Tenth Annual Report


Work of Committees

Committee A: Sovereign Matters

As in previous years when general elections took place, Committee A found its work necessarily disrupted by the process of re-establishing the British membership following the election in May. Consequently the Committee met formally on only three occasions during the year, twice during plenary sessions and once on a working visit.

The Committee reported to the Bundoran Plenary on its visit to Dublin in December 2004 to meet with the Human Rights Commission. This followed its meeting with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in Belfast October 2004.

At its meeting during the Bundoran plenary, the Committee decided to undertake an inquiry into the implications of the introduction of the British Identity Cards Bill for the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland. The Committee later received memoranda on the subject from both Governments.

The Committee met next on a visit to Belfast on 24 October to assess the general political situation. The Committee met the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Peter Hain MP, the PSNI Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan, and representatives of the Equality Commission, the Community Relations Council and the NI Policing Board.

At its meeting during the Edinburgh plenary in November, the Committee considered the memoranda submitted by the two Governments on the implications of the Identity Cards Bill and resolved to pursue the matter further with meetings with the relevant Ministers. The Committee also considered how it might best respond to the Steering Committee's request that Committees conduct inquiries relevant to the pockets of economic deprivation which exist in Northern Ireland, in addition to continuing with its general monitoring role in respect of the political and security situation in Northern Ireland. It was proposed that, on completion of the ID Cards Inquiry, the Committee might look at barriers to trade across the border.

At Edinburgh the Committee also discussed the lack of progress on the mutual recognition of penalty points since their report to the Chepstow Plenary in October 2003. Concluding that very little progress had been in the intervening period, the Committee brought forward an emergency motion to the plenary session, which was passed, noting "that it [was] two years since the submission by Committee A of the report of mutual recognition of penalty points and [expressing] its concern that no action appear[ed] to have been taken by the two Governments." The Rapporteurs to the Committee (Lord Dubs and Senator Hayes) agreed to request an update from their respective administrations.

Attendance at Meetings of Committee A in 2005

Monday 7th March 2005, Bundoran: Jim O'Keeffe TD (Chairman), Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, Lord Dubs, Andrew Mackinlay MP, Senator Martin Mansergh, Lord Smith of Clifton, Senator Brian Hayes, John Carty TD.

Monday 24th October 2005, Belfast: Pat Carey, TD (Co-chair, BIIPB), Jim O'Keefe TD (Chairman), Baroness Blood, John Carty TD, Lord Dubs, Senator Brian Hayes, Senator Martin Mansergh, Liz O'Donnell TD, Lord Smith of Clifton.

Monday 28th November 2005, Edinburgh:.

Jim O'Keefe TD (Chairman), Mr Michael Mates MP (Shadow Chairman), Baroness Blood, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, John Carty TD, Lord Dubs, Mr Dominic Grieve MP, Senator Brian Hayes, Andrew Mackinlay MP, Senator Martin Mansergh, Senator Brendan Ryan, Lord Smith of Clifton.

Committee B: European Affairs

The full Committee held two formal meetings in 2005, both during the Bodys Plenaries; in addition, the sub-committee, (set up in 2004 to inquire into European Funding Programmes and Developing Understanding Across Borders), held two meetings, and members of the Committee took part in an informal meeting during the Edinburgh Plenary.

During its meetings in Brussels and in Copenhagen, the sub-committee again utilised video-conferencing to enable Members to participate in meetings which they would not have otherwise been able to. The sub-committees inquiry was completed in time for a Report from the full Committee to be debated at the Bundoran Plenary in March 2005, with the Irish Government's response available at the Edinburgh Plenary.

At Edinburgh, members of the Committee attended a meeting with Inishowen Rural Development Limited (IRDL) and the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN). The two organisations submitted a presentation on the challenges and opportunities they face in relation to CO-OPERATION, the successor programme to INTERREG. Drawing on a "report back" by those Members attending this meeting, the Committee agreed a Report on The CO-OPERATION Programme the following day, which was reported to, and debated by, the Body within hours of it being agreed.

