Leo Varadkar weighs in on Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth 1 month ago

Leo Varadkar weighs in on Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth

Not on the agenda.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth is "not something that’s on the agenda" at the moment.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson on Saturday at the Fine Gael National Conference in Wexford expressed his desire to see Ireland back in the Commonwealth.

Donaldson said that he hoped for a day "when the Republic of Ireland will join with many other nations in the Commonwealth of Nations, recognising that, whatever our history, and whatever the differences there have been in the past, we have overcome a lot of adversity in dealing with those issues.

"The Commonwealth is a place where Ireland's voice should be heard and I would like to see that happen," he added.

Varadkar responded to questioning from Áine Lawlor on The Week in Politics about whether or not Ireland would consider rejoining the Commonwealth following Brexit.

You can read the full exchange below.

Varadkar: We were very glad [Jeffery Donaldson] accepted the invitation to attend the conference. He wasn’t the only one there. Naomi Long leader of the Alliance Party was there, Claire Hanna of the SDLP.

It is our position as Fine Gael that rather than aligning ourselves with any one particular party in Northern Ireland, we should try and work with them all.

And even if we don’t agree, even if we can’t persuade each other’s opinions we should be honest brokers and that’s a very different approach to Fianna Fáil. 

Lawlor: Given the strain on Anglo Irish relations due to Brexit, given the fact that there won’t be the regular contacts the EU has brought, what about rejoining the Commonwealth? There does need to be a structure doesn’t there, for Anglo-Irish relations contact?

Varadkar: It’s not something we’ve given any consideration to as a government. 

Lawlor: What’s your own inclination?

Varadkar: It’s not something that’s on the agenda, at the moment anyway. 

Lawlor: But are you concerned, the regular contact and the daily relationship between [Ireland the UK] would be gone…

Varadkar: No, there is a way we can do that and it’s not the Commonwealth it’s the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement has different types of institutions; North/South within Northern Ireland and also East/West.

So we’ve an Institution called the British/Irish Inter-Governmental Conference and we’ve also the British Irish Council which involves Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man and so on. I think we can re-empower and boost those institutions that exist under the Good Friday Agreement, that exist in International Law.

So at the moment, we meet our British counterparts at least four times a year in Brussels, that will stop, but we could for example, twice a year or four times a year, meet BIIGC meetings and have a structured cooperation with the UK.