‘Senator Frank Feighan: rejoin the Commonwealth’ by Tom Cooper


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The Irish state formally left the British Commonwealth in 1949 with the establishment of the Republic of Ireland. At that time, this policy was seen as a natural further step in the direction of a fully sovereign Irish state, separate from Great Britain. Today, a full 67 years later, there are Irish figures of the political and journalistic elite, like newly appointed senator Frank Feighan (Is it now time for Ireland to consider rejoining the Commonwealth?, June 21st) calling for the restoration of the Commonwealth link. These voices and demands fall into two categories.

Firstly, there are those who sincerely, but somewhat foolishly think that British Commonwealth restoration could actually favour nationalist Ireland with regard to the North, and to possible future re-unification! The second category consist of the ‘usual suspects’; that small, unrepresentative, Anglo-centric neo-unionist minority, wishing to restore the ‘British Dimension’ to the 26 county state and appear to have influence out of all proportion to their actual size. This is the category I associate Mr Feighan with. But what would the Irish political landscape look like if we were to reverse the 1949 decision and rejoin? We need to examine this issue seriously as there are indications, quite apart from Senator Feighan’s propaganda piece, that attempts may be made on this issue over the coming years. It may be tempting to dismiss those who espouse Mr Feighan’s political views as cranks and malcontents, but this would be a mistake. These people slavishly peddle the most mendacious British propaganda and are in the process of attempting to deconstruct the Irish state and restore a British dimension.

One thing must always be kept in mind though, despite the machinations of Senator Feighan and others of the political elite, there is no significant degree of support amongst the population for British Commonwealth re-entry. Senator Feighan is big on assumptions and small on fact. He claims that there is widespread feeling that we should forge closer links with the UK – maybe even rejoin the Commonwealth, yet fails to produce any evidence of research or polls to support such a claim. I further suspect this is more a case of reincorporation into the UK than the Commonwealth. Rejoining the Commonwealth would be a backward and retrograde step. It would have the effect of gradually “re-Britishing” the Irish state and it would amount to a rejection of the separatist aspect of Irish nationalism. What would be the consequences if the Irish state were to rejoin the British Commonwealth?

The direct link between the Irish state and the British Crown, severed in 1949, would be restored. Because the British monarch is Head of the Commonwealth, this would mean that symbolically speaking, the monarch would occupy a higher position politically than that of our own democratically elected Head of State! We could find ourselves being embarrassed or even humiliated in the course of future royal visits, or state ceremonial occasions involving representatives of ‘Her Majesty.’

A ‘British Dimension’ would be restored to our political life. We would find ourselves being drawn ever closer politically to the United Kingdom. The long term aim of some British (and Irish!) establishment strategists, is the creation of a Federation of the British Isles which would include the 26 counties! Commonwealth re-entry, by restoring Britishness to the Irish state, makes that longer-term goal easier to accomplish. Commonwealth re-entry would create a climate favourable to the re-birth of Hiberno-Unionism, or Redmondism, as it is more commonly known. This ideology, which up to now has been the preserve of fools and fantasists, could once again become a significant minority political force, with connections to like-minded groupings in the UK. A potential fifth column. In terms of international affairs, we would once again become a White Commonwealth Dominion on a par with Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Much of Europe would interpret our move as a ‘return to the fold’ and a rejection of our former policies of separation from Great Britain.

Alongside the armies of Britain and the other three white Commonwealth dominions, the Irish Defence Forces too, will be expected to participate in Armistice Day ceremonies, and to ensure that personnel wear The Poppy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this cannot happen. Look at the concessions that have already been made to the Royal British Legion lobby since 1983. Remembrance Sunday is the most solemn day in the calendar of the white Commonwealth, a sort of Holy Day of Obligation. Even French Canada must show due respect. No allowances will be made for the Irish, who will in time be expected to participate fully and to conform!

