Sixth Annual Report


Work of Committees

Committee A
Committee on Sovereign Matters.

1.  In common with other Committees, Committee A found its work necessarily disrupted by the UK general election in June, and the consequent need to reestablish the Committee in the second part of the year. Nevertheless it met formally on three occasions during the year, twice during plenary sessions and once on a working visit.

2.  In February, the Committee undertook a visit to Larne and Belfast to inquire into the rise in sectarian harassment and attacks. The committee met the Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, and representatives of Unionist parties, the SDLP and Sinn Féin. During the course of the latter meetings the Committee had the opportunity to meet and talk to victims of the attacks themselves. The Committee also took the opportunity to meet officials from the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat.

3.   The Committee met at the Killarney Plenary later in February, and the Shadow Chairman reported orally to the Plenary on the Committee's work. No further meetings were possible until the Bournemouth Plenary in November, at which the Committee decided to examine the possibility of a visit to Belfast early in 2002 to examine progress in the establishment of the new Northern Ireland Police Service.

Attendance at Meetings of Committee A in 2001

Thursday 15th and Friday 16th February 2001, Belfast and Larne: Mr Brian Hayes TD (Chairman), Dr Norman Godman MP (Shadow Chairman), Senator Helen Keogh, Mr Sean Doherty TD (for Mr. Tony Killeen TD), Dr Rory O'Hanlon TD, Mr John McWilliam MP (for Mr Dennis Canavan).

Tuesday 27th February 2001, Killarney: Dr Norman Godman MP (Acting Chairman), Rt Hon Peter Brooke MP, Senator Helen Keogh, Mr Tony Killeen TD, Mr Dinny McGinley TD, Mr Michael Mates MP, Lord Smith of Clifton.

Tuesday 4th December 2001, Bournemouth: Michael Mates MP (Acting Chairman), Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, John Browne TD (for Mr. Dinny McGinley TD), Lord Dubs, Senator Helen Keogh, Andrew Mackinlay MP.


Committee B
European Affairs Committee

1.  The Committee continued its inquiry into transport links between Ireland and Great Britain. This has been a broad-ranging look at links between the two islands by air and sea as well as road and rail links to ports and airports. Issues examined have included the impact of differential fuel duties, north and south of the Irish Border; the prospects for the expansion of air traffic; the need for further investment in road and rail links and the possibility of opening up new routes for Irish freight across Britain and on to continental Europe.

2.  The inquiry has also provided an opportunity to study how the new devolved arrangements within the UK are working in practice, the extent of liaison between devolved, national and European levels on transport matters, and input from the Republic at each of these levels.

3.  In November 2000 the Committee had explored these issues in a visit to Edinburgh at which it met Sarah Boyack MSP, Minister of Transport in the Scottish Executive, and the Transport and Environment Committee of the Scottish Parliament. In February 2001 the Committee made a similar visit to Cardiff at which it met Ms Sue Essex AM, Minister of Transport in the National Assembly for Wales, and Assembly officials.

4.  The Committee hoped to visit Northern Ireland, to meet the Regional Development Minister (responsible for transport), Mr Gregory Campbell MLA, and the Regional Development Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Despite repeated approaches, however, this visit could not be arranged, largely because of political problems. Mr Campbell let it be known that, in accord with the policy of his party, the DUP, he was unwilling to meet with a committee of the Body. Likewise, the Ulster Unionist Party members of the Regional Development Committee were reluctant to meet with Committee B given the party's policy of non-participation in the Body. The SDLP chair of the committee, Mr Alban McGuinness MLA, indicated that, while he personally supported a meeting, he wished to proceed only on the basis of consensus within his committee.

5.  Committee B next met during the Plenary in Killarney in March 2000. At this meeting it was decided that the Committee would not meet again until after the UK general election, which was thought to be imminent.

6.  In the event the election was not held till June, and the British side of the Committee was not renominated till November. The next meeting of the Committee was therefore held at the Bournemouth Plenary in December. At this meeting Sir Brian Mawhinney MP took the Chair for the first time, in succession to Mr Robert Jackson MP (who had ceased to be a member of the Body).

