The British–Irish Council (BIC) is an intergovernmental organisation that aims to improve collaboration between its members in a number of areas including transport, the environment, and energy. Its membership comprises the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the governments of the Crown dependencies of the UK: Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. England does not have a devolved administration, and as a result is not individually represented on the Council but represented as a member of the UK.
|Formation||2 December 1999|
|Legal status||British–Irish Agreement|
1 This is the location of the Standing. The term British Isles being a geographical term as distinct from the political. See British Isles Secretariat of the British-Irish Council.
2 Owing to a dispute over name of the archipelago, the BIC uses a number of euphemisms to avoid this term in its documents.
The British and Irish governments, and political parties in Northern Ireland, agreed to form a Council under the British–Irish Agreement, part of the Good Friday Agreement reached in 1998. The Council was formally established on 2 December 1999, when the Agreement came into effect. The Council's stated aim is to "promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands". The BIC has a standing secretariat, located in Edinburgh, Scotland, and meets in semi-annual summit session and more frequent ministerial meetings.
Membership and operation
Membership of the Council consists of the following administrations (with current heads of administrations as of July 2020):
The nine heads of government meet at summits twice per year. Additionally, there are regular meetings that deal with specific sectors and are attended by the corresponding ministers. Representatives of members operate in accordance with whatever procedures for democratic authority and accountability are in force in their respective elected legislatures.
England, unlike the other countries of the United Kingdom, is not represented separately, as it does not have its own devolved administration. It is thus solely represented on the Council as part of the United Kingdom.
The work of the Council is financed by members through mutual agreement as required. At the ninth meeting of the Council in July 2007 it was decided that with devolved government returned to Northern Ireland that an opportune time existed "to undertake a strategic review of the Council's work programmes, working methods and support arrangements." This decision included the potential for a permanent standing secretariat, which was established in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 4 January 2012.
At its June 2010 summit, the Council decided to move forward on recommendations to enhance the relationship between it and the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA). The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly is made up of members from the parliaments and assemblies of the same states and regions as the members of the British–Irish Council. The Council tasked its secretariat with moving this work forward in conjunction with the BIPA's secretariat.
The Council agrees to specific work areas for which individual members take responsibility. The Belfast Agreement suggested transport links, agriculture, environmental issues, culture, health, education and approaches to the European Union as suitable topics for early discussion. However, these work areas can be expanded or reduced as the Council decides. It is also open to the Council to make agreement on common policies. These agreements are made through consensus, although individual members may opt not to participate in implementing any of these.
The current list of work areas and the member responsible are:
Demography was adopted as a work area at the 2006 meeting of the Council. It was proposed by the Scottish Executive, who also took responsibility for it. During the 2007 meeting of the Council the Scottish Government further proposed that energy become a work area of the Council. Past work sector areas included knowledge economy, e-health / telemedicine and tourism.
Name of the Council
Initial suggestions for the council included the names Council of the British Isles or Council of the Isles, and the council has sometimes been known by the latter name. However, owing to sensitivities around the term British Isles, particularly in Ireland, the name British-Irish Council was agreed.
The official name of the Council is represented in minority and lesser-used languages of the council as:
|Date||Host||Host leader(s)||Location held|
|1st||17 December 1999||Tony Blair||London|
|2nd||30 November 2001||Bertie Ahern||Dublin|
|3rd||14 June 2002||Pierre Horsfall||Saint Helier|
|4th||22 November 2002||Jack McConnell||New Lanark|
|5th||28 November 2003||Rhodri Morgan||St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff|
|6th||28 November 2004||Laurie Morgan||Castle Cornet|
|7th||20 May 2005||Donald Gelling||Villa Marina, Douglas|
|8th||2 June 2006||John Prescott||ExCeL Conference Centre, London|
|9th||16 July 2007||Ian Paisley|
|Parliament Buildings, Belfast|
|10th||14 February 2008||Bertie Ahern||Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin|
|11th||26 September 2008||Alex Salmond||Hopetoun House, South Queensferry|
|12th||20 February 2009||Rhodri Morgan||SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff|
|13th||13 November 2009||Terry Le Sueur||Radisson Hotel, Saint Helier|
|14th||25 June 2010||Lyndon Trott||Fermain Valley Hotel, Saint Peter Port|
|15th||13 December 2010||Tony Brown||Sefton Hotel, Douglas|
|16th||20 June 2011||Nick Clegg||Lancaster House, London|
|17th||13 January 2012||Enda Kenny||Dublin Castle, Dublin|
|18th||22 June 2012||Alex Salmond||Stirling Castle, Stirling|
|19th||26 November 2012||Carwyn Jones||Cardiff Castle, Cardiff|
|20th||21 June 2013||Peter Robinson|
|Magee College, Derry~Londonderry|
|21st||15 November 2013||Ian Gorst||L’Horizon Hotel, Saint Brélade|
|22nd||13 June 2014||Jonathan Le Tocq||St. Pierre Park Hotel, Saint Peter Port|
|23rd||28 November 2014||Allan Bell||Villa Marina Complex, Douglas|
|24th||19 June 2015||Enda Kenny||Dublin Castle, Dublin|
|25th||27 November 2015||Theresa Villiers||Lancaster House, London|
|26th||17 June 2016||Nicola Sturgeon||Crowne Plaza Hotel, Glasgow|
|27th Extraordinary||22 July 2016||Carwyn Jones||Cathays Park, Cardiff|
|28th||25 November 2016||Carwyn Jones||Cathays Park, Cardiff|
|29th||10 November 2017||Ian Gorst||L’Horizon Hotel, St. Brelade|
|30th||22 June 2018||Gavin St Pier||St Pierre Park Hotel, Saint Peter Port|||
|31st||9 November 2018||Howard Quayle||Isle of Man|||
|32nd||28 June 2019||David Lidington||Manchester|
|33rd||15 November 2019||Leo Varadkar||Dublin|
- Council of Ireland
- North/South Ministerial Council
- British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference
- British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly
- Jesse, Neal G., Williams, Kristen P.: Identity and institutions: conflict reduction in divided societies.Publisher SUNY Press, 2005, page 107. ISBN 0-7914-6451-2
- See Vernon Bogdanor, 'The British–Irish Council and Devolution', in Government and Opposition: An International Journal of Comparative Politics, volume 34, issue 3, July 1999, pp.291–295.
- "British-Irish Council". Scottish Government. 25 June 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
- The First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland is a diarchy. While other members of the organization are represented at Summit Meetings by their respective chief ministers, or on occasions have sent their deputies, Northern Ireland is represented by both the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. The Scottish and Welsh Deputy First Ministers have attended meetings in the past.
- Belfast Agreement – Strand Three, Articles 8 and 9.
British-Irish Council website, Frequently Asked Questions: Who pays for the British-Irish Council? Archived 30 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- UDP proposes creation of British Isles council, Irish Times, May 30, 1996
- The British-Irish Council: Nordic Lessons for the Council of the Isles Archived 10 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Mads Qvortrup and Robert Hazell, The Constitution Unit, October 1998
- "Menystrans hembronk rag yethow teythyek, minoryta ha le-usys yw an Governans Kembrek". British-Irish Council. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- 1/1999: AN tACHT UM CHOMHAONTÚ NA BREATAINE-NA hÉIREANN, 1999
- "Work of the British-Irish Council". British-Irish Council. Archived from the original on 29 January 2004. Retrieved 11 April 2017.