Last, but by no means least; the re-Britishing of the 26 counties would once again bring about attitudes of subservience and servility amongst sections of our political and social elite. A return to the days of The Castle and the Viceregal Lodge as it were. Britain undoubtedly, would continue the practice of handing out ‘gongs’ to selected Irish Citizens in the form of Knighthoods and other titles of ‘nobility’. We would be shamed once again by the obsequious antics of those whom General Tom Barry once described as ‘sycophants and lickspittles’. Remember the disgusting spectacle of John Bruton grovelling before Prince Charles?

But what about the possible benefits that could come about from Commonwealth re-entry? This is where the advocates of British Commonwealth re-entry fall down. There are simply no discernible tangible benefits for nationalist Ireland. For instance; there will be no big transfer of funds to Ireland, unlike the position regarding our membership since 1973 of the European Union. There are no new trade, cultural or diplomatic opportunities to be had. In any case, our trade policies are determined by reference to our membership of the EU, and moreover much of the Commonwealth is terribly poor.

There is nothing therefore that we don’t already have in relation to the Commonwealth nations. We enjoy excellent relations with all of them. In fact we seem to enjoy better relations with the Commonwealth countries, than they in turn have with the so-called Mother Country. Commonwealth leaders have often castigated the British monarchy and British political leaders for what they see as patronising arrogance and condescension towards their former colonies. African Commonwealth leaders have never forgiven Britain for its support for the evil apartheid regime despite the fact that racist South Africa abruptly left the Commonwealth in 1960!

The restoration of ties to the British Commonwealth will not make the positive contribution towards the situation in the North that its advocates would claim. Indeed, it could make matters worse by emboldening reactionary unionism and sowing demoralisation amongst nationalists. It is quite likely that in the next few years a ‘package deal’ maybe cobbled together by the two governments. Some sort of re-unification of the island, in return for re-entry into the Commonwealth, together with other re-Britishing measures. This should be firmly rejected.

It is clear that there is nothing here for nationalist Ireland. Trading our sovereignty and independence to be permitted to compete in the Commonwealth Games have even been suggested.  Those who advocate British Commonwealth re-entry, should be made to spell-out what they see are the specific benefits. They should not be allowed to get away with making broad general claims. A special watch needs to be kept upon our government to ensure that it does not make undue concessions in this matter, to Britain or to the Unionists. We as a nation cannot afford another defeat similar to the one inflicted upon us over the issues of Articles Two & Three of the Constitution.

Furthermore, attempts have been made to bring about direct elections to the Irish-British Council, the body set up under the Belfast Agreement. This demand for direct elections is astonishing, even insolent, for it challenges the very existence of the Irish state as a political entity separate from Britain. This is a demand for a parliamentary assembly for the whole of the “British Isles” which would also incorporate the Irish State. A new Act of Union under the guise of federalism that could challenge the authority of Dáil Éireann. It is perhaps worth noting that two former Irish representatives on the British-Irish Council, former Fianna Fáil government Minister Michael O’Kennedy, and former Fine Gael TD and Senator Paddy Harte have both been awarded honourary titles by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of their services as members of that Inter-Parliamentary Body. It is also noteworthy that Senator Feighan is a former chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.  During the last Dáil term Mr Feighan, in his capacity as a TD, wore a poppy inside the Dáil as a ‘symbolic gesture of inclusiveness’ and to remember the Irish in British uniform who fell in the Great War. However, Mr Feighan’s ‘symbolic gesture of inclusiveness’ did not stretch to him wearing an Easter Lily in the Dáil which honours those Irish in Irish uniform who gave their lives fighting for this small nation’s freedom from colonial rule.


23 Responses to ‘Senator Frank Feighan: rejoin the Commonwealth’ by Tom Cooper

  1. Mark June 29, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    ‘Last, but by no means least; the re-Britishing of the 26 counties would once again bring about attitudes of subservience and servility amongst sections of our political and social elite. A return to the days of The Castle and the Viceregal Lodge as it were.’
    I hate to say it Jude but, this never went away, Rpublicanism never truely flourished outside of Ulster, where in 1791 it started it’s Irish journey and our wannabe brit’s are still yearning after such comfort blankets ad the knighthoods and other ‘honours’ to appease their west brit ego’s however, in light of last weeks referendum result and the necessity for Ireland must look outside of a possibly fatally damaged EU for trade deals, there being more people in the sub-continent than in the EU, a possible route, minus the commeration element you address may do no harm, albeit not my preference.

