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New home for British-Irish body in Scotland

Unionists have welcomed the creation of a permanent home for the British-Irish Council (BIC), despite some regret that it will be based in Scotland and not Northern Ireland.

First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson confirmed to the Assembly that Edinburgh will host the permanent administrative centre for the body that draws together governments from across Britain and Ireland.

His party colleague, Jimmy Spratt (right), also welcomed the news, which represents the east-west structures of the Good Friday Agreement that also established formal north-south political links across the border.

Mr Spratt accused the previous Labour Government of obstructing the formation of a BIC secretariat and welcomed the fact the move had now been agreed.

Mr Robinson said: “This was an issue that we had tasked the officials to take forward right back at the meeting in Belfast in 2007.

“It has been there and we have been pressing it for a very considerable time.

“It does, if you like, complete the various bodies that we have located on the periphery of the Assembly itself, both at a north-south level and an east-west level.

“And I think that we have seen from the experiences on a north-south level that having a secretariat gives focus and drive to the work that goes on, and we hope that is replicated when it comes to the east-west body.”

He said the change in government at Westminster helped lead to agreement on the issue. The cost of running the body will be shared across the various administrations.

“I should point out that Northern Ireland did make an early bid for the standing secretariat to be based here,” Mr Robinson added.

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