Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 17:47 UK

Leaders hope executive will meet

British-Irish Council delegates meet ahead of their first full meeting to be held in Scotland
Representatives from across the isles attended the meeting

Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers have said they want the Stormont Executive to resume meeting.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness said after the British-Irish Council meeting in Edinburgh they were working to overcome the political impasse.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond hosted the event, which brings together all the separate governments and administrations of the British Isles.

Issues discussed at the summit ranged from shifts in population to energy.

However, it was the Northern Ireland political impasse over the transfer of policing and justice powers that sparked most questions from journalists.

The NI Executive has not met over the summer and a meeting is scheduled for Thursday, followed by a North-South Ministerial Council meeting on Friday.

"I hope we will have two meetings next week, it's important that we do," Mr Robinson said.

"I think it will be very hard to explain to people in Northern Ireland that Northern Ireland politicians can sit around a table in Edinburgh but they couldn't sit around one in Belfast.

"So let's move ahead with all of the institutions, get everything in place and get down to work."

Mr McGuinness spoke to reporters separately but insisted he had a good relationship with Mr Robinson and shared common goals.

Asked if a north-south meeting would go ahead next Friday, he said: "I don't see any reason why it can't go ahead.

Martin McGuinness, Alex Salmond and Peter Robinson
Alex Salmond invited all the leaders to return for the Burns 250th anniversary

"Given that today's event went ahead, we can reasonably expect that the North-South Ministerial Council will take place next week."

And he said it was an "absolute priority" for an Executive meeting to be held on Thursday next week.

Confidence that the meetings would go ahead was also voiced by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

He told reporters he rated the chances of the north-south ministerial meeting going ahead next week as "good".

"I have every confidence that discussions taking place at executive level will ensure that that important meeting takes place - as indeed this one has," he said.

The British Irish Council summit was taking place in the shadow of the world's economic storm clouds.

"Ministers discussed the need to ensure security of energy supplies including the opportunities in renewable energy resources, such as harvesting the offshore energy between the coasts of Scotland and Ireland via a sub-sea grid," said a statement.

On migration, the Republic of Ireland is to lead in sharing information on the measurement of immigration, while Northern Ireland is to lead in disseminating research on migrant workers.

Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the question of demographics overlapped with wider economic considerations.

"How do you work out what is going to happen to the demographics of these islands when you are trying to work out how many of the Polish building site workers and food processing workers will be in Ireland or any part of the UK because they will see it more attractive to return home to better opportunities?" he said.

"We don't know that, but it's very important that we get very early figures that enable us to estimate whether there has been a complete paradigm shift in the flows of migration from the (new European accession) countries into these islands and whether it's been reversed or not."

Bard

Mr Morgan said Wales would also lead work in the council on early years education for the three to seven age range.

Mr Salmond described the summit as "very substantial and worthwhile".

The talks on energy focused on marine renewables and the potential for mobilising the "extraordinary natural resources" around the British Isles.

There had also been a "wide discussion" on the current financial problems, and ministers had agreed to share experiences of measures that individual administrations were taking, like Scotland's plans to speed up social housing investment.

Mr Salmond invited the leaders back to Scotland next year for events to mark the 250th birthday of the country's national bard, Robert Burns.

"This is going to be the biggest celebration of Scotland's achievements, culture and our ties of family and friendship around the world," he said.


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