  2. jessica June 29, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

    I would say the commonwealth is on the verge of decline as sure as the UK is about to break up.

    Once the current queen steps aside, Australia will leave and it wont be long before others follow,

    An economic union of nations makes more sense, there are more positives than negatives from the European project since its conception. Because it took an imperialistic change in direction, does not mean the framework is not worth recreating.

    There are currently almost 3 billion people living in commonwealth nations, as I said, that figure will be in decline. Bringing the rest of Ireland back under the control of England would be extremely foolish and has no chance of getting popular support no matter how much Fine Gael would like otherwise.

    Ireland has 2 choices, one to go against England and side with the EU, and two to side with a new union initiated by England which will give Scotland and Ireland full independence.

    It is no coincidence that the Netherlands who have a gas interconnector to GB have already made noises about an EU exit referendum.

    If there is to be a new economic union forged by England, then Ireland needs to be confident in making sure we achieve full 32 county sovereignty and the best possible deal within it.

    This is the best opportunity to achieve this and to give the best possible future to our children without signing away our sovereignty to either England or the EU.

    Joining the commonwealth would be a failure to get the best possible outcome for the Irish people and shows how useless Fine Gael really are.

    Does Ireland have any political parties with a spine at all?

  3. Big Yellow Crane June 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    Of course Ireland should join the Commonwealth. It would show fence sitting prods – especially those who’ve just been threatened with the loss of their European citizenship – that Ireland is at ease with its place in the English speaking world and they won’t be second class citizens because they’re not sufficiently Gaelic in their outlook.

    It would provide fence sitting Scots with further proof that being independent from England in these islands need not be an adversarial relationship.

    It would give us, hopefully, a united Irish sports team at Commonwealth Games – and as Jude has said – you’re fooling yourself if you think national representation in sport can be
    separated from politics.

    Dismissing Commonwealth membership out of hand as an English club is as close minded as little England’s rejection of Europe as a German club. It’s of no more help in uniting Ireland than Enda Fanning’s gloating at Northern Ireland’s loss to Wales.

    Some so called Republicans need to stop peacocking their virtue to each other and start doing something useful to actually build a truly united Ireland.

  4. Donal Kennedy June 29, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

    Irish citizens get on quite amicably with most British people without licking their boots.

    Those who advocating re-joining the Commonwealth are what Cockneys describe as
    “arsehole crawlers”,

    And they are not interested with fraternising with Commonwealth citizens other than white ones.

    They are more likely to admire Winston Churchill than Eamon de Valera.

    Out of office following 6 successive General Election victories, Fianna Fail’s Eamon
    de Valera , in 1948 visited the world’s most populous democracy, India, where he was feted.

    Winston Churchill, voted out of office in 1945, having never led a party to a General
    Election victory dared not visit India, where he was hated.

    Millions of Indians were starved to death by Churchill in 1942-1943 and India’s democratic leadership imprisoned.

    Eamon Delaney, who wants Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth, drools over the statue
    of Churchill in London’s Parliament Square and deprecates the presence there of a statue
    of Mahatma Gandhi.

  5. paul June 29, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

    This is just plain sickening, disheartening, but not unexpected from Fine Gael, remember Bruton. Jude last point, Why has not Sir Bob chimed in with some unsolicited drivel.

    • Antaine de Brún June 29, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

      Check it out:

      The Queen’s After-Dinner Speech

      (As overhead and cut into Lengths of Poetry by
      Jamesy Murphy, Deputy-Assistant-Waiter at the
      Viceregal Lodge.)

  6. Sherdy June 29, 2016 at 5:13 pm #

    Has this fool, Feckin Feighan, not been keeping up with his beloved UK’s hijinks over the past week?
    The UK is en route out of Europe, while the Republic is still a full EU member, so if Ireland were daft enough to join the commonwealth, we would then have to jump ship from the EU to fall in line with our new ‘mother country’.
    As far as John Brutal asslicking Prince Charlie, didn’t he behave similarly for Donald Trump on one of his visits?
    On the wearing of the British poppy is concerned, the rot started to set in when Sinn Fein members in Belfast were doing their own silly asslicking at remembrance day services in Belfast – so Mr Feighan is not the only guilty one!

