British–Irish Council

The British–Irish Council (BIC) (Irish: Comhairle na Breataine-na hÉireann) is an intergovernmental organisation that 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 devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the governments of the Crown Dependencies of the UK: Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. England does not have a devolved administration, and as a result is not individually represented on the council but represented as a member of the UK.[2]

British-Irish Council
Formation2 December 1999 (1999-12-02)
TypeIntergovernmental organisation
Legal statusBritish–Irish Agreement
HeadquartersEdinburgh, Scotland1
Coordinates55°56′45″N 3°13′21″W
Region served
British Isles2 and Ireland
1 This is the location of the Standing.
2 The term British Isles being a geographical term as distinct from the political. See British Isles Secretariat of the British-Irish Council. 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 and Irish governments, and political parties in Northern Ireland, agreed to form a Council under the British–Irish Agreement, part of the Good Friday Agreement reached in 1998. The council was formally established on 2 December 1999, when the Agreement came into effect. The council's 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 January 2023):

Member Administration Representative(s) Title
Guernsey Deputy Peter Ferbrache P&RC President
Ireland Leo Varadkar TD Taoiseach
Jersey Senator Kristina Moore Chief Minister
Isle of Man Alfred Cannan MHK Chief Minister
Northern Ireland[4] Vacant[5] First Minister
Vacant[5] Deputy First Minister
Scotland Nicola Sturgeon MSP First Minister
United Kingdom Rishi Sunak MP Prime Minister
Wales Mark Drakeford MS First Minister

The nine heads of government meet at summits twice per year. Additionally, there are regular meetings that deal with specific sectors which 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.

England, unlike the other countries of the United Kingdom, is not represented separately, as it does not have its own devolved administration. It is thus solely represented on the council as part of the United Kingdom. Although Cornwall technically holds observer status on the Council due to its language, it is also represented by the UK government.[6][7]

The work of the council is financed by members through mutual agreement as required.[8] At the ninth meeting of the Council in July 2007 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.

Work areas

A British-Irish Council summit hosted by Scotland at Stirling Castle

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:

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[10] or Council of the Isles,[11] and the council has sometimes been known by the latter name. However, owing to sensitivities 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:


DateHostHost leader(s)Location heldCommunique/reference
1st17 December 1999 United KingdomTony BlairLondon
2nd30 November 2001 IrelandBertie AhernDublin
3rd14 June 2002 JerseyPierre HorsfallSaint Helier
4th22 November 2002 ScotlandJack McConnellNew Lanark
5th28 November 2003 WalesRhodri MorganSt Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff
6th28 November 2004 GuernseyLaurie MorganCastle Cornet
7th20 May 2005 Isle of ManDonald GellingVilla Marina, Douglas
8th2 June 2006 United KingdomJohn PrescottExCeL Conference Centre, London
9th16 July 2007 Northern IrelandIan Paisley
Martin McGuinness
Parliament Buildings, Belfast
10th14 February 2008 IrelandBertie AhernRoyal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin
11th26 September 2008 ScotlandAlex SalmondHopetoun House, South Queensferry
12th20 February 2009 WalesRhodri MorganSWALEC Stadium, Cardiff
13th13 November 2009 JerseyTerry Le SueurRadisson Hotel, Saint Helier
14th25 June 2010 GuernseyLyndon TrottFermain Valley Hotel, Saint Peter Port
15th13 December 2010 Isle of ManTony BrownSefton Hotel, Douglas
16th20 June 2011 United KingdomNick CleggLancaster House, London
17th13 January 2012 IrelandEnda KennyDublin Castle, Dublin
18th22 June 2012 ScotlandAlex SalmondStirling Castle, Stirling
19th26 November 2012 WalesCarwyn JonesCardiff Castle, Cardiff
20th21 June 2013 Northern IrelandPeter Robinson
Martin McGuinness
Magee College, Derry
21st15 November 2013 JerseyIan GorstL’Horizon Hotel, Saint Brélade
22nd13 June 2014 GuernseyJonathan Le TocqSt. Pierre Park Hotel, Saint Peter Port
23rd28 November 2014 Isle of ManAllan BellVilla Marina Complex, Douglas
24th19 June 2015 IrelandEnda KennyDublin Castle, Dublin
25th27 November 2015 United KingdomTheresa VilliersLancaster House, London
26th17 June 2016 ScotlandNicola SturgeonCrowne Plaza Hotel, Glasgow
27th Extraordinary22 July 2016 WalesCarwyn JonesCathays Park, Cardiff
28th25 November 2016 WalesCarwyn JonesCathays Park, Cardiff
29th10 November 2017 JerseyIan GorstL’Horizon Hotel, St. Brelade

30th22 June 2018 GuernseyGavin St PierSt Pierre Park Hotel, Saint Peter Port[30]
31st9 November 2018 Isle of ManHoward QuayleIsle of Man[31]
32nd28 June 2019 United KingdomDavid LidingtonManchester
33rd15 November 2019 IrelandLeo VaradkarDublin
34th6 November 2020 ScotlandNicola Sturgeonvia video conferencing
35th11 June 2021 Northern IrelandArlene Foster and Michelle O’NeillLough Erne resort, Fermanagh[15]
36th19 November 2021 WalesMark DrakefordCardiff
37th 8 July 2022  Guernsey Peter Ferbrache St. Pierre Park Hotel, Saint Peter Port
38th 11 November 2022  United Kingdom Rishi Sunak Blackpool [9]

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. "British-Irish Council". Scottish Government. 25 June 2010. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  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 Ministers have attended meetings in the past.
  5. "DUP: NI First Minister Paul Givan announces resignation". BBC News. 3 February 2022. Archived from the original on 3 February 2022. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  6. "FOURTH REPORT SUBMITTED BY UNITED KINGDOM PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 25, PARAGRAPH 2 OF THE FRAMEWORK CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF NATIONAL MINORITIES". Council of Europe. 8 April 2015. p. 25. Archived from the original on 29 April 2021. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  7. "New Frontiers: Cornish Culture and Heritage" (PDF). Cornwall Council. 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  8. Belfast Agreement Archived 22 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine – Strand Three, Articles 8 and 9.
    British-Irish Council website, Frequently Asked Questions: Who pays for the British-Irish Council? Archived 30 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. "In Context: The British-Irish Council". 22 November 2022. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  10. UDP proposes creation of British Isles council Archived 11 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Irish Times, May 30, 1996
  11. The British-Irish Council: Nordic Lessons for the Council of the Isles Archived 10 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Mads Qvortrup and Robert Hazell, The Constitution Unit, October 1998
  12. "Menystrans hembronk rag yethow teythyek, minoryta ha le-usys yw an Governans Kembrek". British-Irish Council. 16 May 2013. Archived from the original on 16 August 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  14. "Work of the British-Irish Council". British-Irish Council. Archived from the original on 29 January 2004. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  15. "Arlene Foster bows out with smiles and Frank Sinatra's That's Life". 11 June 2021. Archived from the original on 11 June 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
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