March 20, 2018 / 4:45 PM / in a year

Ireland calls for enactment of joint Northern Irish consultative body

FILE PHOTO: Deputy Prime Minister (Tanaiste) Simon Coveney reacts during a press conference at Government buildings in Dublin, Ireland, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland has asked the British government to consider convening a British-Irish co-operative body that would give Dublin a greater say in the running of Northern Ireland, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Tuesday.

The British region has for over a year been without a devolved power-sharing executive, a central plank of a 1998 peace agreement that ended three decades of violence between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists.

The deal also created the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference, a joint consultative body recognizing the Irish government’s special interest in Northern Ireland that last met over a decade ago in the midst of similar political deadlock.

“When I spoke to her (Britain’s Northern Ireland Minister Karen Bradley) last in advance of her update in relation to Northern Ireland in Westminster, I did say that I would like her to consider an Intergovernmental Conference,” Coveney told parliament. He gave no date for the conversation.

“I felt it was appropriate at this stage that we would have that structure enacted so that both governments could formally discuss the various options that they need to consider. I haven’t got a response in relation to that yet, she said she wanted to think about it.”

The British government moved this month to impose a budget directly on Northern Ireland in the latest step toward re-imposing direct rule of the region, prompting calls from Irish nationalists for an Intergovernmental Conference.

Dublin has since called on the parties to sit down again and attempt to restore devolved government next month. Coveney said he would travel to Belfast on Wednesday to meet the parties and would speak to Bradley again before the end of the week.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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