  7. PF June 29, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

    It is entirely obvious that I will have a different view to the one expressed above, but a number of thoughts come to mind.

    First of all, stranger things have happened.

    Part of the reason for the UK’s current political uncertainty is that the liberal-centre-left establishment underestimated the ‘Leave’ constituency. Who really knows how things might develop? But at least we could talk about it – why keep anything off the table?

    Secondly, I am genuinely surprised by the use of some of the language in the article. I refer specifically to:


    Surely these can only be attitudes which result from a pre-existing lack of confidence in one’s own nation? I don’t suspect that Canada feels this way, or India, or much any of the free nations of the Commonwealth. Bottom line, the commonwealth is a *voluntary” association of *independent* nations who participate as *equals*.

    A confident nation would adopt such an approach.

    Speaking then as a Unionist, the restoration of Irish links to the Commonwealth most certainly would cause a change of mind on the part of some – it would most certainly reassure people like me.

    Beyond that, however, a couple of questions remain.

    The first is this: to what degree do traditional Irish Republicans accept the current Dáil Éireann? Is it now the view of most Irish Republicans that they have accepted the validity of what is, ultimately, a partitionist parliament. And is it this current Dáil Éireann that they are hoping to convince Northern Ireland’s Unionists to unite with?

    The second question is: in rejecting a new Union of the Isles, with Ireland participating as a united, free and equal member, will the same Irish Republicans then accept a further dilution of their sovereignty, and “ever closer union”, with what is fast becoming the Empire of the European Union.

    Because if that is the case, that very much sounds like servitude – however large the economic pot – perhaps *because* of the economic pot.

    Out of the EU Empire, and into the world – that’s my view.

    • jessica June 29, 2016 at 6:46 pm #

      “will the same Irish Republicans then accept a further dilution of their sovereignty, ”

      We would first have to regain some sovereignty before it could be further diluted.

    • billy June 29, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

      pf.it will most likely come down to numbers just like brexit no convincing will come into it if the numbers fall agin you.

  8. BYC June 29, 2016 at 5:33 pm #

    Eamonn De Valera condemned withdrawal from the Commonwealth. India’s in the Commonwealth. Some serious drivel from the republican ultras here.

    • Oz 2015 June 30, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

      IIRC.. The issue of the Free State leaving the commonwealth was to do with the desire to create the president office as head of state. who became Douglas Hyde.
      The commonwealth rules at that time did not allow this.Rather the monarch had to be head of state.
      so ergo, the free state didn’t really leave it was more kicked out.
      Anyway ; as Britain so often does it changed the rules about commomwealth countries electing their own head of state.
      about 1 year after Ireland had gone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      This is my understanding of the history

      • Big Yellow Crane June 30, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

        Maybe its the study of Irish history that has everyone thinking the Commonwealth is a monarchist’s club rather than the English speaking club it really is. It’s no more/less a colonialist institution than the Francophonie. The only questions Irish Republicans should ask are;

        1. Does it undermine the constitution of the Republic. It doesn’t. loads of other Republics including South Africa and India and countries like Mozambique that were never even part of the British Empire

        2. Does it advance a United Ireland. Absolutely of course it bloody does.

        3. What’s it cost. Next to bugger all.

        4. Will it enhance Ireland’s voice in the world. Yes – especially as a non-aligned nation.

        Perhaps its because Irish school history deals with the Commonwealth as something Ireland had to leave to prove her nationhood that so-called republicans here are so wrong headed in their view of it.

  9. Mary Jo June 29, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    Ugh! My response is visceral. I usually use my air rifle for stinging the backsides of jet skiers who ride inside the legally designated 200 meter offshore limit, wilfully bringing themselves into its range. If Feighan or any other Dail Brit comes anywhere near my firing range, I won’t be held accountable.

