A smorgasbord of hot political and business issues dominates the next meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly which brings together senior parliamentarians and ministers from across these islands.
Their focus is on the banking crisis but they will also hear from the Northern Ireland Police Minister David Ford in the wake of the MI5 sting operation that put a Real IRA arms dealer behind bars for 12 years in Lithuania.
The meeting takes place in the Grand Hotel in Brighton just over
17 27 years after a Provisional IRA bomb narrowly missed killing the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher but killed 5 people.
The Provisional IRA famously declared “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”
The symbolism of the Assembly taking place at the Grand Hotel is unintended but unmissable as Unionist and Sinn Fein politicians mingle in a meeting which also helps take the temperature of vastly improved Anglo-Irish relations.
It will also allow British MPs to get the inside track on the imminent Irish Presidential Race in which former IRA commander Martin McGuiness is a leading contender.
The Assembly is 21 this year and can claim to have played a highly useful role in overcoming ancient differences between Irish and British parliamentarians. Over the years personal relations and alliances between odd bedfellows have been forged.
The Assembly has also been searching for ways to make practical proposals that further deepen and broaden relations between the various jurisdictions which make up the inter-parliamentary group.
The Irish Co-Chair, Deputy Joe McHugh said: “As a representative for a border constituency I am fully aware of the need for greater co-operation and the sharing of public services, especially in the areas of health and transport. In doing so we can cut down on unnecessary bureaucracy and red-tape that automatically exists by having duplicate services side-by-side.
He added: “Furthermore, given the focus on the economy we must also identify opportunities for business development given the unique trading relationship that exists between our two countries. The UK accounts for 42% of total Irish exports, and Ireland is the fifth largest market for British businesses.”
The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly was established in 1990 as a link between the Houses of Parliament and the Oireachtas. Membership has been expanded to include representatives of the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly, the High Court of Tynwald (Isle of Man) and the States of Guernsey and Jersey. Two plenary sessions, attended by 55 members and associates, are held every year alternately in Britain and Ireland with ongoing work by four Committees. The Assembly is Co-Chaired by Lord Cope of Berkeley and Joe McHugh TD.
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.