Still waiting for the Unionists…

The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body still cant’ get Unionists to come along, but Gary Kent, reporting from Wexford, reckons that that is only a name change and year away. The group of bank bench parliamentarians met as usual, but with our former Secretary of State for Wales, etc. in the chair (he hasn’t gone away you know)…

The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body today in Wexford agreed a fairly bland motion on continuing progress in Northern Ireland which Tory MP Robert Walter described as motherhood and apple pie. However, some speakers were able to highlight real problems and to advocate new area of debate and action.

On Northern Ireland, Cecilia Keveaney and Eddie McGrady from Fianna Fail and the SDLP respectively (though some are watching that space to see if two become one) cited the continuing problem of sectarianism and bigotry in ghettoised communities surrounded by more and more “peace walls.”

Some members think the Body should think bigger and examine global issues. Peter Hain put forward energy security and boosting renewables. Eddie McGrady wanted to focus on food production and climate change whilst Baroness O Cathain singled out biofuels.

Back to the North: there was universal acceptance of the need for early devolution of policing and criminal justice powers. The DUP claims a veto over this and will wait for solid progress towards the dismantlement of the Provisional IRA – lock, stock and Army Council. But this wasn’t debated due to the continuing absence of unionists.

It won’t be long before they join. The next meeting of the Body in October will see it change its rules slightly and rename itself as the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. The unionist parties have indicated that they will send representatives, probably in a year’s time.

It’s been a very long time in coming but unionist participation in BIPA will give it some bite in its bid to become the backbench scrutiny body for the east-west dimension in general and the British-Irish Council in particular.

It was also Peter Hain’s first time as the new Co-Chair. He was widely praised but I enjoyed Chris Ruane MP’s mixed mathematical metaphors that in negotiations Peter was able to “square circles and triangulate.”

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  • George

    Someone please wind this useless quango up before more useless gombeens from the unionist tradition join the already gombeen-packed gravy train.

  • darth rumsfeld

    er…well actually this is more useful than many quangos, and I wish they would go along- no sensible reason not to in the overall context of where we are

  • Nicholas

    Sounds like a waste of time and money.

    …some speakers were able to highlight real problems and to advocate new area of debate and action.

    Basically it’s a talking shop to placate nationalists in providing an all-Ireland dimension but lacks teeth because unionists reject an all-Ireland state. It’s an impotent half-way house to boast politician’s egos.

  • Oilifear

    “Basically it’s a talking shop to placate nationalists in providing an all-Ireland dimension but lacks teeth because unionists reject an all-Ireland state.”

    Eh … actually it’s a talking shop to placate unionists in providing an all-UK/Ireland dimension but lacks teeth because … unionists reject an all-UK/Ireland state!??

    Actually, it’s just more evidence of how nationalist Ireland is closer to Britain than unionist Ireland and what a weird and wonderful island we live on.

  • [aside]

    Just read this Lords Q&A;:

    “Lord Laird (Crossbench) asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 22 April (WA 291), whether it was their intention that the electorate should endorse the St Andrews Agreement in an election to the Northern Ireland Assembly in March.

    Lord Rooker (Minister of State (Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Labour)

    Yes, this was the Government’s intention”

    I don’t see the connection between endorsement of the SAA and the election results. Perhaps someone can explain.

  • Paul

    Actually Oilifear, I’m sure many unionists would welcome the Republic to re-join the UK. It would solve all our problems.

  • Oilifear

    “It would solve all our problems.”


    Meanwhile, standing as I do in the company of the overwhelming consensus of people across our many islands, it can be seen from this viewpoint that the two greater islands are better run as distinct jurisdictions (just as with the smaller island states among us) – though with a more mature consideration by all parties there is no need that that be utterly exclusive. Pity then that Irish unionists would boycott those efforts.

  • Martin

    ‘British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body’.

    Is that like the British-Irish Council where the English aren’t invited?

  • aquifer

    So the DUP will sit in government with people who may have commanded the IRA, but will not mix with other parliamentarians in these islands.

    This suggests they have nothing against terrorism in principle, and would cheerfully leave nationalists no other option.

  • Obsever