British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference

British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference
PredecessorAnglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference
Formation17 December 1999; 18 years ago (1999-12-17)
Legal statusBritish-Irish Agreement
HeadquartersBelfast, Northern Ireland1
Coordinates54°35′42″N 5°55′53″W / 54°35′42″N 5°55′53″W / 54.59510; -5.93144
Region served
United Kingdom and Ireland
 United Kingdom
Remarks1 This is the location of the Joint Secretariat of the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

The British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) was established under an Agreement between the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom made on 8 March 1998. It was provided for under Strand Three of the Belfast Agreement. The inaugural meeting took place at 10 Downing Street on 17 December 1999 and was chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and attended by representatives of the Irish government, the British government and the Northern Ireland Executive.

The BIIGC replaced the Anglo-Irish Conference which was established under Article 2 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. Under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, the BIIGC is supported by officials of the British and Irish Governments, including a standing Joint Secretariat of officials dealing with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters. The BIIGC secretariat has approximately 21 staff (10 for the British side, 11 for the Irish side).[1] The staff comprise a mix of grades from senior civil servants to administrative support grades.[1]

On suspension, devolved matters revert to the Conference's remit. The latest meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference took place in Dundalk, 26 February 2007.[2] The BIIGC guarantees the Government of Ireland a say in areas of bilateral co-operation and on those matters not yet devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly or the North/South Ministerial Council.[3]

The BIIGC is normally chaired by the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.[4] Provision is made however for meetings at summit level, i.e. between the Taoiseach and Prime Minister, as required. Summit meetings of the BIIGC took place in 1999 and 2005.[4] There is also provision under the Belfast Agreement for Members of the Legislative Assembly to be involved in the intergovernmental conference but they do not have the power to block decisions taken by the two governments.

Devolved matters

In respect of bilateral co-operation these include:

  • Asylum and immigration, including Common Travel Area issues
  • European Union and international issues
  • Social security including methods of fraud detection
  • Education
  • Policy on misuse of drugs: combating organised crime and associated money laundering
  • Fiscal issues