Friday, 9 July 2010
Ar ais sa Chomhlathas? (as An tUltach, Meitheamh 2010) ('Ireland and the Commonwealth' - Léirmheas le Peader Cassidy)
Cnuasach aistí atá sa leabhar seo ina bpléitear le téama amháin: moltar caidreamh idir Éirinn agus an Chomhlathas Briotanach a dhaingniú agus cuirtear i láthair na buntáistí a bhéadh ann ach an scoilt eatarthu a dheisiú.
Bhí cuid de na hailt le scribhneoirí mór le rá mar Mary Kenny, Roy Garland, Bruce Arnold agus John-Paul McCarthy i gcló cheana féin.
Tugann siad léargas bríomhar ar na pearsantachtaí a bhí páirteach sa stair chorraitheach a bhaineann leis an cheist seo, Seán McBride, Éamonn De Valera agus Clement Attlee ina measc.
Cuireann Rob Bury síos ar an eachtra greanntraigéide a thit amach nuair a bhris an Comhrialtas amach ón Chomhlathas ceithre lá roimh an chinneadh i mí Aibreáin 1949 chun glacadh le pobhlachtaí sa Chomhlathas, mar shampla, an India.
Is suimniúil na hathruithe eile a tharla sa Chomhlathas ón uair sin i leith: tá 54 tir anois ann, 33 poblacht ina measc. Ar na stáit nua a tháinig isteach ann le déanaí tá an Afraic Theas (tar éis dóibh achar ama a chaitheamh taobh amuigh de), Mósaimbíc agus Ruanda.
Pléitear an cheist go huile is go hiomlán, agus tá athrá le mothú anseo is ansiúd sna scríbhinní. Is suntasach go bhfuil alt i nGaeilge ann.
Tá an leabhar beoga soléite fiú mura n-aontaíonn tú leis an pholasaí áirithe a chuirtear chun cinn ann. Tá creidiúint mhór ag dul don Reform Group as an leabhar a fhoilsiú; grúpa é nach bhfuil eagraithe go hoifigiúil go fóill ach a bhfuil suíomh idirlín acu; níl mórán maoinithe faighte acu ach oiread.
Bhí scaifte maithi i láthair nuair a seoladh an leabhar in Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann, Sráid Dawson, Baile Átha Cliath ar 11 Bealtaine 2010.
Mar aíonna an bhí an Seanadóir David Norris, Roy Garland, gníomhaí síochána agus colúnaí leis an Irish News agus Geoffrey Roberts, Ollamh le Stair in Ollscoil Náisiúnta na hÉireann, Corcaigh.
Labhair an Seanadóir Norris go fuinniúil ag maoimh gur comhartha aibíochta againne sa tir seo an ceangai leis an Chomlathas a phlé, go bhfuil trí phoblacht is tríocha san eagras cheana féin agus mar bharr áir sin go bhfuil gaol ag Banríon Eilis II le Brian Ború agus Eoin Ruadh Ó Néill.
Rinne Roy Garland cur síos ar scéal a mhuintire féin i saol corraitheach an Tuaiscirt. Chonaic sé an t-amhras agus an naimhdeas roimh Phoblacht na hÉireann: dar leis, beidh Aontachtaithe doicheallach i leith na Poblachta go dtí go ndéanfar athmhachnamh ar cheis an Chomhlathais.
I measc na ndaoine eile a bhí i láthair bhí Elizabeth Green, Príomhrúnaí Ambasáid na Breataine, Antoinette Rademan, Comhairleoir Ambasáid na hAfraice Theas agus Barbara Fitzgerald, iar-Uachtarán an Irish Association.
Bhí ionadaithe as Fine Gael i láthair freisin. Tá an leabhar ar fáil ar an idirlíon ar €10. (http://reformblog.blogspot.com)
(as An tUltach, Meitheamh 2010)
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Reform Group Letter in today's Irish Times, Irish Examiner and Irish Independent about Queen's visit
Reform, which has been working for better relations between Ireland and Britain for years, warmly welcomes the proposals for the forthcoming visit as an expression of better relations between our two states. The visit would mark a further logical step of the Belfast Agreement, as Alban Maginness, SDLP, just said.
We have no doubt that the great majority of Irish people will extend a warm welcome to Queen Elizabeth, just as they did to her grandfather George V 100 years ago next year. Her visit will reflect the sense of a coming-together between the two traditions on our island, and between the peoples of these islands. – Yours, etc,
ROBIN BURY, ROY GARLAND
The Reform Group,
Killiney, Co Dublin.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
The Hansard Record of the debate is here: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/reports2007/070514.htm
The motion on rejoining the CPA was put forward by Rev. Dr. Robert Coulter MLA:
"That this Assembly agrees to re-apply for admission to membership of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, such membership to be effective immediately on approval of the application by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and to abide by the provisions of the constitution of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association; that the required membership fee be paid to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association; and that this motion be communicated to the secretariat of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association immediately following agreement.
