Invited Talk at the RCS Toronto Summer Garden Party

Ireland and the Commonwealth:  Invited Talk at the RCS Toronto Summer Garden Party.

Mr Robin Bury

Royal Commonwealth Society Toronto, 11 August 2019, Toronto Hunt.

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Introduction:

Mr Robin Bury is a supporter and friend of RCS Ireland. During the summer of 2019, he was kindly invited to deliver a talk on the history of Ireland and the Commonwealth, whilst emphasising the ongoing work of RCS Ireland. Our Branch is eager to foster stronger links with our international Branch colleagues and we are grateful that Mr Bury agreed to represent our Branch so professionally and generously. The following provides a transcript of Mr Bury’s talk during the event. – RCS Ireland Leadership Team, 2019

Many thanks to David, Rosemary and Colin for asking me to talk to you to-day in this lovely venue on Lake Ontario. I am honoured to address you on behalf of the Reform Group and the Royal Commonwealth Society Ireland. I want to talk about two aspects of Ireland and the Commonwealth:

  • Firstly, how and why Ireland left in 1949.
  • Secondly the recent efforts of the Reform Group and the Royal Commonwealth Society Ireland to lobby for Ireland to return.

The subject of Ireland leaving is controversial, to say the least, even bizarre, and certainly not thought out. One Irish historian, Dermot Keogh, wrote these ‘decision making skills ‘were more reminiscent of ‘the Marx brothers than with government in a Western democracy’. Or maybe Monty Python. Let’s go back to when the Irish Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, John A Costello, announced to the press in the Ottawa parliament building that Ireland intended to leave the Commonwealth. This was over seventy years ago on 7th September 1948. Costello was leader of the Fine Gael party.

 

So why leave?

At the heart of the reason was Costello’s dislike of the External Relations Act of the previous Taoiseach, Eamonn de Valera, who was head of the opposition party, Fianna Fail. Costello had criticised it in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association in Montreal on 1st September 1948, where he was the guest speaker. Why object? De Valera wanted Ireland to stay in the Commonwealth and recognised the Crown as head of the then British Commonwealth, so relations with Northern Ireland ‘could come into association with Ireland’ in his own words.

Costello was not impressed. He believed that recognition of the Crown as a figurehead in relations with other states was inappropriate and one consequence was that Irish senior diplomats were accredited by the British monarch but put forward by the Irish government for token approval.  Also, the act did not acknowledge Ireland’s full powers to negotiate or sign treaties. Costello also said that Ireland had not attended Commonwealth meetings from 1936 to 1948 so effectively had left it. In effect, Costello rejected Ireland’s allegiance to the Crown in his speech in Montreal.

 

Interestingly, Fine Gael did not put breaking the link with the Commonwealth in their election manifesto in 1948, unlike their coalition party, Clann na Poblachta, led by Sean MacBride, the son of John MacBride, one of the 15 men executed by the British in 1916 after the Easter Rising in Dublin. This insurrection was aimed at getting Irish independence. Sean MacBride was in charge of External.

Affairs in the coalition government of FG. Yet it was Costello who announced the decision to leave, not MacBride, who was surprised by Costello’s solo run without prior discussion with his cabinet.

Back to Ottawa. The Governor general, Lord Alexander, entertained Costello at a formal dinner on 4th September. It was agreed there would be a toast to both the King and to the Irish President, but there was only a toast to the King. Why? Because, by toasting the Irish President, Canada would recognise Ireland was not a member of the Commonwealth and in the words of the Canadian Prime Minister, MacKenzie King, was ‘an entirely separate country with a President as head of State.

A state as much independent of the British crown as the USA’. Also, to add insult to injury as far as Costello was concerned, a replica of  the‘Roaring Meg’ cannon was on table, used to protect Protestants inside the walls of Londonderry when under siege for 105 days in 1689 by the armies of King James 11, the Catholic king of England, Scotland and Ireland. Lord Alexander was a proud freeman of Londonderry and had been given the replica of roaring meg. This annoyed Costello but Alexander routinely placed the ornament on the table when entertaining, and it was certainly not intended as an insult to Ireland.

 

What triggered off his announcement was the Irish Sunday Independent’s front-page story on 5th September that Ireland was going to leave the Commonwealth. This headline was based on Costello’s criticisms of the External Relations act to the Canadian Bar Association.

