11 Jun 2018, 17.46
The 56th Plenary of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly opened in Sligo today with a wide-ranging programme of debate and discussion.
Minister of State at the Department of Culture with responsibility for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Joe McHugh TD – himself a former Co-Chair of the Assembly – opened the plenary by reaffirming the Irish government’s commitment to sustained engagement and cooperation on Brexit.
The Minister emphasised the importance of a frictionless border and the government’s commitment to ensuring there is no dilution of the Good Friday Agreement. Stating that “peace is not just the absence of violence”, Minister McHugh called for the rights of the people of Northern Ireland to remain at the centre of the negotiations.
Ms Bronagh Hinds and Baroness May Blood addressed the Assembly on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Both were founding members of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, which was party to the negotiations, as well as working throughout their respective careers to empower women in politics and peace-building.
The British Ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Robin Barnett, provided the Assembly with an update on British-Irish relations and emphasised the importance of parliamentary cooperation in these challenging times. Ambassador Barnett stated that the solutions to the challenges posed by Brexit must reflect Northern Ireland’s unique status. He reiterated the UK government’s commitment to the reinstatement of the Assembly in Northern Ireland and stated the importance of getting the terms of the UK departure from the EU right, for the best interests of everyone in the UK and on the island of Ireland.
Irish Co-Chair, Seán Crowe TD commented, ““If we are to ensure a durable peace in Northern Ireland, and growth and prosperity across these islands, we must work together at all levels to find solutions to the many challenges posed by Brexit. The British Irish Parliamentary Assembly plays an important role in encouraging dialogue and cooperation between politicians from different backgrounds and jurisdictions and now more than ever, the spirit of friendship and cooperation the Assembly fosters is required and must be built on.”
“Baroness Blood and Bronagh Hinds gave a powerful presentation on the importance of civil society in peace building as well as outlining their unique experience of how women helped to shape the Good Friday Agreement. The contribution of women must not be forgotten or airbrushed out of history and particular mention was made of the late Mo Mowlam and her role in helping to resolve conflict and build a lasting peace. This 56th Plenary has a particular emphasis on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement as well as on the unique and important role women play in democracy across communities and in parliaments as we mark the Vótáil100 and Vote100 celebrations.”
British Co-Chair, Andrew Rosindell MP added, “We have had some excellent discussions on the first day of the British Irish Assembly in Sligo. It has been important to revisit the hard work that led to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement on its 20th anniversary and we heard a range of perspectives about its future role in securing peace and prosperity in our nations.
“I would like to thank the UK ambassador to Ireland, Robin Barnett, for his insights into how UK-Irish relations can be protected and strengthened after Brexit. We also heard from the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, and Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon about ensuring young people are engaged in the political process and this is something we should are bare in mind. I would like to thank our hosts for facilitating such important discussions between our nations and look forward to continuing the positive dialogue on the second day.”
BIPA is formed of members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, Houses of Parliament, Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly, High Court of Tynwald (Isle of Man) and the States of Guernsey and Jersey. It meets twice a year to promote co-operation between political representatives in Britain and Ireland and build on the close relationships established in recent years.
Notes to eds:
The 56th Plenary is taking place in the Sligo Park Hotel on Monday and Tuesday, 11th and 12th of June 2018.
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