The debate was notable for a number of reasons, not least as Sinn Fein did not oppose rejoining the CPA. Mitchell McLaughlin MLA, speaking for Sinn Fein stated:
"Sinn Féin will not vote against the motion. As Members will understand, although the issue is not a matter of primary interest to Sinn Féin, it will not set up any obstacles or cause difficulties for Members who feel that the motion reflects their cultural, political and social affinities."
The question on the motion was then put to the Northern Ireland Assembly and agreed to.
Hopefully the day will come before too long when Dail Eireann follows suit!
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
He refers to the launch of Reform's new Ireland and the Commonwealth book and points out that
"Ireland has never been as harmoniously close as to the UK as it is now, and we should never have left the loose association of the Commonwealth, especially since we helped to design the actual thing with Kevin O'Higgins, way back after our independence -- and in tandem with it."
Delaney also argues:
"Rejoining the Commonwealth would in fact help to bridge the gulf of partition which has actually grown since the peace process. "
The whole article - entitled "Rejoining the Commonwealth Club? C'mon it'll be great sport" - is available on the Sunday Independent website - it's certainly a very interesting contribution to the ongoing debate and is well worth reading in full.
Friday, 21 May 2010
Senator David Norris helped launch the book. Also present at the launch were Northern Ireland commentator Roy Garland, along with Rob Bury from the Reform Group and a number of other invited guests.
The Belfast Telegraph have published an article covering the Dublin launch of the new book.
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
Monday, 29 March 2010
The book can be ordered online by clicking here.
Here are some excerpts from Philip Johnston's Daily Telegraph article covering the launch - the full article can be read on the Daily Telegraph website: Could Ireland really rejoin the Commonwealth?
Easter holds a special place in the history of Ireland. In 1916, the insurrection known as the Easter Rising paved the way for the country's partition and a bloody civil conflict. In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement marked the end of the Provisional IRA's war with the British state and the beginnings of a process that has resulted in the two extremes in Ulster politics coming together to share power.
It was also at Easter, in 1949 – some 27 years after the Free State was established as a dominion under the Anglo-Irish Treaty – that the Irish republic was born. At the same time, Ireland left the Commonwealth in a final breach with Britain, though Eamon de Valera, the man most associated with the cause of Irish independence, opposed this démarche. He refused even to attend the celebrations to mark the republic, and later said he would preferred to have retained the link with the Commonwealth.
Unlikely as it may sound, there is a growing campaign for Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth. A pamphlet launched today by The Reform Group argues that such a move would be seen as a significant gesture of reconciliation towards the Unionist community of Northern Ireland. The Reform Group describes itself as a Unionist movement in the tradition of John Redmond, the Irish leader whose efforts to secure home rule within the British Empire were thwarted by the onset of the First World War.
Campaigners believe that were Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth, it would draw a line under the troubled history of Anglo-Irish relations and help develop a pluralist Ireland comfortable with its different identities and turbulent past. There is a strong argument, too, that Ireland's self-interest would also be served by being part of the Commonwealth, which is a world forum with links to many other institutions.....
Sixty years on, there is no obvious barrier to Ireland following suit, and many arguments in favour – not least its common heritage with many members (there is an Irish diaspora of some 40 million living in Commonwealth countries)."
Monday, 25 January 2010
The Angelus chimes broadcasted several times daily on RTE, the Irish State funded broadcasting system, remind the Roman Catholic faithful to recall and perhaps to recite a traditional Roman Catholic prayer. The prayer recalls the annunciation of the good news of the impending birth of the Saviour Jesus Christ to the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary. The prayer reminds Roman Catholics of the high position of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic pantheon and of the honour due to her. RC people often describe the BVM as and address her in prayer as the “Mother of God” particularly in the “Hail Mary” prayer which is an integral part of the “Angelus” prayer. RC dogma teaches infallibly that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived immaculately, that she is uniquely free from original sin, and that she was assumed body and soul into heaven after her earthly life was complete. For Roman Catholic people, the Blessed Virgin Mary is Queen of Heaven and has legendary powers of intercession with the Deity.
The Angelus chimes were not present on the Irish broadcasting system from the beginning. The bells began in the Holy Year 1950. Broadcasting the bells was suggested by the Roman Catholic Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared infallibly that the doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven was an obligatory belief for the Roman Catholic faithful.