The editor of the Sunday Independent was Hector Legge. He was friendly with MacBride and others in the cabinet and must have known leaving the British Commonwealth was being discussed by government Ministers, though no decision had been made. He was kite flying. MacBride sent Costello a telegram the day the story broke urging him not to comment. The Irish High Commissioner to Canada, John Hearne, also urged Costello not to comment. But Costello decided to announce on 7th September at a press conference in the Railway Committee Room of the Ottawa parliament buildings that Ireland was going to leave.

 

The implications were not thought through and the cabinet had not agreed, nor the senior members of civil service been informed. The British Lord Chancellor, Jowett, pointed out that by leaving, Ireland could be treated as quote a ‘foreign nation’ and loose rights and privileges for Irish trade and Irish citizens in the UK. However, the British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, worried about losing votes of the Irish in Britain for the Labour party, rejected Jowett’s proposal. Also, the Australian deputy Prime Minister, Dr Evatt strongly intervened and prevailed on MacKenzie King and Attlee to allow Ireland to retain its Commonwealth privileges. In the words of the historian Eithne MacDermott:

 

In donning the natty nationalist rain gear of de Valera, and in stealing the republican raiment of the bathing MacBride, Costello did not merely appropriate their garments, but also enabled Fine Gael to reclaim their nationalist ancestry and heritage…

In to-days terms, it was an IREXIT with no deal. Costello was aware that he had acted unconstitutionally. When he got back to Dublin, he invited the Cabinet to his house and offered to resign. His offer was turned down. In the words of McCullagh in his biography of Costello, his Ministers ‘decided that jettisoning the Commonwealth was preferable to jettisoning the Taoiseach.’

Ireland attended the Commonwealth conference in London in 1949 as an observer and in the words of historian MacDermott, ‘emerged no longer a member of the Commonwealth but with all its advantages, privileges and usages intact due to the strong support of the other Commonwealth countries.’ That included Canada. Churchill’s famous words came true:

 

When they were in they were out, and when they were out they were in.

Ireland became a republic on 18 April, Easter day, 1949. Why Easter? Because the 1916 Rising took place on Easter Monday 1916. The British then passed the Ireland Bill which copper fastened partition. In the words of historian Ian McCabe, Costello said one motivation he had to leave the Commonwealth was to ‘take the gun out of Irish politics. We all know how successful that aim was! One historian has argued it might well have put the gun back in Irish politics to end partition, copper fastened by the Ireland Bill. Interestingly, the London declaration of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers meeting in 1949 decided, according to an article in the Royal Irish Academy:


To accommodate India as a republic, the concept of allegiance to the Crown was suddenly dropped in favour of recognizing its wearer as ‘head of the Commonwealth’. This would have been unimaginable in the pre-war years and resulted in a scramble to gain credit for having come up with the final compromise.

Those involved included Lester Pearson of Canada, Pakistan’s Zafrullah Kahn and India’s Krishna Menon; but McIntyre (New Zealand historian) concluded that the formulation: ‘neatly incorporated the two concepts of symbol and head that de Valera had mooted back in 1921′. It was a fact that had been recognised by the British for some time; its public pronouncement came weeks after Ireland became a republic on 18 April 1949. 

 

For the next 14 years Eire suffered economically and remained in the cold outside the court of Anglo-American relations. Eventually this was redeemed by John F Kennedy to whom Taoiseach Sean Lemass offered up the sacrifice of Irish neutrality.

 

So let’s jump to today and the lobbying for Ireland to re-enter the Commonwealth.

A start was made in 1998 after the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday Agreement) was signed. The Reform Movement was formed to lobby for an inclusive, secular, pluralist Ireland, along Canadian lines, but need I state, without the Crown as head of state. I was the second Chairman of Reform.

One of our objectives was to lobby for Ireland to re-enter the Commonwealth. We went to talk to the then Fine Gael Taoiseach, John Bruton, who was not personally opposed but suggested FG would not go back as it had taken Ireland out. He suggested we talked to de Valera’s party, Fianna Fail and particularly to Eamon O’Cuiv, de Valera’s grandson who supports re-entry. We held a number of meetings in the Royal Irish Academy but there was little political interest.

Then in 2015 the RCS Ireland took up the cudgels with one objective, re-entering the Commonwealth. Let’s look at to-day’s Commonwealth of Nationa, radically different to the British Commonwealth Ireland left.

