British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference
|Predecessor||Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference|
|Formation||17 December 1999|
|Legal status||British-Irish Agreement|
|Headquarters||Belfast, Northern Ireland1|
|United Kingdom and Ireland|
|Remarks||1 This is the location of the Joint Secretariat of the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference.|
The British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) was established under an Agreement between the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom made on 8 March 1998. It was provided for under Strand Three of the Belfast Agreement. The inaugural meeting took place at 10 Downing Street on 17 December 1999 and was chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and attended by representatives of the Irish government, the British government and the Northern Ireland Executive.
The BIIGC replaced the Anglo-Irish Conference which was established under Article 2 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. Under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, the BIIGC is supported by officials of the British and Irish Governments, including a standing Joint Secretariat of officials dealing with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters. The BIIGC secretariat has approximately 21 staff (10 for the British side, 11 for the Irish side). The staff comprise a mix of grades from senior civil servants to administrative support grades.
On suspension, devolved matters revert to the Conference's remit. The latest meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference took place in Dundalk, 26 February 2007. The BIIGC guarantees the Government of Ireland a say in areas of bilateral co-operation and on those matters not yet devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly or the North/South Ministerial Council.
The BIIGC is normally chaired by the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Provision is made however for meetings at summit level, i.e. between the Taoiseach and Prime Minister, as required. Summit meetings of the BIIGC took place in 1999 and 2005. There is also provision under the Belfast Agreement for Members of the Legislative Assembly to be involved in the intergovernmental conference but they do not have the power to block decisions taken by the two governments.
In respect of bilateral co-operation these include:
- Asylum and immigration, including Common Travel Area issues
- European Union and international issues
- Social security including methods of fraud detection
- Policy on misuse of drugs: combating organised crime and associated money laundering
- Fiscal issues
In respect of non-devolved matters issues include:
- Policing, including implementation of the Patten Report
- Criminal justice
- Normalisation of security arrangements and practices
- Cross-border security co-operation
- Victims of violence
- Prison issues
- Drugs and drug trafficking
Criminal Justice Co-operation
Under an international agreement between the UK and Ireland on "Co-operation on Criminal Justice Matters" signed in 2005, the Northern Ireland minister responsible for justice reports to the BIIGC on certain matters. This because the Agreement provides that the Ministers of the governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland (hereinafter referred to as "the Ministers") responsible for criminal justice matters in the two jurisdictions (Ireland and Northern Ireland) shall meet at least annually for the purpose of facilitating more effective co-operation and co-ordination on criminal justice matters, including in combating criminal behaviour, working together in the prevention of crime and on community safety issues, and dealing with offenders after conviction. Such meetings shall be referred to hereinafter as Ministerial Meetings on criminal justice co-operation. The Agreement provides that such meetings shall operate under the auspices of, and be accountable to, the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference.
The following is an (incomplete) list of meetings of the BIIGC up to 10 June 2011:
- 1–17 December 1999 (Summit Level Meeting)
- 2–22 October 2002
- 3–18 December 2002
- 4–20 May 2003
- 5–2 July 2003
- 6–18 September 2003
- 7–22 January 2004
- 8–21 April 2004
- 9–7 July 2004
- 10–15 December 2004
- 11–2 March 2005
- 12–27 June 2005 (Summit Level Meeting)
- 13–19 October 2005
- 14–1 February 2006
- 15–2 May 2006
- 16–25 July 2006
- 17–24 October 2006
- 18–26 February 2007
- British-Irish Council
- North/South Ministerial Council
- Belfast Agreement
- Northern Ireland Executive
- Government of the United Kingdom
- Government of Ireland
- Hansard, 14 July 2008: Column WA103
- Northern Ireland Office Archived 16 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
- Forman, F. N. :Constitutional change in the United Kingdom. University College, London. Constitution Unit. Routledge, 2002, p. 71. ISBN 0-415-23035-7
- Taoiseach's website
- Agreement Archived 30 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
- CAIN website Archived 14 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.