Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says it is no longer feasible for the government to continue with its “softly softly” approach on Northern Ireland and he is calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to demand the reconvening of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.
The Conference is an important element of the Good Friday Agreement as it is a formal mechanism for co-operation between the Irish and British governments. It is a vital Strand 3 body.
Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “For too long the Irish and British governments have allowed a vacuum to endure in the North. Following the collapse of the Executive in January last year there has been little meaningful engagement between the parties to re-establish the devolved government. People living in the North are more than frustrated with the situation and they’re not beginning to feel like they have been abandoned by Dublin and London.
“The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference provides an important channel for the British and Irish governments to engage and co-operate. The fact that it has not met is extremely worrying. I raised this issue with Minister Coveney in the Dáil this week and he assured me that he has requested the reconvening of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and that he hoped to see progress “in the not-too-distant future”.
“I am gravely concerned by the lack of urgency in moving this issue on. Why is the British government stalling on reconvening this important Conference? People in Northern Ireland are justifiably worried about the current state of affairs, especially when Brexit is now less than a year away.
“With the two main parties in the North unwilling to actively engage to get the Executive back up and running, there is a responsibility on the Irish and British governments to engage and to keep dialogue open. I am urging Minister Coveney to take a tougher stance with the Secretary of State and ensure that a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference is convened at the earliest possible opportunity”.