UK and Ireland peace process body to meet for first time in more than a decade
The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference will be held in London, a year-and-a-half after devolved government imploded in Belfast.
A UK and Irish government consultation body will meet later for the first time in more than a decade amid efforts to restore Stormont powersharing.
The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference will be held in London, a year and a half after devolved government imploded in Belfast.
It gives the Irish a consultative role on non-devolved issues affecting Northern Ireland.
It last met in 2007 and its return has proved controversial. When it was last called security was a major part of its remit but those powers were later devolved to Stormont.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP have long been calling for the conference’s re-establishment to inject fresh impetus into the stalled political process in Belfast.
But unionists have been wary of handing too much influence to Dublin and dismissed the gathering as a “talking shop”.
Former first minister Lord Trimble said the meeting is “reaching the point of breaking” the principle set out in the Good Friday Agreement that the Irish Government should have no role whatsoever in the internal politics of the UK.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it is unacceptable for Irish ministers to be involved in discussions on the restoration of Stormont.
“There has been pressure from Dublin to try to change the character of the inter-governmental conference in a way that would not be acceptable to unionists and probably not acceptable to the British Government either,” he said.
“I don’t regard this as a helpful situation. It’s likely to make matters worse.”
Cabinet Office minister David Lidington and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley are expected to attend.
The Irish government will be represented by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.
Powersharing crashed in January 2017 after a bitter row between the DUP and Sinn Fein over a botched green energy scheme.
The impasse later widened to include more traditional issues of contention, such as the Irish language, LGBT rights and how to handle to legacy of the Troubles.