Saturday 19 October 2019

British-Irish intergovernmental conference to meet amid ongoing stalemate in North

Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Cormac McQuinn and John Downing

THE British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference is to meet next month amid the continuing stalemate in re-establishing the power-sharing institutions in the North.

The move - 18 months after the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive - follows on from a one-on-one meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British prime minister Theresa May on the margins of the European Council meeting in Brussels.

The Intergovernmental Conference is an institution under the Good Friday Agreement that provides a forum for British and Irish ministers to discuss cooperation between both governments.

There have been calls for it to be convened due to the lack of the Executive and Assembly in the North which fell apart in a row over a renewable heat incentive scheme.

There has been serious concern at the absence of devolved government there amid the continuing uncertainty posed by Brexit.

However, Sinn Féin and the DUP have been unable to reach a deal on re-establishing the power-sharing institutions with ongoing disputes over the status of the Irish language among other disagreements.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has this evening announced that the Intergovernmental Conference will take place on July 25.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and justice minister Charlie Flanagan will represent the Irish government.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington and Nothern Ireland secretary Karn Bradley will represent the UK.

The conference is set to discuss the effective operation of the Good Friday Agreement institutions and north-south security cooperation.

Mr Coveney said: “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.”

Mr Flanagan said: “Maintaining a stable security environment is 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 Good Friday Agreement provides for meetings of the Conference concerned with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters where the Irish government can put forward views and proposals.

Such meetings can also deal with all-island and cross-border cooperation on non-devolved issues.

The Agreement also provides that “there is no derogation from the sovereignty of either Government”.

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