'No scenario' where Ireland would re-join the Commonwealth - Harris

A poll has found most voters in the Republic of Ireland have no interest in re-joining the organisation
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.29 19 Jan 2024

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'No scenario' where Ireland wo...

'No scenario' where Ireland would re-join the Commonwealth - Harris

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.29 19 Jan 2024

Share this article

There is no scenario in which Ireland would seek to re-join the Commonwealth, the Higher Education Minister has said.

Simon Harris was commenting on poll published in The Irish Times today, which found most voters in the Republic of Ireland have no interest in re-joining the organisation.

Pollsters asked whether people would be interested in rejoining in two different ways, one emphasising the British history of the organisation, the other noting most members are republics.


Either way, over 60% of voters rejected the idea of membership in the event of a united Ireland.

Minister Harris told The Hard Shoulder he would not support any such proposal.

"There's just so many pressing issues right now in relation to Northern Ireland anyway," he said.

"Hoping to see a government back in place in terms of devolution of Stormont, the work at the Shared Island Unit, the work I'm doing in my own Department trying to get students from the North and students from the South more familiar with each other, increased student mobility.

"But no, Ireland is a multilateral country, we're outward looking in our perspective.

"I think we do our business in that regard through a whole variety of fora, be it our membership of the European Union, the United Nations, the WHO.

"So, no is my answer".

'Words matter'

Minister Harris said he found other aspects of the survey more interesting.

"I don't see a scenario in which Ireland would seek to join, or re-join, the Commonwealth," he said.

"I just don't think it arises, other than in an interesting survey today.

"I do think what was somewhat interesting about the survey today, more broadly, is how language matters when it comes to discussing what a united or shared Ireland looks like.

"That's an important lesson, quite frankly, for all of us involved in politics.

"Words matter when it comes to people's perception of the future on this island.

"While the Commonwealth is an interesting talking point, what I actually thought was more interesting was the insight that it gave in terms of how important the words you use are when it comes to the future of this island.

"There are certain words that are inflammatory to certain communities.

"But when you actually try and talk in a respectful way, I think people feel a lot less threatened about the future."

'Huge body of work'

Minister Harris said he believes people are more interested in practical issues.

"I think people are less concerned about emblems and symbolism and more concerned about practical things," he said.

"I'm of a generation, and I think many people in my generation, are more familiar with Paris and Berlin than they are with Belfast and Derry.

"I think there's a huge body of work that we need to do in terms of mobility around the island.

"I'm going to Donegal on Monday [with] this idea of how we can work together on an all-island approach to education.

"We're looking at how we can educate doctors on an all-island approach.

"We already have nursing, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy as an example.

"We're developing all-island apprenticeships," he added.

Minister Harris said ultimately his wish is to see a united Ireland "in due course".

Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949 when the Republic of Ireland Act came into force.

Main image: Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris arriving at Cabinet, 27-6-23. Image: Leah Farrell/

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All-island Approach Commonwealth European Union Higher Education Minister Increased Mobility Ireland Poll Shared Ireland Simon Harris Stormont The Commonwealth The Hard Shoulder United Nations WHO

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