Kilkenny will play host to the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly when it convenes in the Newpark Hotel on Monday and Tuesday of next week.
The 54th Plenary has a wide-ranging programme, which, while focused on Brexit, aims to encourage debate and discussion of a number of related topics. Local TD John Paul Phelan, who is Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, will open the session on Monday morning, discussing British-Irish relations and Brexit.
The British Ambassador, HE Robin Barnett, will provide an update on the British position, and European Ombudsman Emily O' Reilly will address the Plenary on her office’s perspective on Brexit and the EU. Ms O’ Reilly has called for greater transparency and freedom of information in the European institutions, so her unique perspective on how transparency remains central to the Brexit process will be of great interest to BIPA members.
The 54th Plenary also has a uniquely youth-focused perspective, with a panel discussion with youth representatives taking place.
BIPA is formed of members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, Houses of Parliament, Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly, High Court of Tynwald (Isle of Man) and the States of Guernsey and Jersey. It meets twice a year to promote co-operation between political representatives in Britain and Ireland and build on the close relationships established in recent years.
Irish BIPA co-chair and local TD Kathleen Funchion said the Irish members of BIPA look forward to welcoming their colleagues to Kilkenny for two days of discussion and debate.
"In the midst of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, it is important not to forget about the impact of the British departure on those areas that might not be as widely discussed," said the Sinn Fein TD.
"For that reason, the 54th Plenary will focus on issues like transparency and youth engagement and will also provide a valuable forum for discussing matters of mutual interest and concern.”
British co-chair, Andrew Rosindell MP also said he was delighted to be coming to Kilkenny.
"With Brexit discussions having begun, it is crucial that we maintain a close relationship with our partners in the Oireachtas and the devolved institutions of the UK," he said.
"The impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland should not be detrimental to either nation and there are many issues including the border, trade and security to discuss. I also look forward to hearing from the Youth Council of Ireland and BIPA Youth about these vital issues.”