British–Irish Council

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British-Irish Council
Logo of the British-Irish Council
Abbreviation BIC
Formation 2 December 1999; 19 years ago (1999-12-02)
Type Intergovernmental organisation
Legal status British-Irish Agreement
Headquarters Edinburgh, Scotland, UK1
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Region served
British Isles2

 United Kingdom
 Northern Ireland
 Isle of Man

Remarks 1 This is the location of the Standing 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–Irish Council (BIC) is an intergovernmental organisation which aims to improve collaboration between its members in a number of areas including transport, the environment, and energy.[1] Its membership comprises Ireland, the United Kingdom, the UK's devolved administrations for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the governments of the Crown dependencies of the UK: Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Because England does not have a devolved government, it is not represented on the Council as a separate entity.[2]

It was agreed to form a Council in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement. The Council was formally established when the Agreement came into force on 2 December 1999. Its 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.[3]

Membership and operation

Membership of the Council consists of the following administrations (with current heads of administrations as of May 2019):

Member Administration Representative(s) Title
Guernsey Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq Chief Minister
Isle of Man Isle of Mans finansministrar Alan Bell skriver under avtal tillsammans med sina nordiska kollegor vid Nordiska Radets session i Oslo. 2007-10-30. Foto- Magnus Froderberg.jpg Allan Bell, MHK Chief Minister
Ireland EndaKenny.jpg Enda Kenny, TD Taoiseach
Jersey Ian gorst in the royal square.JPG Senator Ian Gorst Chief Minister
Northern Ireland[4] Arlene Foster DUP MLA.jpg Arlene Foster, MLA First Minister
MartinMcGuinness (cropped).jpg Martin McGuinness, MLA deputy First Minister
Scotland Nicola Sturgeon.jpg Nicola Sturgeon, MSP First Minister
United Kingdom David Cameron official.jpg David Cameron, MP Prime Minister
Wales Carwyn Jones 2011 (crop).jpg Carwyn Jones, AM First Minister

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.

The work of the Council is financed by members through mutual agreement as required.[5] At the ninth meeting of the Council,[when?] 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.

In addition to the above members Cornwall has been a full observer member since 2010 due to the Cornish language falling under the Council's areas of work.[6]

Work areas

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:

  • Collaborative spatial planning (Northern Ireland)
  • Demography (Scotland)
  • Digital inclusion (Isle of Man)
  • Early years policy (Wales)
  • Energy (United Kingdom - Electricity Grids, and Scotland - Marine)
  • Environment (United Kingdom)
  • Housing (Northern Ireland)
  • Indigenous, minority and lesser-used languages (Wales)
  • Misuse of Substances (drugs and alcohol) (Ireland)
  • Social inclusion (Scotland and Wales)
  • Transport (Northern Ireland)
  • Creative Industries (Jersey)

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[7] or Council of the Isles,[8] and the council has sometimes been known by the latter name. However, owing to sensibilities 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  United Kingdom Tony Blair London [1]
2nd 30 November 2001  Ireland Bertie Ahern Dublin [2]
3rd 14 June 2002  Jersey Pierre Horsfall Saint Helier [3]
4th 22 November 2002  Scotland Jack McConnell New Lanark [4]
5th 28 November 2003  Wales Rhodri Morgan St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff [5]
6th 28 November 2004  Guernsey Laurie Morgan Castle Cornet [6]
7th 20 May 2005  Isle of Man Donald Gelling Villa Marina, Douglas [7]
8th 2 June 2006  United Kingdom John Prescott ExCeL Conference Centre, London [8]
9th 16 July 2007  Northern Ireland Ian Paisley
Martin McGuinness
Parliament Buildings, Belfast [9]
10th 14 February 2008  Ireland Bertie Ahern Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin [10]
11th 26 September 2008  Scotland Alex Salmond Hopetoun House, South Queensferry [11]
12th 20 February 2009  Wales Rhodri Morgan SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff [12]
13th 13 November 2009  Jersey Terry Le Sueur Radisson Hotel, Saint Helier [13]
14th 25 June 2010  Guernsey Lyndon Trott Fermain Valley Hotel, Saint Peter Port [14]
15th 13 December 2010  Isle of Man Tony Brown Sefton Hotel, Douglas [15]
16th 20 June 2011  United Kingdom Nick Clegg Lancaster House, London [16]
17th 13 January 2012  Ireland Enda Kenny Dublin Castle, Dublin [17]
18th 22 June 2012  Scotland Alex Salmond Stirling Castle, Stirling [18]
19th 26 November 2012  Wales Carwyn Jones Cardiff Castle, Cardiff [19]
20th 21 June 2013  Northern Ireland Peter Robinson
Martin McGuinness
Magee College, Derry~Londonderry [20]
21st 15 November 2013  Jersey Ian Gorst L’Horizon Hotel, Saint Brélade [21]
22nd 13 June 2014  Guernsey Jonathan Le Tocq St. Pierre Park Hotel, Saint Peter Port [22]
23rd 28 November 2014  Isle of Man Allan Bell Villa Marina Complex, Douglas [23]
24th 19 June 2015  Ireland Enda Kenny Dublin Castle, Dublin [24]
25th 27 November 2015  United Kingdom Theresa Villiers Lancaster House, London [25]

See also


  1. 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
  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.
  3. "Scottish government website"
  4. 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 Minister's have attended meetings in the past.
  5. Belfast Agreement – Strand Three, Articles 8 and 9.
    British-Irish Council website, Frequently Asked Questions: Who pays for the British-Irish Council?
  6. Read, David (2014). Cornish National Minority Advisory Report. Truro: Cornwall Council. p. 22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. UDP proposes creation of British Isles council, Irish Times, May 30, 1996
  8. The British-Irish Council: Nordic Lessons for the Council of the Isles, Mads Qvortrup and Robert Hazell, The Constitution Unit, October 1998
  10. "Menystrans hembronk rag yethow teythyek, minoryta ha le-usys yw an Governans Kembrek". British-Irish Council. Retrieved 22 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links