Northern Ireland news

British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference 'should meet if devolution is not restored'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will call for a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference if power-sharing is not restored. Picture by Olivier Matthys, Associated Press
Staff Reporter

THE Taoiseach will call for a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference if power-sharing is not restored.

Leo Varadkar said the conference would allow British and Irish ministers to design a way forward if the Northern Ireland parties cannot agree a deal.

Sinn Féin has also called for the conference to be convened.

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was a "talking shop which has not met since 2007".

The north has had no devolved administration since January. Despite several rounds of talks, the DUP and Sinn Féin have not been able to agree a deal to restore power-sharing.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil yesterday that at his meeting with Theresa May in Gothenburg on Friday: "I indicated to her that I would be seeking a meeting (of the conference) in the New Year".

The conference promotes bilateral co-operation at all levels of the British and Irish governments on matters of mutual interest.

Mr Varadkar said he had told the prime minister, "that the Irish government could not accept a return to direct rule as it existed prior to the Good Friday Agreement".

He also said that under the Good Friday Agreement "if nothing's devolved then everything is devolved to the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIGC)".

The BIGC consists of ministers from the British and Irish governments. It last met regularly during the period 2002 - 2007 when the Stormont Executive was suspended.

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