But as a modest distraction from all the NAMA talk, and in the spirit of being an equal opportunity blog for speculative thinking about the future, what about the issue of Ireland re-joining the Commonwealth? It was floated recently in the Daily Telegraph (where else?), in light of a new Reform Group pamphlet entitled: Ireland and the Commonwealth - Towards Membership.
The Telegraph suggests an interesting sequence: the Queen of England visits Ireland in 2011 (the centenary of the last visit by an English monarch - George V - in 1911); then Ireland rejoins the Commonwealth in 2012 (having left in 1948); then the North's Unionists rejoin a united Ireland in 2021 (the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland). Okay, I made that last one up. Rather, Philip Johnston suggests that:
...were Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth, it would draw a line under the troubled history of Anglo-Irish relations and help develop a pluralist Ireland comfortable with its different identities and turbulent past. There is a strong argument, too, that Ireland's self-interest would also be served by being part of the Commonwealth, which is a world forum with links to many other institutions.But this is where I think things come unstuck. Of course the Queen should visit Ireland as the sovereign head of our nearest neighbour: it's a pity she hasn't been able to do so sooner as it would indeed 'draw a line' under a lot of historical baggage. But I'm just not convinced that we have much to gain (nor contribute, frankly) to the future of the Commonwealth which seems, from the outside, to be increasingly about the developing nations that make up the majority of its members rather than the countries with which Ireland is historically connected (e.g.: Canada, Australia and New Zealand).
I do though agree with some of the views aired in the RTE What If? programme on 27th April 2008 which asked: What if Ireland had not left the Commonwealth in 1949? Including the view that we 'left too soon' when we did, and that it would have been better to leave in the 1970s when both Britain and Ireland joined the EEC thereby replacing the Commonwealth as a forum in which the two countries could do business.
On the other hand, if Ireland joining the Commonwealth were to be (part of) the price of a future united Ireland (with the consent of the majority in the North, and on the basis of making the Unionists more comfortable with same), then I would not object. Otherwise I just don't think we have enough in common with the Commonwealth to rejoin. Though on balance, now that I think about it, I'm fairly agnostic about the matter and am open to persuasion.
All this assuming, of course, that they'd have us back.