Perhaps the introduction of the broadcast Angelus bells marked the high point of the Roman Catholic Irish sense of “difference” from and “religious superiority” over other people living in the British Isles. The Republic of Ireland had been declared on 21st December 1948. The monarchy had been abolished and the last vestiges of the Dominion status Irish Free State finally ended. The Irish Republic left the British Commonwealth. The UK Government passed the Ireland Act 1949 to recognise these facts. In a remarkable act of kindness and pragmatism, Irish people were not to be regarded as aliens in the UK. The UK's Ireland Act also gave a legislative guarantee that Northern Ireland would continue to remain a part of the United Kingdom unless the parliament of Northern Ireland formally expressed a wish to join a United Ireland.
Was the new Republic of Ireland not very much an “Irish Catholic state for an Irish Catholic people” at first? Perhaps the worst fears of the Northern Irish Unionist people had been confirmed in 1950. The Irish Free State had demonstrated by adopting the 1937 Constitution that “Home Rule was Rome Rule”. The introduction of the Angelus bells on Radio Eireann in 1950 was highly symbolic therefore. Ireland was a Roman Catholic country. The views of others simply did not count.
Broadcasting the Angelus bells is regarded as a sectarian act by some Protestant people in Ireland. Spokespeople for RTE deny this, but as I have attempted to explain above, the bells are symbolic and invite people to consider a uniquely Roman Catholic prayer based on uniquely Roman Catholic dogma. How can this broadcast NOT be sectarian therefore?
Coming from a Roman Catholic background, the theological issues involved are not strange or unusual for me. But, I find the lack of respect for the beliefs of those in other faith groups, whether intended or not, both disturbing and of course incompatible with the diverse multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multi-racial nation Ireland always was but much more obviously so now. A State-funded broadcaster has no business promoting the interests of one faith group over and above any other in a non-sectarian state.
I find the broadcast Angelus bells remind me of an Ireland I would rather forget. They remind me of an Ireland of poverty, division, ignorance, intolerance, prejudice, violence, aggression, constant economic difficulties and emigration. They remind me of a dictatorial RC Hierarchy. They remind me of an Ireland in which the RC Church and State worked hand in hand. They remind me of an Irish State whose founding political ethos of self-styled, selfless sacrifice even unto death for ideas of freedom which turned out to be less than the pre-existing freedoms enjoyed by Irish people and which gave rise to an on-going culture of violent aggression against and hatred towards friendly neighbours and towards all those who saw things differently. They remind me of an Ireland based on the fascist values of family, work, fatherland and faith rather than the true values of the enlightenment - liberty, equality and fraternity. They remind me of an Ireland which denied rights to children, which denied women and men rights to divorce, contraception and abortion and which denied rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. They remind me of an Ireland whose legislators viewed everything from a Roman Catholic moral and social perspective and where the secret influence of a Bishop could scupper legislation.
I find myself increasingly offended by these minutes of free advertising for a religious organization so badly in need of internal reform. Very unwillingly, the hierarchy of Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has revealed great shortcomings in internal governance. The RC laity in Ireland has no say whatsoever. RC bishops are summoned to Rome to consider the future of the Irish Church but Rome has invited neither victims’ representatives nor any lay people to this dialogue so far. Accountability would not appear to be on the agenda. True internal reform of the RC church appears as far away as ever. The Angelus bells on RTE remind me daily of the emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual abuse so many Irish people and others around the world have endured from this flawed dictatorial organization. How sad that very important religious beliefs based originally on concepts of love, hope and faith in an all-loving all-forgiving creator and love and respect for neighbors have been brought into such disrepute by the actions of a few!
Should the RTE Angelus bells be phased out gradually or ended?
I would suggest either course of action is appropriate now. Announcing cessation of the Angelus may give rise to determined opposition from a small minority. Perhaps a gradual omission of the Angelus might be best. Let discussions overrun or music play into the time allocated for the bells and just forget to play them. RTE might just forget to include “The Angelus” in program scheduling from time to time and then drop it completely.
Another solution might be to consider consolidation of the Angelus broadcasting time and eventually using the new space for a “Thought for the Day” given by people from various faiths and from humanist and atheist backgrounds.
25th January 2010.
Thursday, 21 January 2010
The following is the text of a fascinating and relevant speech entitled "Ireland: Time to Come Home" delivered by the former Commonwealth Secretary-General (1975-1990) and Foreign Minister of Guyana (1972-1975) Sir Shridath Ramphal, at the Round Table Dinner on the occasion of the 2009 Commonwealth Summit in Port of Spain.
