British and Irish governments to meet in bid to restore power sharing in the North
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British and Irish governments to meet in bid to restore power sharing in the North

A MEETING of the British-Irish InterGovernmental Conference (BIIGC) has been announced in a bid to restore power sharing to the North.

It is the first time a meeting of the BIIGC has taken place in over a decade, the last time being in February 2007.

The BIIGC is a joint consultative body created by the Good Friday Agreement that recognises the Irish Government's special interest in Northern Ireland.

'East-West issues'

The British Government stressed the BIIGC is not an executive body, adding “there will be no derogation from the sovereignty of either government”.

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“As the BIIGC is ‘concerned with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters’, the focus of the meeting will be on East-West issues,” said a Whitehall statement.

However with Northern Ireland without a devolved government since January 2017, the subject of restoring power sharing at Stormont is sure to be on the agenda.

Indeed, Tánaiste Simon Coveney – who will represent the Irish Government at the meeting – welcomed the announcement, saying restoring power sharing was mutually beneficial.

“Both governments as co-guarantors of the Agreement are fully committed to the working together to achieve the earliest operation of the devolved institutions and to working together for the mutual benefit of all the peoples of these islands,” said the Tánaiste.

DUP deal

All-Ireland party Sinn Féin welcomed the announcement, but said the British Government must not be swayed by its confidence and supply deal with the DUP.

"I would urge the British government to approach the Conference with common sense and put the imperative of restoring the Executive ahead of its dependency on the DUP," said party leader Mary Lou McDonald.

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"For its part, the DUP must embrace the spirit of power sharing and full equality.

"This is how we will move to break the political deadlock.

"Power sharing remains the best way forward and Sinn Féin is committed to the restoration of the institutions based on equality, respect and good governance for all.”

The DUP's Nigel Dodds also said restoring power sharing should be a priority.

“We strongly value a good British-Irish relationship but our constituents really want to see a working assembly and executive,” he told BBC NI.

"The BIIGC has no power to take decisions. Arlene Foster understandably described it as a 'talking shop'.

"The BIIGC will not deal with the growing backlog of ministerial decisions but the DUP will continue to work with the government to ensure decisions get made in Northern Ireland and shape the agenda for the betterment of everyone.”

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