Written answers

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

British-Irish Co-operation

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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106. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the outcome of the recent British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3460/23]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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A meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) took place at Farmleigh House on 19 January 2023. The Government was represented by the Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin TD, together with the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, and the Minister for Justice, Simon Harris TD.

The Government of the United Kingdom was represented by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Steve Baker MP, the Minister of State for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure, Julia Lopez MP and the Minister of State for Energy and Climate, Graham Stuart MP.

As detailed in the Communiqué released following the meeting, the Conference agreed on the critical importance of restoring to full operation all of the political institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement. The Conference discussed developments in this context and the serious and deepening consequences for people in Northern Ireland arising from the ongoing absence of a fully functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, Executive and North South Ministerial Council.

At the conference the Irish and UK Governments discussed bilateral cooperation in a range of areas with a particular focus on cyber security and energy.

With regard to cyber security, Ministers agreed to:

- intensify engagement on cyber resilience issues;

- explore opportunities to cooperate in supporting growth and innovation;

- convene bilateral cyber security policy dialogues to address issues of mutual interest and concern

With regard to energy, Ministers agreed to:

- explore increased cooperation on offshore renewable energy and security of supply, including in relation to offshore grids, electricity interconnection, and development of hybrid/multipurpose projects combining offshore wind generation with interconnection.

- continue the policy dialogue between relevant Departments and agencies in the context of the forthcoming Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on gas security of supply.

- jointly examine the scope for further cross-border cooperation and coordination in the area of low carbon hydrogen.

Progress made in relation to these two areas will be reviewed at future meetings of the BIIGC.

The Irish and UK Governments discussed the current security situation in both jurisdictions. They welcomed the excellent ongoing cooperation between the PSNI and An Garda Síochána in tackling terrorism, paramilitarism and associated criminality.

The Conference considered the fifth report of the Independent Reporting Commission, including their recommendations on possible mechanisms to progress the transition and disbandment of all remaining paramilitary groups.

The Conference welcomed the centenary year of the Common Travel Area arrangements and reaffirmed a clear commitment to the reciprocal rights and privileges it provides for British and Irish citizens.

The Conference discussed UK proposals for the implementation of an electronic travel authorisation scheme, which will not apply to British and Irish citizens, and potential implications for other residents of Ireland and international visitors.

The Conference also discussed recent developments and legislation relevant to the implementation of the rights and citizenship provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Conference discussed the UK government’s proposed legislation on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the Irish Government’s continuing concerns in relation to it. The UK government noted the amendments it has proposed to the Bill.

Ministers also discussed issues of concern in respect to a number of individual legacy cases.

The Conference looked ahead to the range of events and activities planned for the Good Friday Agreement’s 25th anniversary year and the two governments reiterated their commitment to appropriately and collectively marking, reflecting on, and celebrating this foundational achievement for present and future generations.

The Conference underlined the continuing fundamental importance of the Agreement today in the constitutional principles it enshrines, the institutions that it establishes and the rights that it guarantees for the people of Northern Ireland.

It was agreed that the Conference would meet again in Spring 2023.


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