If you find this speech interesting, you may also like to visit the comprehensive website of the Ramphal Centre for Commonwealth Studies - which helps to promote the essential values of the Commonwealth; good governance, economic development and social justice around the world.
Mr Chairman, Members of the Round Table, Commonwealth kin –
May I be permitted to begin – despite our sequestration on the Campus of the University – by extending in absentia to Her Majesty and Prince Philip the warmest of welcomes to the Caribbean, and invite you to join me in a toast to the Head of the Commonwealth and her Consort: THE QUEEN!
Next, let me say in a preliminary way that when invited to speak after dinner I was not circumscribed in any way by theme or issue – a luxury I do not often enjoy. I intend, therefore to speak to a matter that has long been on my mind and which I may not have again as good an opportunity to raise. It is eminently relevant to the 60th anniversary of the birth of the modern Commonwealth in 1949 and, I invite you to agree, to the Commonwealth’s years beyond 60. To that end, I have called these remarks (which I assure you will not detain you beyond legitimate post-prandial allowance : IRELAND: TIME TO COME HOME. But, before that, there are some linked observations.
When Richard Bourne first approached me about this evening’s Dinner I was frankly hesitant: an instinct about old wine and new wineskins made me pause. But reflection trumped instinct. The Round Table after all is an even older bottle than my wine; and it is the Round Table with whom I am here to dine. In any case, if I might stay with my metaphoric wine, the Commonwealth is like vintage port , its intrinsic quality doesn’t alter with changing decanters. So here I am, on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting – if it still is that - in my native Caribbean, thanking you for asking me. And I do sincerely thank you; for if the Commonwealth is a ‘Club’ –as African member states insistently describe it - the Round Table comes close to being an unofficial patron, and like any good patron, never far from the Commonwealth’s fortunes.
The eve of your Centennial is a proud time and I am happy to share it with you. 1910 was worlds away. That you can rightly boast of being Britain’s oldest international affairs Journal tells not only a story of your vintage, but also of the eras that have come and gone since the Round table first convened. And in all that changing time you have kept faith and focus with the Commonwealth idea in all of its evolving modes; helping, indeed, to shape them through the rigour of intellectual analysis and commentary.
To have done that for a hundred years is a huge accomplishment; and I am sure that through all your time of celebration you will be recalling the stalwarts that founded and presided in myriad ways over the affairs of the Round Table – and of your trusteeship of their legacy. In my time in Marlborough House I was ever grateful for the Round Table’s contribution to the Commonwealth project. It is a dimension of Commonwealth affairs whose absence we would bemoan were it not there. I wish, of course, that the Journal is more widely disseminated – particularly in the rest of the Commonwealth; but since this is a wish I assume you share, I expect its fulfillment is a work in progress.
This year, the Commonwealth has been celebrating its own Jubilee within those hundred years – 60 years of the modern Commonwealth – 60 years of a Commonwealth experience made possible by the wisdom that prevailed among Commonwealth leaders in 1949 – as the Round Table itself neared 40. The Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty the Queen, held a celebratory Reception this year to mark the occasion, and we had the pleasure of looking at the original photographs of the 1949 Prime Ministers grouped around King George VI. The Secretary-General (along with Emeka Anyaoku and me) were photographed with Her Majesty at the same spot in the Palace where that earlier photograph had been taken with her father 60 years earlier. I took the opportunity of assuring Her Majesty, of the awareness of many of the quiet role the King had played in 1949 in facilitating that enlightened decision of leaders of the quality of Clement Atlee, Jawaharalal Nehru, Lester Pearson (not yet Prime Minister) and their colleagues.
I have spoken elsewhere of that April Declaration and its making of the modern Commonwealth; members of the Round Table need no reminder of that moment of great vision, but as we dine tonight we should lift a glass to that moment when the Commonwealth faced with a turning in the road took the ‘path less travelled by’ and by doing so made all the difference to the future of the Commonwealth, and in a small way, to the future of the world. Such moments do not come often in the affairs of nations, and more rarely still, such an impeccably right choice. It is a time to remember the enlightenment of the great men who made it – both in Downing Street and in the Palace. And in remembering, let us be encouraged to look out for other turnings in the road, and other roads less travelled by, which taken might lead to lush pastures for the Commonwealth.
The April Declaration in this sense was a moment of pleasure; but, Shelley was right, sometimes ‘our sincerest laughter with some little pain is fraught’. And it is on this that I would like to dwell a little; for the pain lingers and can, and I believe should, be relieved. I talk of Ireland – not, I know, on the Agenda of the Port of Spain Meeting, and not in our minds 60 years after it left the Commonwealth; for this year marks the Jubilee of that event too.