  10. Donal Kennedy June 29, 2016 at 9:26 pm #

    Eamon de Valera did not take Ireland out of the Commonwealth.

    Costello declared Ireland a Republic, without changing a syllable of the Constitution or renaming the State, known in English as “IRELAND.”

    The British (in a Commonwealth of Co-Equal Partners!) deemed Ireland expelled from the
    Commonwealth, and passed an Act at Westminster falsely purporting to vest sovereignty
    of the Six Counties in “the Parliament of Northern Ireland” . This was done after Attlee
    “noted” a Memo from Cabinet Secretary Norman Brooke, saying that “for strategic reasons,
    some part of Ireland should remain in His Majesty’s Dominions. The Brits no more cared for the Irish, Orange or Green, than the South Sea Islanders cleared from their lands to make way for a US Base.
    The Memo and the Ireland Act were in 1949 when Britain was co-founding NATO.

    Did De Valera publicly voice opposition to the course taken by the Coalition Government?
    Let’s have the evidence, please.

  11. Freddie mallins June 29, 2016 at 11:24 pm #

    It would be the most embarrassing knee bend in Irish history were the Republic to rejoin the British commonwealth. It’s not even relevant. It would just give the likes of Shane Ross, Kevin Myers and Roy Foster a good laugh up their sleeves. Then of course the self hating Irishmen like Geldoff with his ‘big house unionists know best’ approach would no doubt most unctuously approve. Not in my name that’s for sure.

  12. Perkin Warbeck June 30, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    Even as this blog was being posted an article was appearing in possibly the most self-congratulatory narrow-minded broadsheet on Planet E which confirms what most of us probably suspect: we never actually left the Big C.

    The article was by one Lorraine Courtney and appeared in, oddly enough , the Irish Dependent. And Lorraine proves herself to be very, very cross indeed with the deluded devotees of Leprechaun as might be hinted at by the headline:

    -Accepting Hiberno-English as our far superior cupla focal.

    The article, at least, is not accompanied by the stock snap of a woebegone Peig Sayers , for which small mercy, let us say -merci beaucoup. It is remarkably similar to a pink-think piece by one Rosita Boland which appeared recently in a ‘rival’ organ, The Unionist Times.

    (P.S. The latter article was indeed, illustrated with the de rigeur snap of Sayers. As Peig’s putative grandson Leo almost sang: ‘The Show Trial must go On’)

    Indeed, these two articles are of such Siamese likeness that they could well be joined at the lip. For which the Hiberno-English is the only one, true lingua franca.

    The sameness of the two pieces – the Somme-like sameness, indeed – is quite remarkable. Just as Rosita boasted about her emerging from 14 years of being subjected to Compulsory Erse without two cheeky focals to rub together, Lorraine does ditto.

    (Applications for membership of the neo- Know Nothing Party seem to be increasing, exponentially – a daaarling word, Joxer).

    The delightful feminine tendency to swop items of domestic interest with each other –from retro fashion to recipes for rhubarb tarts – obviously applies to the realm of, erm, robust ideas, too.

    Witness the lifting by the cross Lorraine of chunks from an emblematic stalwart of the ‘rival’ Unionist Times.

    That would be Myles na Gopaleen and his handbook for all Hiberno-Irish supremacists which also multitasks as the go-to safety belt as it were for the Know Nothings:

    -The Poor Mouth.

    Published in 1941, one of the chunks which the courteous Ms. Courtney manages to clunk click in this particular trip is:

    -Gaels ! If we are truly Gaelic we must constantly discuss the question of the Gaelic revival and the question of Gaelicism.


    (Here’s a thing: substitute the G-word here with the S-word – Shinners – and which self-congratulatory narrow-minded broadsheet comes to m. ?).

    Why, then, this sudden tsunami of Erse-whacking articles with the tally-stick of the Tally Ho Hibernos in DOBland ? Could it be that the day of, erm, Compulsory English are numbered in the 26 C Free Southern Stateen and the 27 C EU ? Post full Brexit ?