 

  • The Commonwealth’s population stretches over all continents and represents 2.2 billion people, encompassing approximately 30% of the world’s population. Despite leaving the Commonwealth in 1949, Ireland is home to hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth citizens. Indeed, seventy percent of Irish-born people living overseas reside in Commonwealth countries. There are 21 million people of Irish descent in Commonwealth countries to-day.

 

  • The Irish government recently outlined its priorities for international relations and posture, which aims to focus on peace, security and prosperity, whilst promoting reconciliation and cooperation in areas such as trade, finance, energy, travel, and defence.

 

  • Thirty two of the 53 Commonwealth countries are republics, which value their common bonds across the association. The RCS Ireland Branch seeks to focus attention on the many advantages and possibilities that await Ireland’s closer relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations.

 

  • The RCS Ireland Branch was founded in 2015 with a ceremony at Dublin’s Mansion House, which was hosted by the Lord Mayor. Irish politicians and Commonwealth Ambassadors joined journalists, academics, and Irish sporting celebrities to mark the occasion.

 

Commenting on the opening of the new Branch, the President of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Lord Howell said: “The request for a new branch of the RCS in Dublin will serve as a visible link to the millions of people of Irish descent living in states throughout the Commonwealth, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth citizens residing in Ireland.”

 

Branch Achievements:

 

  • The Irish Branch has since facilitated annual Commonwealth Day events in Dublin, hosted by various Commonwealth Embassies, including Australia, Nigeria, Pakistan; along with Branch representation at the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in London.

 

  • The Branch successfully hosted an RCS international meeting and lunch at the House of Lords in London, whilst also hosting an inaugural meeting in Ireland’s Government Buildings for Commonwealth Ambassadors assigned to Ireland.

 

  • The Branch has achieved success in liaising with the Commonwealth Games Federation, sports associations, and legal advisors in working towards the inclusion of all-island Irish sports teams in the Commonwealth Games; and this effort is ongoing.

 

Finally, we are updating our book Ireland and the Commonwealth published in 2009 with an essay by the Canadian Professor Robert Martin, University of Western Ontario. He argues that Pierre Trudeau became an enthusiastic supporter of the Commonwealth

 

Conclusion:

The RCS Ireland Branch has achieved significant accomplishments in improving Ireland’s relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations. The Branch has a range of activities and events planned for the coming year, details of which will be available via the Branch’s website and social media presence.

 

The Irish government became an observer member of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie — the French equivalent of the Commonwealth – in October 2018 indicating a desire to align with France. This is understandable in promoting Irish relations with a strong EU nation, France, but with the UK set to leave the EU, Ireland could strengthen its relations with the Commonwealth countries, many of which it helped to develop.

 

The leadership team within the Branch is mindful of the potential challenges and opportunities associated with the impending departure of the UK from the EU. The Branch will seek to respond to the outcome of this process so as to continue to strengthen Irish links to the Commonwealth. However, it must be said that in the present poor atmosphere of Anglo-Irish relations, a return to the Commonwealth is unlikely at the present time. Some might argue that Northern Ireland unionists might be courted into a united Ireland by Ireland returning to the Commonwealth, and Sinn Fein has proposed this. However, I have not found evidence of this. I believe Ireland should return because it sees important reasons to further its own interests.

 

We would like to thank all our international colleagues throughout the RCS for their ongoing support; and we encourage you to liaise with your peers and fellow networks to enhance the bonds between Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations.

 

Thank You.

2019 New Year Message

2019 New Year Message from the Royal Commonwealth Society Ireland

 

31 December 2019

Dear Friends;

Fáilte chuig an gCumann Comhlathais Ríoga, Brainse na hÉireann. Season’s greetings from the leadership team of the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) in Ireland.

This year has been another dynamic and productive year for our Branch. RCS Ireland has continued to promote knowledge regarding the peoples and countries of the Commonwealth in Ireland. We have maintained the best traditions of the Commonwealth and fostered dialogue and reflection on matters of common interest in culture, human rights, and prosperity.

The Branch has successfully raised awareness and understanding of the Commonwealth in Ireland and served as a visible link to the Commonwealth for those living in Ireland who originate from Commonwealth countries. We remain committed to enhancing peace, reconciliation and prosperity across the island of Ireland and throughout the Commonwealth.

Finally, we continue to support Ireland’s re-entry into the Commonwealth, should this be the wish of the Irish people.

