Written Answers. - British-Irish Council.

Proinsias De Rossa

Question:

32 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the British-Irish Council provided for in the Belfast Agreement will be established; when the first meeting will be held at summit level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17502/98]

The British-Irish Council is an important element of the interlocking structures to be established under the British-Irish Agreement. It will allow the representatives of all the peoples and administrations in these islands to interact and co-operate in a new and constructive way.

The British-Irish Council, together with the North-South Ministerial Council and the implementing bodies, will be formally established on the entry into force of the British-Irish Agreement, at the same time as the transfer of powers to the new Northern Ireland Assembly. It is envisaged that this is likely to take place early next year.

The Agreement envisages the British-Irish Council meeting in transitional or shadow form in the interim. However, the Deputy will be aware that, because of the continuing difficulties regarding decommissioning and the establishment of the shadow Northern Ireland Executive, it has not yet been possible to hold meetings of the other shadow institutions.

I look forward to the establishment of the British-Irish Council and the important and constructive role it has to play in the new dispensation in these islands charted in the Agreement.