Four days before the London Summit opened in April 1949 Ireland had left Commonwealth, baulking at ‘alleigance’ to the Crown and assuming Commonwealth membership to be incompatible with Republican Status. That the Republic of Ireland Act was passed in December 1948 but only brought into force four days before the London Summit opened, suggests however that that assumption may not have been unquestioned in Dublin. In other words, for the new Irish Republic, leaving the Commonwealth was not so much a legal necessity (a necessary implication of becoming a Republic) but a deliberate political choice. And, of course, my point tonight, is that political choices are never for all time.
I must say a little more, however; and some of it really is ironic. Historically, the Irish Free State helped to make the modern Commonwealth possible through its contributions to the Imperial Conferences of 1926 and 1930 which gave the Commonwealth legal definition. The insistent and constructive efforts of the Cosgrave Government were central to both the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster of 1931. In 1926 both South Africa and the Irish Free State claimed credit for securing the definition of ‘Dominion Status’. To the statement of General Hertzog on his return to South Africa: ’We have brought home the bacon’; the Irish Representative Kevin O’Higgins is reported to have commented: ‘Irish bacon’. And so too was the Statute of Westminster. Nicholas Mansergh was actually shown the desk in Dublin where the Statute was said to have been drafted. The point is, Ireland played a major role in moving the Commonwealth to modernity. But the sticking point still was ‘alleigance’
Not surprisingly, when in 1948 India decided to become a Republic but wished to remain in the Commonwealth, it was to Dublin’s long efforts to work out appropriate forms that it turned; and this time the whole Commonwealth and its future direction benefited. In a sense, all India did was to declare her intention to become a Republic, express her wish to remain in the Commonwealth and her acceptance of the King as the symbol of the free association of the Commonwealth’s independent member states and, as such, Head of the Commonwealth.
But a sea change had occurred. The effect of the April Declaration was to replace allegiance to the Crown as the criterion of Commonwealth membership with the much more modest acceptance of the King, later the Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth. Today, Commonwealth Heads of Government meet in a Republic in the Caribbean. This apparently simple change removed at one stroke the legal objection that had caused the Irish Republic’s withdrawal a week earlier; but whether it would have made Ireland’s continued membership likely had it come earlier is another matter entirely.
Sean MacBride’s view – and he was Ireland’s Foreign Minister at time (Minister for External Affairs in the Inter-Party Government - when I asked him the question many years later, was decidedly negative. He explained that, In fact, the date for bringing the Republic of Ireland Act into force had been long set for Easter Day 1949, viz., 18 April; the convening of the London Summit on 22 April simply galvanized Dublin into not letting the date slip. Republicans, like MacBride wanted no reason to arise that might encourage second thoughts. The truth was, that the long and troubled relationship between Dublin and London and the powerful symbolism of the Crown, despite the disappearance of ‘allegiance’, was not enough at that time to stay the process of withdrawal from the Commonwealth. Yet, 60 years later, Dublin’s fear that Commonwealth membership might tarnish its independence has not been the experience of other Commonwealth countries, the great majority of them republics. Rather the opposite. Nehru, himself arch-nationalist and republican, described Commonwealth membership as ‘independence plus’.
Six decades later, when some of the wounds of the troubles are healing under the influence of Dublin and London working together; when the Queen as the symbolic Head of the Commonwealth has demonstrated beyond question that the Commonwealth’s Republics are as one with any other; when the Commonwealth is opening up its membership to newcomers who share none of the historic ties that bind Ireland to so many of us; is it perhaps time to tell Ireland that nothing but welcome awaits her in the Commonwealth when she feels ready to come home.
I thought that the Caribbean might not be so bad a place to raise this matter in that there is a kinship with Ireland whose roots go deep in history – deep in the conjunctures between the experience of Ireland and that of many of the countries of the Commonwealth. The ‘provinces’ in the beginning were not so very different from the colonies of settlement. When I read, for example, that Lord Montgomery’s family background was in ‘the Plantation’ – a plantation as much human as agricultural – we are on common ground. My forbears from India were indentured to the plantations of British Guiana, where ‘plantation’ meant colonization, as well a human transplantation to a form of servitude.
So let me end with a conjuncture of a lighter kind. When, in 1837, the Guiana sugar planters were pressing for British government acquiescence in bringing indentured workers from India, they used as part of their argument the allegation that labourers imported from elsewhere, including ‘Ireland’, had not proved suitable “ from the influence of the climate generally producing reluctance to labour, and increasing the Desire for Spirituous Liquors, which the low Price and abundance of new Rum enables them to gratify”. I quote from a letter from Sir John Gladstone, the father of England’s future Prime Minister.