CELEBRATING THE COMMONWEALTH IN IRELAND

During 2019, we were delighted to once again assist and support the hosting of a major event to promote and celebrate the Commonwealth in Ireland. This year saw our friends in the Nigerian Embassy in Ireland hold a large multi-national gathering to reflect Ireland’s enduring bonds with a Commonwealth of 53 nations, 32 of which are republics. This special event entailed Commonwealth Ambassadors in Ireland being joined by Irish politicians, business leaders, journalists, solicitors, healthcare professionals, academics, and others.

A Shared Culture

 

The Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria H.E. (Dr) Mrs. Emenike provided the keynote address. She spoke eloquently of the enduring and strong links between Nigeria and Ireland, whilst emphasising the wonderful benefits experienced by countries who share membership of the Commonwealth.

Ambassador Emenike conveyed the common values and social bonds that are shared across each country in the Commonwealth, including democracy, human rights, tolerance and respect, sustainable development, and protecting the environment.

Business and Politics

During the celebration, Mr John O’Keeffe, President of Diageo Africa offered an outstanding presentation on the business ties between Ireland and Commonwealth countries, with particular emphasis on the trade and cultural links between Diageo and Nigeria.

He spoke of the many future business, economic, and social opportunities that exist for Ireland in developing further associations with the Commonwealth.

 


Fine Gael Cllr Patrick Meade also took time to speak to the large gathering. Cllr Meade addressed the important community and commercial links between Ireland and nations within the Commonwealth.

He added that such bonds are especially important for rural and agricultural businesses in Ireland, with a recognition of the need for new markets and international relationships following Brexit.

 

 

A Future in Common

This year also saw our friend, the Vice-Chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, Irish Senator Frank Feighan, once again provide strong Irish representation during the annual Commonwealth Day events in London.

Over 70% of Irish-born people living abroad reside in countries that are members of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth provides opportunities for people, governments and institutions across a global association of nations that connect and cooperate on various levels though far-reaching and deep-rooted networks of friendship and goodwill.

The 2019 theme for the Commonwealth was ‘A Connected Commonwealth’, and such values, opportunities, and objectives are fundamentally shared with Ireland’s international priorities.

 

A GLOBAL IRELAND AND THE COMMONEALTH

During 2019, we at RCS Ireland were delighted to support the development of stronger collaboration between the RCS and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF). This development will support shared projects and joint working, whilst capitalising on shared expertise and experience.

There is now even greater opportunities for new links between the CLGF and local governments across Ireland.

RCS Ireland looks forward to facilitating these avenues for stronger relationships between communities in Ireland and the agencies and peoples throughout the Commonwealth.

RCS Ireland also remains active in developing new links across cultural, political, and business entities and we were honoured to once again receive invitations to the Summer Garden Party at the British Ambassador’s residence in Dublin.

RCS Ireland was furthermore pleased to foster new links between the Branch and our RCS friends in Toronto, Canada. During 2019, one of supporters, Mr R. Bury, was invited to deliver a presentation to our Canadian colleagues.

The event was well attended and afforded an excellent opportunity to review the history of Ireland and the Commonwealth, the nature of our departure from the organisation, details of our enduring association with the values and culture of the Commonwealth, and our work RCS Ireland in supporting debate on our potential re-entry.

Thank you to all who attended and helped to strengthen the bonds between our Branches. We look forward to enhancing and establishing bonds with our fellow international RCS Branches in the year ahead.

We again thank all our colleagues and supporters. The coming year will see many geopolitical changes, not least the UK’s departure from the European Union. This and other challenges will afford significant opportunities for discussion on Ireland’s association with the Commonwealth.

The year ahead also marks the fifth anniversary of our Branch and we look forward to new prospects to strengthen the links between Ireland and the Commonwealth.

 

Yours Faithfully,

RCS Ireland

 

Commonwealth Day in Ireland 2019

Commonwealth Day in Ireland 2019

This year’s Commonwealth Day was celebrated around the world on 11 March and the occasion was once again marked in Ireland.

The Nigerian Embassy in Ireland, in association with RCS Ireland, were delighted to host a large multi-national gathering in Dublin to reflect Ireland’s enduring bonds with a Commonwealth of 53 nations, 32 of which are republics.

This special event saw Commonwealth Ambassadors in Ireland being joined by Irish politicians, business leaders, journalists, solicitors, healthcare professionals, academics, and others.

The Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria H.E. (Dr) Mrs. Emenike provided the keynote address. She spoke eloquently of the enduring and strong links between Nigeria and Ireland, whilst emphasising the wonderful benefits experienced by countries who share membership of the Commonwealth.

Ambassador Emenike conveyed the common values and social bonds that are shared across each country in the Commonwealth, including democracy, human rights, tolerance and respect, sustainable development, and protecting the environment.

Mr John O’Keeffe, President of Diageo Africa offered an outstanding presentation on the business ties between Ireland and Commonwealth countries, with particular emphasis on the trade and cultural links between Diageo and Nigeria.

He spoke of the many future business, economic, and social opportunities that exist for Ireland in developing further associations with the Commonwealth. Fine Gael Cllr Patrick Meade also took time to speak to the large gathering.

Cllr Meade addressed the important community and commercial links between Ireland and nations within the Commonwealth. He added that such bonds are especially important for rural and agricultural businesses in Ireland, with a recognition of the need for new markets and international relationships following Brexit.

It was also noted that the Vice-Chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, Irish Senator Frank Feighan, was once again providing strong Irish representation at the Commonwealth Day events in London.

Over 70% of Irish-born people living abroad reside in countries that are members of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth provides opportunities for people, governments and institutions across a global association of nations that connect and cooperate on various levels though far-reaching and deep-rooted networks of friendship and goodwill.

This year’s theme for the Commonwealth is ‘A Connected Commonwealth’, and such values, opportunities, and objectives are fundamentally shared with Ireland’s international priorities. RCS Ireland wish to thank the Nigerian Ambassador and her staff for hosting this year’s successful event.

 

RCS Ireland Team

www.rcsireland.org

SEANAD EIREANN DISCUSSES

SEANAD EIREANN DISCUSSES IRELAND’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE COMMONWEALTH OF NATIONS

RCS Ireland was pleased to support this important occasion, in which the historical, enduring, and future links between Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations were officially discussed in the Irish Senate. Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs was represented by Helen McEntee, TD, Minister for European Affairs, during the event that occurred on 01 May 2018.

The proceedings began with a powerful speech from Senator Feighan, followed by coverage of the position of the Irish government on Ireland’s relationship with the Commonwealth. The commencement of the motion stated: ‘The need for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to explore more associations and friendships with the Commonwealth of Nations to further encourage political, trading, cultural, sporting, educational and foreign aid partnerships.’ Senator Feighan presented the following remarks

“As many of you here will be aware, I have spoken publicly on this issue many times. In this era of Brexit, my call to explore the potential benefits of rejoining the Commonwealth of Nations continues to provoke an interesting response. Many of us here are democratic Irish nationalists and proud Europeans. But we now live in a time when our future relationship with Britain will be shaped by Brexit and that is why I believe it is very important that we seek to develop and nurture new relationships.

The stark reality of Brexit is already biting at fundamental levels. Here is just one example: up until recently, an average of 26 daily meetings took place between Irish and UK officials. Those regular meetings between British and Irish diplomats and politicians at a European level were instrumental in fostering good relations and understanding between the two islands.

In my own personal opinion, I believe ours and the UK’s joint entry into the EEC forty-five years ago paved the way for the Anglo-Irish and Good Friday agreements – and both agreements have delivered peace and a shared future to our two islands.

In terms of relationship building, I don’t think it is a coincidence that Ireland has recently applied for observer status to join the Francophonie, a club of Frenchspeaking states. The 57-member Commonwealth-style organisation is a way of fostering links between French-speaking countries. I have consistently encouraged a debate on the merits of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth of Nations. Indeed, I believe by doing so, the Republic of Ireland could pioneer the way for new relationships with Commonwealth countries – which includes the UK – and the EU itself.

The Republic already has very strong links with Commonwealth countries in terms of aid, trade, politics, education, common legal systems, diaspora and sport. Notably, seventy per cent of the people born on the island of Ireland residing overseas live in Commonwealth countries. Indeed, it’s estimated that more than 20 million people of Irish origin live within Commonwealth countries such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The current Commonwealth, with a combined population of 2.3 billion people, comprises 53 countries, 31 of which are republics like ourselves. In terms of foreign aid support, the Commonwealth has helped lift many countries out of poverty and many of its member states are not just developing nations but also hi-tech
countries such as India and South Africa.

