Rejoin The Commonwealth?

 

Sir, - I am not at all convinced by any of the arguments being advanced by those who want us to rejoin the Commonwealth. In fact the arguments being made are so specious that I am left wondering what is the real reason behind this sudden charm offensive. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that 1999 is the 50th anniversary of the London Declaration and it would be a feather in someone's cap if we could be persuaded to return to the fold.

In anticipation of a hostile reaction to the proposal, great stress is being laid on the non-British nature of the organisation, with the Secretary General declaring during his recent visit that it is "no longer a relic of the British Empire". This, of course, is nonsense as everyone knows that a relic of the British Empire is precisely what it is. Strenuous efforts are also being made to play down the role of the British Queen as head of the organisation with words like "purely symbolic" and "titular" being bandied about. The facts are, however, that the Queen is Head of the Commonwealth and acts as such whenever the occasion demands, while 16 of its members recognise her as head of state.

Eamon de Valera's attitude to the Commonwealth has been raised. It is true that he did not seek to leave during his first period in power from 1932 to 1948 but, significantly, he did not seek to rejoin when he returned to power in 1951. I suspect that his attitude had more to do with his concept of external association (as propounded in Document No. 2) than with any firm conviction that membership was in our interests. Now Mr de Valera's grandson, Mr Eamon O'Cuiv, is arguing that we should rejoin on the grounds that it would accommodate the unionists in Northern Ireland when they decide to join us in a United Ireland. Apart from the pie-in-the-sky aspect of this argument, it has already been described as patronising by one prominent unionist, while unionists generally give me the distinct impression that they could not care less whether we rejoin or not. The fact that we were members for over 25 years after independence certainly seemed to be of little concern to them.

To rejoin the Commonwealth would be a backward step for us. It would undoubtedly send all the wrong signals to our partners on the European mainland because of Britain's ambivalent attitude to the EU. Moreover, in view of our proximity to Britain and the history of our relationship, membership of the Commonwealth would make it infinitely more difficult for us to maintain our separate identity, such as it is. - Yours etc., M. D. Kennedy,

Silchester Park, Glenageary, Co. Dublin.