Northern Ireland instability to be discussed at Anglo Irish co-operation forum

Issues surrounding the political instability in Northern Ireland will be discussed at a
governmental forum for Anglo Irish co-operation, Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister has said.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said that while the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC) doesn't have the capacity to "solve everything", it was still a significant forum.

Speaking at the Irish Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Coveney said that he and British Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington will chair the conference later this month.

David Lidington
David Lidington

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald told the Dail that the focus of the conference should be on the outstanding issues preventing the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr Coveney responded: "On the agenda, which has not been finalised yet, we will see a number of East/West issues being discussed, particularly around security issues.

"We will be discussing issues in relation to political instability in Northern Ireland.

"I think it's important people understand why the BIIC is significant - this is a structure of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It doesn't have the capacity to solve everything. On some issues it's a consultative body, on other issues it is more than that."

The UK and Irish governments announced last week that the BIIC will reconvene, 11 years since its last meeting.

The conference is to meet in London on July 25, 18 months after devolved government imploded in Belfast.

The mechanism gives the Irish a consultative role on non-devolved issues affecting Northern Ireland. It last met in 2007.

The prospect of a return of the forum has proved controversial.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have long been calling for its re-establishment as a way to inject fresh impetus into the stalled political process in the region.

But unionists have been wary amid concerns of handing too much influence to the Dublin government.

Last week, DUP leader Arlene Foster dismissed the upcoming conference as a "talking shop" and insisted it did not have any decision-making powers.