Home rule and the Commonwealth


Sir, – Dr Brian P Murphy (“Democratic path would not have brought independence”, Opinion & Analysis, March 30th) misses the point of John Bruton’s argument in favour of home rule and a peaceful and democratic transition to Irish independence. A home rule Ireland would have been a stepping stone towards full independence – thus achieving the desired goal without the violence and deaths of 1916, the War of Independence and the Civil War.

I expect Dr Murphy is also an opponent of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty but it, too, was a limited form of independence. Ireland was established as a self-governing dominion within the British Empire, King George V remained head of state and members of the Irish parliament were required to sign an oath of allegiance. Greater independence was then achieved, peacefully and by degrees. Under the 1931 Statute of Westminster all the dominions became sovereign states. In 1937 Ireland adopted a new constitution, and in 1949 declared itself a republic and left the Commonwealth.

The 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty did secure more independence for Ireland than home rule would have done.

But we must question whether that difference justified thousands of deaths and all the negative consequences that have arisen from the violent events of 1916-1923.

I don’t think so.

Dr Murphy mentions in passing the view held by myself and others that Ireland should rejoin the Commonwealth – an act that we believe would deepen the fraternal relations of all the peoples of these islands. It seems to me that in the event of Brexit, it would be highly expedient for the Irish government to consider this option as a means of mitigating the impact on Anglo-Irish relations of Britain leaving the EU.

More importantly, Ireland’s membership of the Commonwealth would reinforce the powerful message of this centenary year that while the country does bow to its history, it is not bound by it. – Yours, etc,



School of History,

University College Cork.