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66th British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly plenary concludes

Added 16-Apr-2024

The 66th plenary meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly concluded in Wicklow today.

The plenary kicked-off with an address by new Taoiseach Simon Harris, his first on bilateral ties since becoming his nation’s leader. In it, he told the Assembly that although previous generations started a great and enduring peace, “we’ve not yet seen the benefits” of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. “We’ve seen the peace element, now we must see the prosperity element”, he said.

Junior Irish Tourism Minister, Thomas Byrne, highlighted the importance of Euro 2028 Championship as a chance both the UK and Ireland to “showcase our sports offering” to the world. He stressed the importance improved collaboration between Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland in adding “value to the marketing of the island, to potential overseas visitors” for the UK and Ireland.

However, significant challenges were posed by the introduction of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) that is now needed for tourists from outside Ireland to travel to the UK. Joanne Stuart, the boss of Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance labelled the policy as “disastrous” for cross-border travel.

Her counterparts in Ireland, Alice Mansergh of Tourism Ireland and Eoghan O’Mara Walsh from the Irish Tourism Industry Federation agreed that the ETA’s introduction has caused problems.

British Ambassador to Ireland, Paul Johnston, understood the challenges but defended the policy, stating that it was needed to help monitor those coming into the UK, adding that would lead to no border checks and the UK would make it obtaining an ETA “as easy as possible”. Broadly, on the matter of bilateral relations, Johnston said that relations had come “a long way” in the last couple of years. Martin Fraser, the Irish Ambassador to the UK, agreed, stating that he couldn’t think of a significant global issue on which the UK and Ireland would disagree.

The Assembly’s Economic Committee published its report on energy security. Lawmakers sought to learn from the mistakes made during the distribution of energy support during the Covid pandemic. They said that Government’s should use all the information that they currently hold to identify households that do not have direct relationships with suppliers or that use alternative fuels, to get help to them in future shocks more effectively. It also called on Governments in BIPA jurisdictions to come up with clear plans to recruit and train a sufficient workforce to retrofit energy inefficient buildings to help them meet each country’s respective decarbonisation goals.   

The Assembly also adopted two resolutions; one calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza conflict and another calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza conflict.

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