Saturday, 14 November 2009

British-Irish Council

On Thursday and Friday I attended a meeting of the British-Irish Council in Jersey.  The BIC was established under the Belfast Agreement in 1998 and formally established on 2 December 1999.  Its stated aim is to 'promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands'.

The main isssues on the agenda were the economy, indigenous minority languages and the location of the BIC secretariat.

There are eight partners in the BIC, the United Kingdom government, the three devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland government, and the three crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

I spoke on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive about indigenous minority languages and outlined my approach to preparing a strategy for Irish and Ulster-Scots, as set out in the St Andrews Agreement.  There is a BIC working group on minority languages and through this the different countries and administrations share their experiences and exampels of good practice.  The report from the working group was tabled and provided some useful information on different aspects of language planning.

During the summit I was able to meet with the Welsh culture minister, Alun Ffred Jones, and intend to visit Wales some time next year.  I have already visited Scotland as part of the process of developing East-West links with other parts of the United Kingdom and this is a process that will continue.

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