

The Irish and British governments are poised to unveil an economic master plan designed to deepen integration between the two countries.

A study, commissioned by both governments, outlines a range of proposals in which Dublin and London would collaborate, including joint Irish and UK trade missions, boosting electrical interconnection and a common tourist visa for both countries.

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> Anglo-Irish Co-operation Strengthens

Picture: Irish Independent

Lord Empey urges Republic to rejoin Commonwealth in House of Lords Debate


Published on 15/03/2013 10:34 – Newsletter

ULSTER Unionist peer Lord Empey has called on the Republic to rejoin the Commonwealth.

Ireland left the Commonwealth when it declared itself a republic on April 18, 1949, but there have been calls intermittently since for it to rejoin.

Yesterday, Lord Empey made the call during a debate in the House of Lords on the Commonwealth.

“I would like to highlight the importance of the economic dimension to the Commonwealth,” he said.

“Approximately one-third of humanity is engaged in the Commonwealth and it very largely shares with people and businesses in this country a common language and very similar approaches to the law.

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Photograph: Newsletter

Robin Bury Blog: Secretary General of the Commonwealth implores Ireland to ‘come home’


The media’s main interest in the recent release of the 1982 state papers was in the malevolence of Charles Haughey during the Falklands war. Ronan Fanning wrote a superb article on Haughey’s behavior in the Sunday Independent on 30th December 2012, exposing his headstrong Anglophobic instructions to our UN representative, Ambassador Noel Dorr, who obeyed his master, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. This was overtaken by events as British troops had landed before the UN could debate Haughey’s resolution. But in Fanning’s words, ‘this humiliating outcome for Haughey’s self-indulgent exercise in Brit-bashing cannot disguise the fact that the damage done to Anglo-Irish relations was immense’.

Another story with an Anglophobic tone was missed by the Irish media, with the exception of the Irish Daily Mail which had the headline ‘We need Ireland back  in the Commonwealth’ (December 31, 2012, p.20). No, it was not a peeved Margaret Thatcher who said this to our Ambassador in London, Eamon Kennedy. She was the last person Haughey would at that time take notice of such a request.  It was the then Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Shridath Ramphal, who was in 10 Downing Street in June 1982 after the Trooping of the Colour with Kennedy. He explained that the Commonwealth had changed radically into an international organization of mainly independent republics which ‘owed their independent republican status…to Ireland.’ Well, he exaggerated somewhat as it was Britain which gave its Empire away under duress, Ireland being the first nation to go. Kennedy listened politely but declined the offer on behalf of his boss, Haughey, putting improved relations with the British government ahead of the healing power of re-entering the Commonwealth.

Much later in November 2009, at a round table dinner in Port of Spain, Ramphal returned to this subject, clearly close to his heart. He then told the Commonwealth summit why Ireland should ‘come home’. I will not go into the detail of what he said as you can read his speech on the Reform website.

Read it and then come back and give us one reason why we should not return. Perhaps we should also ask our youth who have found new homes and jobs in Commonwealth countries. Lastly, let’s ask our politicians, not one of whom has given me a reason why we are not in the modern Commonwealth. Could it be that anglophobia still stalks the corridors of Leinster House?

Elliott in appeal to Republic over Commonwealth

News Letter – Thursday 1 March 2012

ULSTER Unionist leader Tom Elliott will outline his reasons why the Republic should consider re-joining the Commonwealth in a landmark speech in Dublin later this month.

The UUP chief will be the guest speaker at an event in Trinity College to mark International Commonwealth Day on March 12.

Mr Elliott is expected to focus on the successful and historic state visit of the Queen to the south last May and how the monarch was warmly received by the Irish public.

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Photograph: News Letter