My ancestors went to Guyana’s sugar plantations as a result of that letter – whence by indirection I come to you tonight. Lest the Irish in Guyana be defamed, let me add that it was not so much the indentured labourers – from Ireland or elsewhere – who gratified a desire for ‘Spirituours Liquors’, but the sugar planters themselves who made famous that most potent of tonics – the ‘Demerara rum swizzle’ – the progenitor of the ‘West Indian Rum Punch’, which I hope you have enjoyed copiously in Port of Spain.
It is time these Commonwealth conjunctures with Ireland and the Irish fulfilled their innate destiny.
Where better to say this that to the Round Table - and in the Caribbean !
(Port of Spain, 27th November 2009)
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
2009 marked the 60th anniversary of Ireland's departure from the Commonwealth, and many Reform members were enthusiastically involved in this year's campaign to encourage Ireland to now consider returning to the Commonwealth.
A joint letter to the Irish Times set out some of the main reasons to consider rejoining, and was signed by leading public figures from all parts of Ireland and these islands - including Alliance Party Leader David Ford MLA, PUP leader Dawn Purvis MLA, Lord Rana, Senator Eoghan Harris and academics such as Professor Brice Dickson and Professor Geoffrey Roberts:
"Ireland’s membership of the Commonwealth would, we are sure, be welcomed by the unionist community in Northern Ireland as a significant gesture of reconciliation. It would add to the collaborative framework established by the Belfast and St Andrew’s agreements. It would demonstrate unequivocally that the Republic has finally drawn a line under the troubled history of Anglo-Irish relations that led to Ireland’s self-exclusion from the Commonwealth 60 years ago. It would represent a further important step along the road to a pluralist Ireland in which different identities are recognised and respected, a country that celebrates its multi-cultural heritage and diverse history."
Reform has now published a new book, bringing together a collection of articles, speeches and reports by prominent academics, authors and political commentators on the important question of whether or not Ireland should return to the Commonwealth.
The book includes articles by: Bruce Arnold, Amitav Banerji, Robin Bury, John Erskine, Roy Garland, Gordon Lucy, Mary Kenny, Prof. Robert Martin, Dr. Martin Mansergh TD, Andrew MacKinlay MP, John-Paul McCarthy, Prof. Geoff Roberts and others.
Many of the contributors are in favour of rejoining - although the book also includes a speech by Dr. Martin Mansergh TD arguing that Ireland should not rejoin.
Reform hopes that this new book will be a timely and interesting contribution to the ongoing debate on Commonwealth membership.
The book costs just £10 and can be ordered online through this link.
Sunday, 22 March 2009
Both President McAleese and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern have called for debate on Irish re-entry into this international organisation. Given Ireland's pivotal role in building and shaping the modern Commonwealth between 1922 and 1948, it seems a real pity that Irish influence has been missing since our departure from the Commonwealth in 1949.
Ireland's diplomatic efforts during the 1920s and 1930s helped ensure that the Commonwealth grew into the uniquely inspiring global organisation it is today - a free association of independent, democratic states, committed to racial equality, human rights, sustainable development and the rule of law. Of the 54 countries belonging to the Commonwealth, 33 are independent republics.
Upon gaining independence in 1922, Ireland played an enormous role in the transformation of the Commonwealth into an association of free, independent, democratic states.
In the 1920s the Irish Free State worked together with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to press for the Statute of Westminster (1926) which recognised Commonwealth countries as entirely independent, and not in any way subject to each other or to Westminster.
This placed Dail Eireann, along with the Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African Parliaments, on an absolutely equal footing with Westminster in the counsels of the Commonwealth.
This was a very significant achievement by Ireland's fledgling independent government and really helped lay the groundwork for the evolution of the modern Commonwealth. It meant that once many African and Asian countries gained their independence after World War Two, they were welcomed into the Commonwealth as equal partners.
Former Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku has stated that
"It is clear that Ireland would be a very welcome member of today's Commonwealth, given the country's strong belief in democracy and its international commitment to human rights and sustainable development. Ireland's links with many Commonwealth members are good and Irish women and men have made important contributions in all regions of the world."
Rejoining the Commonwealth would also help supplement Ireland's existing diplomatic efforts as an active member of both the European Union and the United Nations. Many nations with whom Ireland has developed a particularly close partnership - such as Lesotho to whom Ireland is the largest international donator of economic assistance - are long-standing members of the Commonwealth.
Chaired by Irish News columnist and NI peace activist Roy Garland, the debate features an impressive line-up of high-profile guest speakers.
Contributors include Amitav Banerji (the Commonwealth's director of political affairs), Dr Martin Mansergh (Minister of State at the Department of Finance), Priscilla Jana (the South African Ambassador to Ireland) and Irish Times columnist John Waters.
