This is a major breakthrough for the work of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, which brings together Irish, British and other parliamentarians twice a year to discuss matters of mutual interest in these islands.
The Body has been boycotted by unionists since its inception 16 years ago but the next meeting of the Body in Killarney from April 23-24 will be attended by four leading members of the Democratic Unionist Party. The high-powered DUP delegation will be led by the party’s Deputy Leader, Peter Robinson, and includes three other Westminster MPs and MLAs, Iris Robinson, Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson. They are expected to make an hour-long formal presentation to the Body.
The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, Dermot Ahern TD, will deliver the keynote address on behalf of the Irish Government. The Body’s British co-Chairman is Labour MP and former Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy. The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body was formally established in 1990 as a link between Westminster and Dublin, with 25 British and 25 Irish members drawn from the Upper and Lower Houses of both parliaments. In recent years the membership of the Body has been extended, with representatives from the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Isle of Man and Channel Islands.
Gary Kent is a graduate of international relations. After spells in management in British Rail and the Co-Op he began work in parliament in 1987 where he was active for two decades on Anglo-Irish peace activity against terrorism and now as secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, which he has visited 27 times since 2006. He used to be a columnist for Fortnight Magazine and writes a regular column for the Kurdish Rudaw outlet and many other publications.