ULSTER Unionist leader Tom Elliott will outline his reasons why the Republic should consider re-joining the Commonwealth in a landmark speech in Dublin later this month.
The UUP chief will be the guest speaker at an event in Trinity College to mark International Commonwealth Day on March 12.
Mr Elliott is expected to focus on the successful and historic state visit of the Queen to the south last May and how the monarch was warmly received by the Irish public.
The Republic left the Commonwealth in 1949.
Speaking ahead of the event – organised by the southern-based Reform Group – Mr Elliott said the Queen’s visit to the Republic indicated a new relationship between the two states.
“Developments during the past 15 years have witnessed a sea change in the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and also the Republic and the entire United Kingdom,” he said.
“The Queen’s visit to the Republic was a resounding success. She received a tremendous welcome wherever she went and some commentators were moved to raise the question of whether or not the Republic should rejoin the Commonwealth.
“As part of the Commonwealth the Republic would not only cement its new relationship with Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, but would join a family of over two billion people worldwide.”
Mr Elliott’s Dublin intervention comes after he previously raised the issue in the Assembly last month.
Speaking during a special session marking the monarch’s 60th year on the throne, the UUP leader said the Queen’s visit to the Republic – the first British monarch to do so since independence in 1922 – suggested a new affinity between two states that are “so close geographically but are maybe so apart in other circumstances”.
During her four-day visit to the Republic, the Queen – accompanied by Prince Philip – laid a wreath in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance dedicated to people who fought for Irish independence.
She also toured Croke Park – the home of the GAA – and was greeted by thousands of cheering spectators when she participated in an impromptu walkabout in Cork.
The Reform Group is a non-denominational, non-party body based in the Republic, advocating the development of a post-nationalist, pluralist Ireland.
Event organiser Robin Bury said Commonwealth Day is an opportunity to promote understanding on global issues, international co-operation and the work of the Commonwealth’s organisations, which aim to improve the lives of its citizens.
“The theme for Commonwealth Day 2012 is Connecting Cultures and we are delighted that Mr Elliott will help us mark this year’s celebrations in Dublin.
“Ireland could use its impressive experience in world organisations like the UN to influence the future development of the Commonwealth, an organisation with 32 republics, radically changed since Ireland left.”
Commonwealth Day is traditionally held on the second Monday in March.
It is formally marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey, London, normally attended by the Queen in her role as head of the Commonwealth.