For those who are not familiar with the Commonwealth, it is a goodwill organisation which performs a positive global role. And it is not the British Commonwealth of old; it is the modern Commonwealth of Nations which was renamed in 1949 to accommodate Republics such as ours. It is also important to say here that the United Kingdom is one of 53 members, with less than 3% of the population – so suffice to say that Britain is still an important member of the Commonwealth but no longer the boss. Furthermore, the Queen is the titular head at present but carries no power – she is just the symbol of free association within Commonwealth nations – the majority of which are republics with five being monarchs of royal houses in different countries.

Let’s be clear here. I am very much a realist and I know that the debate about Commonwealth membership for the Republic of Ireland will involve examining many issues, complexities and sensitivities. However, I am also of the firm conviction that if we put our old prejudices to one side when we look at the merits of rejoining the Commonwealth of Nations, we will find much value in what I am proposing. But the most important reason I am calling again for this debate on rejoining the Commonwealth is that if we truly desire a united Ireland, one Ireland or a shared island, then we must show our unionist friends that we are not afraid to take this leap of faith.

And who knows, into the future, we could look forward to our two islands cooperating, North, South, East and West, on many new fronts – sporting being just one of them. Can we all not envisage the possibility of seeing island of Ireland teams such as hockey, and many other sports, competing in future Commonwealth Games? And can we also not dare to dream that such possibilities could help pave the way for an all-Island soccer team competing in future World Cups and European championships? I think all of this is worthy of serious consideration. Thank you”

 

RCS Ireland congratulate Senator Feighan for his excellent remarks and we are encouraged by the response from Minister McEntee. Coverage of the event, the Minister’s response, and follow up remarks from Senator Feighan, are available via the following link (0.33mins – 0.44mins): http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=38313&&CatID=129

 

RCS Ireland Team.
www.rcsireland.org

The world Celebrated Comonwealth Day including us in Ireland

Commonwealth Day 2018 in Ireland

Commonwealth Day was celebrated around the world today and the occasion was marked in Ireland with an event at the Australian Embassy in Dublin. The team at RCS Ireland were delighted to support this wonderful event that reflects the nation’s enduring bonds with a commonwealth of 53 nations, 32 of which are republics.

Enjoying the Commonwealth Day in Ireland 2018With a large group of diplomats, politicians, journalists, academics, and other guests in attendance, the following remarks were presented by Mr Simon Mamouney, Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy in Ireland:

“ Ambassadors, Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen; First of all congratulations to the Irish Oireachtas Rugby team for their win against Scotland, although it was overshadowed by another Irish win over Scotland, which also brought Ireland the bigger prize of the Six Nations crown this year. Congratulations to Ireland and good luck in pursuit of the grand slam. We have apologies from Senator Frank Feighan. I understand he is attending the multicultural, multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey.

This Commonwealth Day precedes two very important events. Beginning next month from 4-15 April 2018, the Gold Coast in Australia will host the 21st Commonwealth Games. While continuing on the rugby theme, these games will see Women’s Rugby Sevens making its Commonwealth Games debut. Another more important first, coming so soon after we celebrated International Women’s Day, is that for the first time at a Commonwealth Games, an equal number of men’s and women’s medals events will be contested.

Commonwealth Day in Ireland 2018The second event happens straight after the games with the UK hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London from 16-20 April 2018. With the Queen in attendance and being hosted in London, this will be a very important meeting indeed for the future direction of the Commonwealth.

We should not underestimate the power and potential of the Commonwealth. Let me indulge in a few statistics:

· The Commonwealth Games is the second biggest athletics event in the world
· The Commonwealth is home to 2.4 billion people
· 60 percent of that population is under 30
· 53 nations within the Commonwealth
· 30 nations of the Commonwealth are small states
· The difference in population of nations within the Commonwealth is vast, with India having 1.2 billion, the Nauru having 10,000

Though the Commonwealth needs to be relevant, the question is often asked, what use is the Commonwealth? I’ll conclude with a few words from the Queen in her Commonwealth Day message, which I think make a powerful statement:

“We all have reason to give thanks for the numerous ways in which our lives are enriched when we learn from others. Through exchanging ideas, and seeing life from other perspectives, we grow in understanding and work more collaboratively towards a common future. There is a very special value in the insights we gain through the Commonwealth connection; shared inheritances help us overcome difference so that diversity is a cause for celebration rather than division.”

