A CROSS-border police summit on organised crime co-operation will be held without the two justice ministers for the first time.
The ministers have traditionally attended the conferences for the past 10 years as they alternated in venue between north and south of the Border.
But Alan Shatter has indicated that he will not attend this year's event, which takes place in Dundalk tomorrow and Thursday.
His Northern counterpart, David Forde has also decided to opt out.
In response to a query from the Irish Independent last night, Mr Shatter said that, given the particular operational emphasis of this year's conference, it would be more appropriate for the Garda Commissioner and the PSNI Chief Constable to take the lead.
He said rather than attend the conference, the two ministers, together with the commissioner and the chief constable, would have a separate meeting in the coming weeks.
The decision has surprised some senior garda officers, as one of the key items on the agenda will be a discussion on cross-border investigations into serious crime.
The discussion will include the murder last January outside Dundalk of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe.
The cross-border dimension has been one of the crucial features of the investigation into the fatal shooting of the highly popular detective outside a credit union in Lordship.
Senior Gardai and PSNI officers will also discuss the co-operation into another border murder – the savage attack on Paul Quinn in the Co Monaghan village of Oram in 2007.
Other items on the agenda include cyber crime, co-operation with the customs authorities in combating border smuggling in fuel and cigarettes and the link to funding terrorism, and protocols and strategies for dealing with cross-border crimes such as tiger kidnappings.
This is the 11th cross-border police summit to be held and the others, which have always been attended by ministers from both sides, have been acclaimed as highly successful.
Mr Shatter said that he and Mr Forde had discussed their approach with their respective heads of police, "who were happy with this approach".
His statement added: "The conference is, of course, being fully supported by both ministers, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Northern Ireland Department of Justice."