Its background and ethos
At the request of Members of the Oireachtas in Dublin
and the Parliament at Westminster,
the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body was established in February 1990
with the consent and cooperation of both Governments, at first under the
auspices of the British and Irish Groups of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. At
the plenary session in Killarney in February 2001 it was enlarged to include
representatives of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales,
the Northern Ireland Assembly, the High Court of Tynwald
and the States of Guernsey and Jersey (as the Northern Ireland Assembly is
currently suspended no Members from it attend meetings at present). The Nordic Council was given Observer
status at the plenary session held in Chepstow in October 2004.
The Body consists of twenty-five Members from each sovereign Parliament,
five each from the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales,
and Northern Ireland Assembly, and one each from the High Court of Tynwald and States of Guernsey and Jersey. There are also with twenty Associate
Members from the two sovereign parliaments, four each from the Scottish
Parliament, National Assembly for Wales
and Northern Ireland Assembly, and one each from the Tynwald
and each of the Channel Island States.
These may replace Full Members either at Plenary Sessions or at
Committee meetings. The day-to-day work of the Body is carried out through
four Committees: Committee A, the Political Committee; Committee B, the
European Affairs Committee; Committee C, the Economic Committee; and
Committee D, the Environmental and Social Committee. Committee A is restricted
to Members of the sovereign parliaments, the
membership of the others is drawn from all the participating organisations.
From its inception the ethos of the Body has been to act as an organic
whole, under procedures enshrined in Rules which are based on parliamentary
practice in Dublin and Westminster.
In the Plenary, Members sit in alphabetical order rather than as delegations
of their respective legislatures, and national representation is only
relevant for the purposes of the quorum and the tabling of certain motions
and amendments. The bodies represented share a common tradition and style
of debate, and these common roots are reflected in the way the Body operates.
Its aims and activities
The purpose of the Body is to bring together Members of the participating
institutions to engage jointly in a wide range of non-legislative
parliamentary activities, as follows:
- The four Committees
conduct inquiries on matters of common concern. They meet regularly
throughout the year and take oral and written evidence from interested
parties on which to base their Reports. And important part of their work
is to travel around both countries (including Northern Ireland) to
conduct hearings relevant to their work. Committees
also pay regular visits to Brussels,
and maintains contact with both the European Parliament and the
wider international community.
- There are two
Plenary Sessions each year, alternating between the two countries and
usually held at venues other than Dublin and London. The Body normally
debates matters of political and general concern, reports from its
Committees and Government responses, and has a question period with a
Minister from the host country.
The principal aim of the Body has been to contribute to mutual
understanding. Through their work for the Body and through informal contacts.
Members of the participating organisations have gained a greater insight into
each others' problems and inot mutual concerns.
Several past and present Ministers have been Members of the Body when backbenchers
at one time or another since its inception, and this has also helped to
increase understanding between our countries.
For a more comprehensive history of the body click here