    Myles na Gopaleen is not of course the first ‘revolutionary ’ writer to be adopted as a much-pampered mascot by the (self delighted) Political/Media Elite who moonlight, daylight and twilight as committed Commonwealth Champions Cois Life/ on Liffeyside.

    Frank McGuinness – to pluck one at random – is another.

    Why – coincidentally ! – his uncommonly wealth productive ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster marching towards the Somme’ is getting a leg up on to the stage in Amiens this very day !!! Sponsored by the Tontos of the Lone Irish Rangers (LIR) aka, the Dublin Government.
    One is tempted to finish with Fag an Bealach !

    But as that battle cry consists of tri fhocal / three words, perhaps it might be more apt to finish with the authentic cupla focal of the zeitgeist of the feisty FSS :

    -Kemo Sabay !

  13. Christopher July 1, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    I think you misunderstand the modern Commonwealth and in some cases aren’t comparing like with like. We would not be like Canada, Australia or New Zealand. They are all realms, with the Queen as their head of state. We would be like India, a republic.

    I’m not saying we should rejoin the commonwealth, but I think in the context of Irish reunification it would be a tiny price to pay to make our unionist fellow-Irishmen more welcome.

    Die-hard Free State republicanism which sneers at Ireland’s Call, at the Northern Ireland football team, at Ian Paisley Jnr suggesting people get Irish (EU) passports, at the Somme, will do nothing, absolutely nothing, to bring about a united Ireland.

    • jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

      The only thing that will bring about a united Ireland is when the people of Ireland decide they have had enough of division and choose to form a new Ireland and start over which will include an improved relationship with our closest neighbours in GB.

      I for on will not support joining with the republic such that it has become.

      Ireland joining the commonwealth seems pretty pointless to me as it is on the verge of decline along with the impending collapse of the UK.

      If an independent Scotland and an agreed new Ireland could help rebuild a new economic union and special relationship for the 21st century between these islands then that should be enough for unionists. They will get nothing more – equality should be enough for all of us.

      We have bigger things to sort out than bloody sectarian marches and flag protests.

      There are almost 3 billion people in the commonwealth, and rather than see it decline which it will when the queen steps down,

      • jessica July 1, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

        There are almost 3 billion people in the commonwealth, and rather than see it decline which it will when the queen steps down, a new mode federal economic union like that which the EU started with before trying to form a single state would be a good thing I think.

  14. Alex69 July 4, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

    Good article but only one mistake.What the fuck are “the British Isles” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
    Ireland is Ireland .

    • jessica July 4, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

      The islands around Britain including Ireland the last time I checked.

      The same ones England is considering renaming once the UK breaks up

  15. Contae 33 September 11, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

    1) The Irish Republic has nothing to fear from rejoining the Commonwealth.
    It would be a gesture of reconciliation towards Unionists in the North and a step in the
    right direction towards a United Ireland, no matter what future form that may take.
    Many republics exist within the Commonwealth without having the British Queen as Head
    Of State.

    2) Concerning rejoining the Commonwealth and the ‘Re-Anglicising’ of the Republic, I think
    this highly unlikely. The Republic has been in existence for nearly 100 years, and should
    be confident in its own clothes. Indeed, if the Republic ever reunited with Britain, it would
    bring its own constitution to the table as part of the negotiations to rejoin, potentially
    transforming the way all peoples of these islands are governed.

    3) With the Brexit vote, the relationship between the Republic, Northern Ireland and the rest
    of Britain needs to be resolved. Despite all the Europhile posturing, the relationship with
    Britain, as Ireland’s major trading partner, is crucial to its economic well being.

    Why then, should the Republic continue to remain within a European superstate,
    where its freedom to trade, its sovereignty and its fiscal policy are all dictated by an
    unelected Brussels bureaucracy ruled from Berlin?

    Surely, would not the Republic be better off rejoining an independent ‘British/Irish’
    Commonwealth where it could have a strong, if not a leading voice?

    On current projections, such a Commonwealth, could become the economic
    powerhouse of Europe within 50 years, and its most populous country.

    As Yeat’s said ‘…a terrible beauty is born…’

    Perhaps it’s time for Ireland to reunite and become its mother.