Friday, 18 July 2008
fascinate me. Here is my "wish list" of changes I would like to see in
Ireland. Although I am a London resident, I feel I have some interest in the
place. I was born and brought up in Dublin. The official name of my
adopted country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland. Some of my tax money goes to Ireland therefore !
1. Ireland in the here and now - History is history !!
Is too much attention paid to history in Ireland? I would like to see the
present needs of all Irish people wherever they live being attended to.
Perhaps some consideration might be paid to potential future needs as well even?
I believe history is best left to historians. We do not live in the past and we do live now. We are all entitled to read a book or article of
course. We will all form an individual view depending on who we are and
where we come from. I don't feel we should behave badly towards others
because of a book though. I have always felt how little I know really when I
look at the pages of notes and bibliography in history books.
I have friends in both Germany and Poland. I have been looking lately at the
details of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany
September 12, 1990 and the Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany
and the Republic of Poland on the confirmation of the frontier between them
which was signed on November 14, 1990 and entered into force with the
exchange of the instruments of ratification on 16 January 1992. The Germans
dropped claims to their former territories east of the Oder Neisse line in
return for the reunification of Germany and the formal ending of the post
1945 4 power occupation. Both Germany and Poland and the people of both states have moved on.
The 1998 agreement between the UK and Ireland is similar. Ireland has
dropped claims to Northern Ireland. Now, Ireland can and should move on. If
I may say so, and perhaps not everyone would agree, I believe the Great
Britain part of the UK has always tended to live in the present and
consequently has moved on already.
I would like to see all discussions take place in an atmosphere of
politeness, tolerance and mutual respect. So many Irish discussions seem
acrimonious and discourteous sometimes. Irish individuals sometimes appear
to have an almost religious zeal about converting others to their point of
view. This is so unnecessary when diversity of viewpoint is so much more
interesting and valuable.
All Irish people, regardless of origin should have their cultural identity
respected. Do Irish people of British origin feel fully respected in the ROI?
3. ROI new constitution.
I would like to see the ROI write a new constitution. There are so many
amendments now. The 1937 document is too much a document of its time. The
amy sense of this need. The highly technical Lisbon document appears to hold
few of the dangers within it which the ROI No campaign seized on. Would a
Dail vote not have been more appropriate on these issues? Did the Dail
debate the Lisbon Treaty in any detail ?
4. Voice for Irish Diaspora in Irish affairs.
Voices have been raised recently in England questioning the Irish right to
vote in UK affairs. Do Irish citizens living overseas have rights to vote
where they live in all cases?
I would like to see Irish people wherever they live given a right to be
represented in the Oireachtas. After all, those of us living overseas carry
the burden of Irish silliness as well as the kudos of Irish achievements. As
citizens of the ROI, we ought to have some say really. The Senate might be
an appropriate place for such representation rather than the Dail. I would
like to see senators elected directly by the Diapora. Diaspora Senators
ought to be elected by proportional representation from constituencies of
registered overseas Irish citizens similar in size to Dail
constituencies. Irish citizens resident overseas would have the freedom to
exercise a right to register to vote either directly with the Dept of
Foreign Affairs in Dublin or with Irish Diplomatic missions overseas. Only
citizens registered in advance would have the right to vote. Diaspora Senate
elections would take place at the same time as Dail elections. Irish
citizens overseas would have a right to stand as candidates for Diaspora
Senate seats as well.
5. Ending Irish Neutrality.
Ireland has enjoyed a free ride on defence since 1922. In reality, the UK
(including Northern Ireland), the USA and NATO have defended Ireland all
this time. What does neutrality mean these days? Ireland has such close ties
with the USA, the UK, Canada and Western Europe I believe Ireland should
shoulder a little of the defence burden.
Rejoin ! The Commonwealth is a fine club and membership would be a natural
step for a grown-up Ireland to take. Ireland has such close ties with so
many Commonwealth countries, membership ought to be natural really.
7. Irish territorial re-unification - put it on the long finger !
Reunification is only possible if the people of Northern Ireland wish it.
ROI Irish people have recognised the Irish border officially and
therefore ought to forget about reunification unless political changes in
NI indicate any change there. I am sure everyone would agree the prospect of
such change remains purely hypothetical just now. Nonetheless, perhaps the
ROI might bear in mind at every official level, that NI folk need to be
respected and that legislating for unnecessary difference merely for the
sake of it, is divisive.The status given to the Irish language and Republican iconography may come into that category.