With such a goal and undertaking, in light of the divisions facing us across the globe, let us work towards celebrating such diversity in the Commonwealth. Happy Commonwealth Day everyone.”

Ireland’s Senator Neale Richmond also addressed the event and delivered the following remarks:

Commonwealth Day 2018 thanks to the Austrilian embassy for hosting“I am very grateful to Simon and the Australian Embassy for hosting us this year for Commonwealth Day. The Commonwealth offers Ireland another window to the world where we can build on existing relations to solidify our aim to be an island at the centre of the world.

The theme of a shared future for this year’s Commonwealth Day is particularly relevant for Ireland as we embark on a new chapter of relations with our nearest neighbours in the UK. Even though this relationship will be changed due to Brexit, our relationship will continue and we must try to build a shared future that is as close to our present as is possible.

A new approach to the Commonwealth would offer Ireland opportunities in many areas, particularly sport. Irish competitors from the North and the South such as Mary Peters, Barry McGuigan and Paddy Barnes have achieved great success in previous games. I look forward to cheering on the Northern Irish athletes at the Gold Coast games in April and one day hope to see Irish athletes from across our island competing in what are the second largest games in the world.”

RCS Ireland is grateful to the Australian Embassy in Dublin for hosting this excellent event and we look forward to supporting Ireland’s continued bonds with the Commonwealth of Nations.

If you would like to download a PDF version of this article you can do so by clicking on the highlighted link Commonwealth Day PDF

RCS Ireland Team.

RCS Ireland Welcomes Commonwealth Ambassadors at Government Buildings, Dublin

 

RCS Ireland were honoured to welcome Ireland’s Commonwealth Ambassadors to Leinster House in Dublin. Held at Ireland’s Government Buildings, the event served to highlight and strengthen the enduring bonds between Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations.

 

With Senator Feighan as our host, the delegation meet with several Irish parliamentarians to discuss trade, sport, culture and international relations. The gathering concluded with a formal meal and a commitment to develop Ireland’s association with the Commonwealth.

 

RCS Ireland holds Commonwealth Event at the House of Lords

 

 

We look back at the recent Royal Commonwealth Society international meeting for RCS Branches in London. The meeting was preceded by a two day youth programme. The purpose of the week was to support the future of RCS networks, share experiences and knowledge and to facilitate interaction and relationship-building between branches, youth groups and the RCS in London.

The youth programme provided a platform for young people to connect with like-minded individuals, build leadership skills and identify how to instigate change in the Commonwealth. Opportunity was created to feed into the branch programme and to connect with branch members and RCS Regional Co-ordinators. Read the blog written by youth delegate and the RCS Youth Regional Co-ordinator for Africa, Gideon Commey.

The three day branch programme, attended by 81 delegates from 30 branches around the world and was opened by RCS President, Lord Howell and followed with a day of branch-lead sessions, kindly hosted by the High Commission of New Zealand. Day two addressed the programmes, research & policy and youth & education work of the Society and included speakers from RCS partners The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and Comic Relief. On the third morning, delegates were pleased to attend sessions, kindly run by experts on Communications, Fundraising, Brand and The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.

Outside of the meetings delegates were invited to a magnificent concert given by ABRSM, to a tour of Westminster Abbey and to Afternoon Tea at the House of Lords, sponsored by RCS Ireland Branch.

The RCS is grateful to the High Commissions of Australia, Canada, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria and Zambia for their support and hospitality.

The Youth Programme, Branch Programme and Speaker Biographies are available to read online or to download. Notes from the meeting are available to branch members on request as are some of the presentations.

RCS Ireland closed the international meeting with a special event at the House of Lords, with the support of Lord Rana and Lord Howell. The gathering saw a large international Commonwealth delegation enjoy a showcase of Ireland’s enduring relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations. Speeches were delivered by Irish Senator Feighan, Director of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce Mr McGrane, and Lord Howell, President of the RCS.

 

RCS International Branch Meetings were previously held every second year. On hold since 2013, during the period of change in London, all were delighted at the opportunity to resume the biennial programme.

Article sourced in part from www.thercs.org

Pakistani Ambassador to Ireland discusses Ireland’s relationship with the Commonwealth


HE Dr Rizwan, Pakistani Ambassador to Ireland hosted a special event in Dublin on 13 March 2017. The occasion marked Commonwealth Day and mirrored events around the world that celebrated the values and work of the modern Commonwealth of Nations. Ambassador Rizwan emphasised the shared heritage that Ireland holds with member-nations within the Commonwealth.

