British-Irish Council meets in Jersey to discuss knowledge economy

 

Senior politicians from Ireland, Britain, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man led by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, held a meeting of the British-Irish Council (BIC) in Jersey yesterday.

It was the third such meeting and the first to be held outside Britain or Ireland. The theme of the gathering was the knowledge economy, for which Jersey has chief responsibility under the terms of the council, which was established as part of the Belfast Agreement.

Representatives from Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man joined politicians from the two governments and from the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales for the meeting.

A special group from all the administrations was established to advance the concept of the knowledge economy.

The importance that the two governments are attaching to the BIC could be gauged by the seniority of the politicians attending. Also present for the Government were the Tanaiste, Ms Harney, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Cowen, and the Government Chief Whip, Ms Mary Hanafin.

Accompanying Mr Blair were the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr John Prescott, the Northern Secretary, Dr John Reid, and the British junior minister for e-commerce, Mr Stephen Timms.

The Northern Assembly was represented by the First and Deputy First Ministers, Mr David Trimble and Mr Mark Durkan, the Sinn Féin Education Minister, Mr Martin McGuinness, the Ulster Unionist Enterprise Minister, Sir Reg Empey, and the SDLP Minister for Employment and Learning, Ms Carmel Hanna.

The BIC also discussed issues such as drugs, the environment, social inclusion, transport, health and tourism.