British and Irish Parliamentarians to meet in Newcastle

Pleas by lawyers for the British Prime Minister to release intelligence on the Real IRA bombers behind the Omagh bomb have been boosted by MP Andrew Mackinlay, who is to raise the issue at the meeting this weekend of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body.

The attack in 1998 is biggest atrocity of the Northern Ireland Troubles and 29 people were murdered but no one has yet been convicted.

Mr Mackinlay has initiated a debate at the forthcoming meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body in Newcastle in the north east of England. The Body brings together British and Irish parliamentarians as well as the assemblies of Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the islands of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Mr Mackinlay’s motion urges the UK Government to disclose immediately all information it holds to the legal counsel of the Omagh families. Such information includes all information relating to and arising from the request made by the RUC to GCHQ for surveillance of those suspected of preparing and carrying out the attack.

British and Irish parliamentarians will also examine proposals to remember the past with an address from Lord Eames and Mr Denis Bradley, Co-Chairs of the Consultative Group on the Past.

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward will brief the Body at the Conference dinner on recent political developments in Northern Ireland and his assessment of the future.

The Northern Ireland security minister Paul Goggins will also take questions on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

Parliamentarians are likely to raise progress on apprehending the murderers of Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn and when policing and criminal justice powers will be devolved to the Northern Ireland
executive, which has still not met for nearly four months.

The Body will be attended, for the first time, by an official Ulster Unionist representative, Ken Maginnis, a former MP and now a Peer. This reverses nearly two decades of a unionist boycott of the Body and may signal that the Body, which will change its rules and name this weekend to accommodate unionist concerns, could become a more inclusive and influential parliamentary assembly.

The Body is seeking to shift its focus away from Northern Ireland to other issues of mutual concern for peoples and parliaments in these islands and to make itself more relevant to policy-making in these islands. There will be a presentation from Eamon Ryan, the Irish Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on how to maximise energy in these islands and a report on how to boost renewable energy will also be debated. Significantly, this does not include nuclear power which is a controversial issue in Anglo-Irish relations due to Irish public fears of pollution from
Sellafield on the Irish Sea.