7.  During the period in which Committee activities were in abeyance, further written evidence relating to transport links was gathered by the Committee secretariat. At the December meeting the Committee decided to resume the transport inquiry, with a view to presenting a report to the Dublin Plenary in Spring 2002. The Committee also reaffirmed its wish to meet the Regional Development Committee, either in Belfast or in a 'neutral venue' elsewhere.

Attendance at Meetings of Committee B in 2001

Monday 12 February 2001, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff: Mr Austin Currie TD (Vice-Chairman); Mr Harry Barnes MP; Mr Seymour Crawford TD; Mr John Ellis TD; Mr Dominic Grieve MP; Senator Mary Henry; Senator Paschal Mooney; Mr Peter Temple-Morris MP.

Tuesday 27 February 2001, Killarney: Mr Austin Currie TD (Vice-Chairman); Mr Harry Barnes MP; Mr Seymour Crawford TD; Mr John Ellis TD; Mr Dominic Grieve MP; Senator Paschal Mooney; Mr Peter Temple-Morris MP.

Tuesday 4 December 2001, Bournemouth: Sir Brian Mawhinney MP (Chairman); Mr Austin Currie TD (Vice-Chairman); Mr John Ellis TD; Margaret Ewing MSP; Senator Mary Henry; Mr Elfyn Llwyd MP; Senator Paschal Mooney; Lord Temple-Morris.


Committee C
Economic Committee

1.  In 2001 the Committee met on three occasions, one of which involved a visit to Northern Ireland. It was unable to complete its inquiry on Tourism before the Dissolution of the House of Commons in May.

2.  The Committee visited Northern Ireland on 17-18 January. Discussions were held in Belfast with officials from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. The Committee gathered a great deal of useful information on the importance of tourism to the economy of Northern Ireland. Issues discussed included the provision of support from the EU; grants for hotel construction and the impact of the different VAT rates north and south of the border. The role of the new publicly-owned company Tourism Ireland Ltd. was also raised. After a meeting with the International Fund for Ireland, the committee visited a number of tourism projects in Belfast. Dame Mary Peters, Deputy Chairman of the NITB, hosted a dinner for the committee at which representatives from Tourism Ireland Ltd, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and the National Trust were present. On Thursday, 18 January, the Committee looked at examples of tourism infrastructure along the Antrim coast.

3.  At the meeting at the Killarney Plenary on 27th February, the Committee reviewed progress on the tourism inquiry. A decision was taken to maintain the restricted scope of the inquiry; it would focus on North-South issues. The Committee had intended to meet again in Dublin with officials from the Department of Tourism and Sport, academics working on tourism and representatives of the regional tourist bodies, but before it could do so the United Kingdom general election intervened.

4.   The first meeting of the Committee after the general election took place during the Plenary Session in Bournemouth. On 4th December, the Committee decided to complete its inquiry into tourism. It was agreed:

  • to arrange a meeting with Bord Fáilte;
  • to seek further submissions from the NI Tourist Board, regional tourism agencies, with particular focus on cross-border aspects; and
  • to seek submissions from relevant transport operators.

    It was envisaged the Committee would meet in Dublin before the end of January, and the Clerks were asked to circulate copies of the previous Reports on Tourism and on Road and Rail Links in the Island of Ireland.

5.  At that meeting Mr Bellingham raised the possibility of an inquiry into the impact of economic distortions on cross-Border trade. It was agreed that the matter would be put on the agenda when the Committee was reconstituted after the forthcoming Irish general election.

Attendance at meetings of Committee C in 2001

Meeting in Belfast, 17/18th January 2001: Mr Séamus Kirk TD (Chairman), Mr William O'Brien MP (Vice-Chairman), Mr Andrew Boylan TD, Mr Jeff Ennis MP, Ms Cecilia Keaveney TD, Mr Brian O'Shea TD, Mr Brendan Smith TD.