But, in the unlikely event of NI voting for re-unification, as the 2 parts of Ireland have grown so seperate since 1922, my suggestion would be that
only a formal change in sovereignty in Northern Ireland would actually
take place. I would suggest that any Dublin Government taking over
sovereignty of NI from the UK would do well to leave the internal structures
within NI unchanged with any internal change also taking place only if the people of NI wished it. I would envisage the NI Westminster MPs transferring
to the Dail and the UK Government taking over the current role played by the
Irish Government within NI. A sort of "role reversal" might take place
therefore. I would expect suitable transitional financial and other
arrangements would be agreed by the ROI and UK governments without too much
8. Republican Iconography.
Yes - by all means please remove the cult of Republican hero-worship and of
the cult of Republican violence from the official ROI state ideology. This
development would bring about a healthier ROI. I cannot see how the British
who live on the island of Ireland are respected fully when the official
culture of the ROI lauds those who sought and, in a few psychopathic cases,
still seek to kill them. Too many Irish people have suffered because of
these evil cults. De-mythologise the cults and place them in a proper
historical context and keep them there I say ! Russia has removed communist
iconography and Germany has been de-nazified. Germany no longers identifies
with its imperial past either, nor do Austria, Hungary or Turkey. Spain no
longer appears to value the Franco years.The UK takes little official pride
in its imperial past these days and acknowledges imperial shortcomings
openly. Italy accords little respect to Mussolini. France has consigned its
north African colonial adventures to history. Why does neutral peace-loving
Ireland with its horror of joining NATO still feel any need to honour those who preached violence and whose memory continues to inspire violent
attitudes amongst the ill-educated and those with psychopathic personalities
towards the people of its nearest neighbour?
We live in 2008, not 1912.
Friday, 4 April 2008
Radio reports on Irish Protestant culture recently have forced the maggots out from under their rocks. As soon as you think perhaps Irish Protestants might just been getting enough guff to stand up from themselves once again, something happens which has a negative effect and acts to put us back in our place. The RTE documentary on the murders at Coolacrsse sparked a lively debate, and while the good-amount of logical and rational people who spoke out about it was refreshing, there was the enviable bunch of republican apologists, armed to the teeth with their revisionism and their emotional blackmail which silenced the majority. The whole debate quickly fell into nothing more than an anti-Protestant smear campaign. Old habits die hard it seems. Another RTE Radio 1 report on Irish Protestant culture brought about the very same result and while attending a function for my local parish I had the oppturnity to speak to an ex Roman Catholic who spoke of the abuse she’d be at the end of for her conversion. It seems, even on a purely religious basis, the Irish people are not, under any circumstances allowed to go to the “dark side”. To do so is the ultimate sin and act of betrayal. Another radio report on Irish soldiers in HM Armed Forces, about to be deployed to Afghanistan recently ended in the very same way. It would seem that on some small level, it is ok for Northern Irish Protestants to be who they are, but Southern Protestants are expected to toe the line or suffer the inevitable barrage of insults and ridicule.
Where’s the “maturity”?
Sunday, 2 March 2008
“I mean the traces on Tara are in the grass, are in the earth - they aren’t spectacular like temple ruins would be in the Parthenon in Greece but they are about origin, they’re about beginning, they’re about the mythological, spiritual source - a source and a guarantee of something old in the country and something that gives the country its distinctive spirit.”
“I think it literally desecrates an area - I mean the word means to de-sacralise and for centuries the Tara landscape and the Tara sites have been regarded as part of the sacred ground,” he said.
I know that for most Northern Unionists one of the things they admire most about the Irish Republic is its booming economy and entrepreneurial spirit - yet as a southerner living in the North I was also often questioned about the changes in values which have gone alongside this economic growth.
Preserving our shared environment strikes me as one of those things where almost all nationalists and unionists would agree - just like the way all parties, from SF to DUP agree on the need to keep nuclear power plants out of Ireland.
The environment is one of those issues which really does transcend political boundaries - both north/south and east/west. After all the history of Tara goes back through the millenniums, far far predating the modern differences between Ireland's unionist and nationalist traditions.
The whole debate about this proposed motorway strikes me as a false dichotomy between Ireland's past and future, as though the two cannot be reconciled. Supporters of the motorway paint their opponents as fuddy-duddy environmentalists, lost in the past. But why do we have to destroy the past to embrace the future? This makes no sense to me.
In my mind, I'm all for prosperity and progress and like most other southern unionists I take great pride in the progress of our Irish Republic in recent years, yet I cannot for the life of me fathom the logic of destroying an ancient part of our history and heritage just to knock five or ten minutes off of the commute to Dublin.
(this post, like all others on this blog, reflects the views of the author and not necessarily the views of other Reform members or of the Reform Movement as a whole - let us know your own views using the comments section!)