The Republic needs to have a “rational and serious debate” about rejoining the Commonwealth, a member of the House of Lords has said.
Speaking at the launch of the first branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) in the Republic, Indian-born entrepreneur Lord Diljit Rana said any debate must not be "governed by historical distortion, but rather recognise the truth of today and recognise that the Republic of Ireland has much to offer and lots to receive.
"I have been associated with a group of people over the last number of years who firmly believe that the Republic of Ireland joining the Commonwealth would have considerable benefits, further improve relations with Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and be warmly welcomed by all Commonwealth countries, including . . . in particular [those] in the less developed world."
Lord Rana, born in the Punjab, has lived in Belfast since 1966.The lord is a property developer with interests in hotels, restaurants and office accommodation through his company Andras House.
The State left the Commonwealth in 1949 under the terms of the Republic of Ireland Act, when it became a republic.
Lord Rana said a senior Government minister had told him that he would have no objection to the Republic joining the Commonwealth but had to be convinced of the benefits of such a move.
The lord said there would be no disadvantage to the Republic joining the Commonwealth, “but it now requires a serious debate, in my view”.
He said that the economic benefits of being a member are apparent in Northern Ireland, where India is now the second biggest provider of foreign direct investment.
Former Ireland rugby international Trevor Ringland said the Republic should not get "uptight" about considering joining the Commonwealth.
“It is looking at the benefits of something that you guys in the past helped to shape.”
“[The Republic is] very much part of that family. You may not want to join the Commonwealth but right now there are massive benefits from recognising the relationship that you have.”
Mr Ringland said that athletes from the Republic could compete in the Commonwealth Games for Northern Ireland, as Barry McGuigan had done in the past.
The RCS has 78 branches worldwide in the 53 countries that make up the Commonwealth. It is a non-governmental organisation that aims to foster business and cultural links between the countries in the former British Empire.
The launch at the Mansion House was attended by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Cllr Christy Burke, the British ambassador Dominick Chilcott and the former British cabinet minister Lord Howell, who is president of the RCS.
Lord David Howell said some 21 million people of Irish origin live within the Commonwealth. He described the Commonwealth as a “zone of familiarity” which is above politics and “dare I say it, above history”.