Meeting in Killarney, 27th February 2001: Mr Séamus Kirk TD (Chairman), Lord Dubs, Mr Jeff Ennis MP, Mr Brian O'Shea TD.

Meeting in Bournemouth, 4th December 2001: Mr Séamus Kirk (Chair), Mr Bill O'Brien (Shadow Chair), Mr Harry Barnes MP, Mr Henry Bellingham MP, Mr Andrew Boylan TD, Mr Tony Coleman MP (Associate), Ms Cecilia Keaveney TD, Mr David McLetchie MSP and Mr Brian O'Shea TD.


Committee D
Environmental and Social Committee

1.  The beginning of 2001 saw Committee D continuing its enquiry into "The cultural significance of parades". At the October 2000 Plenary in Galway the Committee had agreed to visit Kilkeel and Donegal to meet with representatives of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Orange Order, and also to make a further visit to examine the cultural significance of parades in Great Britain. In the event the Orange Order in Donegal refused to meet the Committee, so on 17 January the Committee visited Newry to meet representatives of the AOH Board of Erin, including the National President, Brother Gene Lambe. The frank discussion that followed covered both general issues to do with parading culture, and also the specific problems associated with the AOH parade in nearby Kilkeel.

2.  The Committee followed this up with a visit on 29 January to Glasgow, where it proved possible to meet representatives of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, led by the Grand Master, Ian Wilson. The Committee also met the AOH Provincial Board of Scotland, led by its President, Gerry O'Connor. Both meetings cast valuable light on the social pressures affecting the parading orders in Scotland, and on the very different parading culture that prevails there.

3.  The Committee agreed its Report in London on 12 February, and presented the Report to the February 2001 Plenary in Killarney, where it was debated. Responses were subsequently received from both Governments, which were in turn debated at the December 2001 Plenary in Bournemouth.

4.  The work of the Committee after the February Plenary was impeded first by the foot-and-mouth crisis, and then by the British general election. However, the Committee was able to respond to an approach from Professor Neil Collins, Director of the Graduate School in Business and Government at University College Cork, concerning the links in higher education across the islands. The Chairman wrote to education ministers in each of the jurisdictions, asking them about their policies on encouraging such links, and on the participation of civil servants in courses designed to promote understanding of inter-governmental issues and regional development. Answers have been received from all the jurisdictions, and will be brought together in a short report.

5.  The Committee met with a new membership at the December Plenary in Bournemouth, and agreed that its next enquiry should focus on the Sellafield nuclear power station. The Committee is particularly concerned at the security implications of the terrorist outrages of 11 September, and hopes to find reassurance that appropriate responses have been made. A visit to the site is proposed for the end of January 2002.

Attendance at meetings of Committee D in 2001

Visit to Newry, 17 January 2001: Ms Jean Corston MP, Senator Edward Haughey, Mr Brendan McGahon TD, Ms Marian McGennis TD, Mr Kevin McNamara MP

Visit to Glasgow, 29 January 2001: Mr Conor Lenihan TD, Mr John McFall MP, Mr Brendan McGahon TD, Ms Marian McGennis TD, Mr Kevin McNamara MP

London, Portcullis House, 12 February 2001: Mr Conor Lenihan TD, Ms Marian McGennis TD, Mr Kevin McNamara MP, Mr Lembit Öpik MP

Killarney Park Hotel, 27 February 2001: Ms Jean Corston MP, Mr Conor Lenihan TD, Mr Brendan McGahon TD, Mr Kevin McNamara MP

Marriott Highcliff Hotel, Bournemouth, 4 December 2001: Mr John Battle MP, Mr Geoff Ennis MP, The Lord Glentoran, Ms Carmel Hanna MLA, Mr Brian Hayes TD, Mr Conor Lenihan TD, Dr Dai Lloyd AM, Mr Brendan McGahon TD, Ms Marian McGennis TD, Mr Iain Smith MSP.


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