British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to meet for first time since 2007

Coveney expresses commitment to working together with British for ‘mutual benefit’

Simon Coveney: he said he looked forward to the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on July 25th

Simon Coveney: he said he looked forward to the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on July 25th

 

A meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference is to take place next month for the first time since 2007, the Government has announced.

The conference is an institution of the Belfast Agreement, bringing the two administrations together to promote bilateral co-operation “at all levels on matters of mutual interest within the competence of both governments”.

In a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, it was announced the meeting would take place on July 25th.

It will be attended by Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.

The UK government will be represented by David Lidington, minister for the cabinet Office, and Northern Secretary Karen Bradley.

Mr Coveney said he looked forward to the event. “Both governments as co-guarantors of the agreement are fully committed to working together to achieve the earliest operation of the devolved institutions, and to working together for the mutual benefit of all of the peoples of these islands,” he said.

Sinn Féin has also sought an Intergovernmental Conference given the absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly, which collapsed in January 2017. Earlier this month, the party’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said the conference should meet as a matter of urgency.

‘Talking shop’

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also said the conference should be convened, saying the maximum use of the Belfast Agreement was imperative.

However, in April DUP leader Arlene Foster said she was not sure why Sinn Féin and the SDLP were so keen on the idea of what she called the “talking shop” being convened as it had not sat since 2007.“For us it’s a distraction, frankly,” she said at the time.

Mr Flanagan added that maintaining a stable security environment was “a key aspect of the process of peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. The authorities in both jurisdictions will continue to work closely together to achieve that aim.”

The Belfast Agreement provides for meetings of the conference on non-devolved Northern Ireland issues. Under its terms the Irish government can put forward views and proposals. It also deals with “all-island and cross-Border co-operation on non-devolved issues”.