Murder, policing and drugs key issues at British-Irish Body in Wexford

The Paul Quinn murder, devolving police powers in Northern Ireland and drugs policy dominate next week’s meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body in Wexford.

Irish TDs Seymour Crawford and Rory O’Hanlon have both tabled questions on the Quinn murder, which will be answered by Martin Cullen, the Irish Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Mr Crawford asks if the authorities are receiving enough co-operation whilst Mr O’Hanlon asks for a progress report on restoring normal policing to South Armagh.

SDLP Assembly Member Alex Attwood asks if the conditions are right for devolved justice powers and what actions parties or other organisations should take to deepen political confidence. Jim O’Keefe TD is asking for a timetable for the devolution of policing and justice matters in the North and Sinn Fein TD Arthur Morgan is pushing for “the urgent necessity for transfer” of these functions.

Former Northern Ireland Minister Alf Dubs has tabled a question into the state of play on the inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane.

Baroness May Blood is to highlight the work of the Irish Government’s new Anti-Sectarianism Fund which has recently funded the integrated education movement in Northern Ireland in which she is a leading figure.

There are questions and two presentations on drugs policy. Irish Minister Pat Carey will talk about the impact on communities and Paul Delaney from the Cornmarket project in Wexford will address the Body. There has been a recent major increase in heroin addiction and drugs deaths in the town

The Tourism Ireland boss Hugh Friel will deliver a presentation on tourism as a driver for economic development.

There will be a more general session on recent political developments which will enable the 70 parliamentarians to discuss all key issues concerning Northern Ireland, Anglo-Irish relations and the future of the Body itself.

The Body, which is nearly 20 years old, has long been plagued by the absence of unionist representation although the DUP sent a delegation two years ago. It’s likely that the Body will be replaced by a new organisation which will have no links to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which is the stated reason for the longstanding unionist boycott of the Body.

It is expected that the unionists will then join. Their membership has long been promoted by members of the Body who believe that their participation could begin to make the new body a more powerful forum for backbench scrutiny of the British-Irish council and a mechanism for persuading the British and Irish governments to increase co-operation on practical issues.

The biannual meeting of parliamentarians from across these islands is also to be co-chaired for the first time by Peter Hain, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He recently replaced Paul Murphy when he returned to the Cabinet as Welsh Secretary after the resignation of Mr Hain.