Due to the continuing uncertainty over the fate of the Polish Government, and of the General Election in the United Kingdom, the inquiry into A Common European Defence and Foreign Policy did not progress any further. However, the Committee does intend to continue with this inquiry in 2006.

At the request of the Steering Committee, the Committee will also undertake an inquiry, to be completed during 2006, into Economic Deprivation in Northern Ireland. The inquiry will concentrate on European funding programmes - in particular, why it seems to be the case that people and organisations in unionist areas are less likely to apply for EU funds than those in nationalist areas.

Attendance at meetings of Committee B in 2005

Monday 7 March, Bundoran: Senator Francis OBrien (called to the Chair in the absence of the Chairman); Rt Hon the Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville; Mrs Margaret Ewing MSP; Mr Michael German AM; Mr Kevin McNamara MP; Senator Paschal Mooney; Senator Diarmuid Wilson.

Tuesday 29 November, Edinburgh: Rt Hon Andrew Mackay MP (in the Chair); Mr Séamus Pattison TD (Vice-Chairman); Mr Damien English TD; Baroness Goudie; Miss Julie Kirkbride MP; Senator Paschal Mooney; Mr Murray Tosh MSP; Senator Diarmuid Wilson. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Jim Dobbin MP attended also.

Committee: Environmental and Social

Committee D met formally as a full Committee on four occasions during the year, twice during plenary sessions, once in Committee working on report and once on a working visit.

The Committee's primary interest during 2005 was the completion of their inquiry into Special Educational Needs. The Committee visited a school for autistic children in Barnsley in early 2005. The report was debated and formally adopted at the Bundoran plenary in March. The Committee also presented a report at that plenary on Truth and Reconciliation. The report on Special Educational Needs was publicised in June and received coverage in specialist magazines and the broadsheet press. Following the inquiry, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science invited members of Committee D to give evidence; Jeff Ennis MP travelled to Dublin to join Senator O'Rourke and Jim Glennon TD to give evidence. The Education and Skills Select Committee in the House of Commons also began an inquiry into this subject on the recommendation from Committee D member Jeff Ennis MP.

The British General Election prevented the Committee from meeting until the Edinburgh plenary in November. In Edinburgh, the Committee heard evidence from the Federation of Irish Communities following which a debate was held at the Plenary. The Committee decided to conduct a new inquiry into life chances for young people from the economically deprived areas of Belfast, and commenced taking evidence early in 2006. The subsequent inquiry will investigate some of the issues facing the Irish community in Britain.

Attendance at meetings of Committee D in 2005

Barnsley, 10 January 2005
Kevin McNamara (Chair), Senator Mary O'Rourke (Co-Chair), Jeff Ennis MP, Chris Ruane MP, Joe Sherlock TD and Iain Smith MSP.

Westminster, 21 February 2005
Mr Kevin McNamara MP (Chair), Mr Jeff Ennis MP, Senator Geraldine Feeney, Mr Jim Glennon TD, Senator Michael McCarthy and Mr Iain Smith MSP.   

Bundoran, Co Donegal, 8th March 2005
Mr Kevin NcNamara MP (Chair), Mr Johnny Brady TD, Mr Tony Brown MHK, Senator Paul Coughlan (Substitute), Mr Jeff Ennis MP, Deputy Maurice Dubras, Dr Dai Lloyd AM, Mr Chris Ruane, Mr Joe Sherlock TD and Mr Iain Smith MSP.

Edinburgh, 28th November 2005
Lord Dubs (Chair), Mr Johnny Brady TD, Mr Tony Brown MHK, Mr Jeff Ennis MP, Mr Jim Glennon TD, Senator Terry Leyden, Dr Dai Lloyd AM, Mr Arthur Morgan TD, Mr Chris Ruane MP, Mr Joe Sherlock TD, Mr Iain Smith MSP, Mr John Austin MP(Substitute) and Senator Paul Coughlan (Substitute).

previous page contents next page