 

Ambassador Rizwan added that across history, nations and peoples throughout Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa have settled and influenced other nations. These practices reflect the context of wealth, culture, and societies at those times in history. However, Ireland, like Pakistan, is a proud Republic and the countries of the modern Commonwealth of Nations share so much with each other and have so much to give and receive from each other.

 

He emphasised that like any other Commonwealth country, Ireland, though a former member of the Commonwealth, is linked with those in the Commonwealth in so many ways. Ireland, along with all Commonwealth countries, shares an appreciation for science, rationality and human rights; along with shared parliamentary values, and common language, legal, commercial, business, sporting and trade connections.

 

The Ambassador closed by remarking that by coming together for the common good, the development of peace, harmony and progress through cooperation can thrive.

 

2017 Commonwealth Day Celebrated in Dublin, Ireland

Commonwealth Day was celebrated around the world on 13 March 2017. Ireland has a rich and lasting relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations, with the majority of Irish aboard living in nations that are members of the Commonwealth. In collaboration with RCS Ireland, the Pakistani Embassy in Dublin hosted a special event to mark the occasion. The large delegation included many Ambassadors and representatives from Embassies in Ireland, which represent nations within the Commonwealth. Several Irish parliamentarians, Irish diplomats, academics, and supporters also attended. Excellent speeches were delivered by the Pakistani Ambassador, Irish Senator Neale Richmond, and the British Deputy Head of Mission in Ireland. Lord Rana, as Patron of RCS Ireland also offered his support. Currently travelling in India to promote education and peace, Lord Rana was unable to attend the event in person. However, he offered the following remarks in an official written statement:

Hon’ble Chairman, Hon’ble Diplomats, officials of the Republic of Ireland, members of the RCS, Ladies & Gentlemen.

I would like to express my heartiest best wishes to you all attending the Commonwealth Day celebrations in Dublin, being hosted by the Ambassador of Pakistan, in collaboration with RCS Ireland. I wish I could have been with you all today, but regrettably I am unable to attend due to commitments in India.

Celebrating Commonwealth day on 13 March has another interesting dimension in India. Today is the “Holi Festival Day”, a festival of colours, where people celebrate the beginning of spring weather by playing with colours with each other’s family, friends and strangers. It’s celebrating the colourful world we live in. It is celebrating diversity, multicultural and multi religious world that we are part of, and which is best represented by the Commonwealth.

I am a great believer in the Commonwealth, which is a unique, multicultural, multi-institutional organisation spanning six continents of the world, bringing together nearly one-third of the world’s population and promoting multi-identity. An organisation of 52 nations, it contains 31 Republics, three of which are also members of the European Union. I have been sponsoring various talks, dinners and meetings for nearly 20 years on the subject of the “Republic of Ireland and the Commonwealth”. I remain genuinely convinced that  the Commonwealth would be of great benefit to Ireland; and that the Commonwealth would be strengthened with Ireland’s input.  Dublin’s Lord Mayor and City Council has already extended its support to the establishment of the Commonwealth Society in Ireland, during the official launch at the Mansion House three years ago.

Approximately 60% of the Commonwealth population are under the age of 30, and the majority of them live in developing countries. The best way to counter terrorism and civil unrest is through dialogue and education. The role of education in promoting peace, democracy and respect for each other is essential in shaping these young minds as they are the future of our world. As these countries grow their economies, the Commonwealth will become a very powerful economic organisation.

As we mark Commonwealth Day in Dublin, we might note the 2017 Commonwealth theme, which is “A Peace Building Commonwealth.” My charitable trust is in the process of establishing an Institute for Conflict Resolution Practice in Punjab (India) where we have founded and funded an Education Campus, to bring higher education within the reach of students from the poor families in rural Punjab <www.cordia.edu.in>. This institute will have presence not only in India, but in Northern Ireland as well. The intention is to put into practice the recommendations of the 2007 Commonwealth report “Civil Paths to Peace, Respect and Understanding.” Ireland retains enduring links with the Commonwealth of Nations and we look forward to building on these rich and mutually beneficial bonds.

 

Have a wonderful day, and my regrets for not able to be with you in person.

I wish you all a great Commonwealth Day.

Lord Rana MBE (Baron of Malone)