British–Irish Council

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British-Irish Council
Logo of the British-Irish Council
Abbreviation BIC
Formation 2 December 1999; 15 years ago (1999-12-02)
Type IGO
Legal status British-Irish Agreement
Headquarters Edinburgh, Scotland1
Coordinates 55°56′45″N 3°13′21″W / 55.94584°N 3.22262°W / 55.94584; -3.22262
Region served
British Isles2

 United Kingdom
 Northern Ireland
 Isle of Man

Remarks 1 This is the location of the Standing Secretariat of the British-Irish Council.
2 Owing to a dispute over name of the archipelago, the BIC uses a number of euphemisms to avoid this term in its documents.

The British–Irish Council (BIC) is an international organisation[1] established under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Its membership comprises representatives from:

The Council was formally established when the British-Irish Agreement was signed on 2 December 1999. Its stated aim is to "promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands". The BIC has a standing secretariat, located in Edinburgh, Scotland, and meets in semi-annual summit session and more frequent ministerial meetings.[2]

Membership and operation[edit]

Membership of the Council consists of the following administrations (with current heads of administrations as of January 2015):

Member Administration Representative(s) Title
Guernsey Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq Chief Minister
Isle of Man Isle of Mans finansministrar Alan Bell skriver under avtal tillsammans med sina nordiska kollegor vid Nordiska Radets session i Oslo. 2007-10-30. Foto- Magnus Froderberg.jpg Allan Bell, MHK Chief Minister
Ireland EndaKenny.jpg Enda Kenny, TD Taoiseach
Jersey Ian gorst in the royal square.JPG Senator Ian Gorst Chief Minister
Northern Ireland[3] Peter Robinson2008.jpg Peter Robinson, MLA First Minister
MartinMcGuinness (cropped).jpg Martin McGuinness, MLA deputy First Minister
Scotland NicolaSturgeonMSP20110510.JPG Nicola Sturgeon, MSP First Minister
United Kingdom David Cameron official.jpg David Cameron, MP Prime Minister
Wales Carwyn Jones 2011 (crop).jpg Carwyn Jones, AM First Minister

The nine heads of government meet at biyearly summits. Additionally, there are regular meetings that deal with specific sectors and are attended by the corresponding ministers. Representatives of members operate in accordance with whatever procedures for democratic authority and accountability are in force in their respective elected legislatures. Because England does not have a devolved government, it is not represented on the Council as a separate entity.[4]

The work of the Council is financed by members through mutual agreement as required.[5] At the ninth meeting of the Council,[when?] it was decided that with devolved government returned to Northern Ireland that an opportune time existed "to undertake a strategic review of the Council's work programmes, working methods and support arrangements." This decision included the potential for a permanent standing secretariat, which was established in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 4 January 2012.

At its June 2010 summit, the Council decided to move forward on recommendations to enhance the relationship between it and the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA). The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly is made up of members from the parliaments and assemblies of the same states and regions as the members of the British–Irish Council. The Council tasked its secretariat with moving this work forward in conjunction with the BIPA's secretariat.

In addition to the above members Cornwall has been a full observer member since 2010 due to the Cornish language falling under the Council's areas of work.[6]

Work areas[edit]

The Council agrees to specific work areas for which individual members take responsibility. The Belfast Agreement suggested transport links, agriculture, environmental issues, culture, health, education and approaches to the European Union as suitable topics for early discussion. However, these work areas can be expanded or reduced as the Council decides. It is also open to the Council to make agreement on common policies. These agreements are made through consensus, although individual members may opt not to participate in implementing any of these.

The current list of work areas and the member responsible are:

  • Collaborative spatial planning (Northern Ireland)
  • Demography (Scotland)
  • Digital inclusion (Isle of Man)
  • Early years policy (Wales)
  • Energy (United Kingdom - Elec Grids, and Scotland - Marine)
  • Environment (United Kingdom)
  • Housing (Northern Ireland)
  • Indigenous, minority and lesser-used languages (Wales)
  • Misuse of Substances (drugs and alcohol) (Ireland)
  • Social inclusion (Scotland and Wales)
  • Transport (Northern Ireland)
  • Creative Industries (Jersey)

Demography was adopted as a work area at the 2006 meeting of the Council. It was proposed by the Scottish Executive, who also took responsibility for it. During the 2007 meeting of the Council the Scottish Government further proposed that energy become a work area of the Council. Past work sector areas included knowledge economy, e-health / telemedicine and tourism.

Name of the Council[edit]

Initial suggestions for the council included the names Council of the British Isles or Council of the Isles, and the council is sometimes known by these names. However, owing to sensibilities around the term British Isles, particularly in Ireland, the name British-Irish Council was agreed.

The official name of the Council is represented in minority and lesser-used languages of the council as:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jesse, Neal G., Williams, Kristen P.: Identity and institutions: conflict reduction in divided societies.Publisher SUNY Press, 2005, page 107. ISBN 0-7914-6451-2
  2. ^ "Scottish government website"
  3. ^ The First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland is a diarchy. While other members of the organization are represented at Summit Meetings by their respective chief ministers, or on occasions have sent their deputies, Northern Ireland is represented by both the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. The Scottish and Welsh Deputy First Minister's have attended meetings in the past.
  4. ^ See Vernon Bogdanor, 'The British–Irish Council and Devolution', in Government and Opposition: An International Journal of Comparative Politics, volume 34, issue 3, July 1999, pp.291–295.
  5. ^ Belfast Agreement – Strand Three, Articles 8 and 9.
    British-Irish Council website, Frequently Asked Questions: Who pays for the British-Irish Council?
  6. ^ Read, David (2014). Cornish National Minority Advisory Report. Truro: Cornwall Council. p. 22. 
  8. ^ "Menystrans hembronk rag yethow teythyek, minoryta ha le-usys yw an Governans Kembrek". British-Irish Council. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 

External links[edit]