Dispute Resolution Committee: Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement

Dispute Resolution Committee Strand One Democratic Institutions in Northern Ireland

The Assembly: 28. Disputes over legislative competence will be decided by the Courts.

Strand Three British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference

1. There will be a new British-Irish Agreement dealing with the totality of relationships. It will establish a standing British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, which will subsume both the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council and the Intergovernmental Conference established under the 1985 Agreement.

2. The Conference will bring together the British and Irish Governments to promote bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competence of both Governments.

3. The Conference will meet as required at Summit level (Prime Minister and Taoiseach). Otherwise, Governments will be represented by appropriate Ministers. Advisers, including police and security advisers, will attend as appropriate.

4. All decisions will be by agreement between both Governments. The Governments will make determined efforts to resolve disagreements between them. There will be no derogation from the sovereignty of either Government.

5. In recognition of the Irish Government's special interest in Northern Ireland and of the extent to which issues of mutual concern arise in relation to Northern Ireland, there will be regular and frequent meetings of the Conference concerned with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters, on which the Irish Government may put forward views and proposals. These meetings, to be co-chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, would also deal with all-island and cross-border co-operation on non-devolved issues.

6. Co-operation within the framework of the Conference will include facilitation of co-operation in security matters. The Conference also will address, in particular, the areas of rights, justice, prisons and policing in Northern Ireland (unless and until responsibility is devolved to a Northern Ireland administration) and will intensify co-operation between the two Governments on the all-island or cross-border aspects of these matters.

7. Relevant executive members of the Northern Ireland Administration will be involved in meetings of the Conference, and in the reviews referred to in paragraph 9 below to discuss non-devolved Northern Ireland matters.

8. The Conference will be supported by officials of the British and Irish Governments, including by a standing joint Secretariat of officials dealing with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters.

9. The Conference will keep under review the workings of the new British-Irish Agreement and the machinery and institutions established under it, including a formal published review three years after the Agreement comes into effect. Representatives of the Northern Ireland Administration will be invited to express views to the Conference in this context. The Conference will contribute as appropriate to any review of the overall political agreement arising from the multi-party negotiations but will have no power to override the democratic arrangements set up by this Agreement.

Implementation History

1998

No Implementation

The Good Friday Agreement provided that the Courts decide on disputes related to the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly. This provision (Article 11 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998)) was adopted and went into effect on 19 November 1998. There was no record of dispute regarding the legislative competence of Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly.

The Good Friday Agreement, in recognition of the special interest of the Government in Northern Ireland and mutual concern on issues related to Northern Ireland, provided for the establishment of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. The accords provided for the representation of Northern Ireland by invitation. The Northern Ireland Act (1998), in Article 54 (1 and 2), provided for the establishment of the conference with the provision that the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, acting jointly, would ensure cross-community attendance at the meeting.

The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, however, was not established in 1998.

1999

Full Implementation

The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was inaugurated on 17 December 1999. The inaugural meeting took place at Downing Street, which was chaired by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Irish and UK government and representatives of the Northern Ireland’s executive.1

2000

Full Implementation

The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference had continuously met since its inauguration in 1999.

2001

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2002

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2003

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2004

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2005

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2006

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2007

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.