British-Irish summit: Disappointment over empty Stormont seats

By Mark Devenport
BBC News NI Political Editor

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Empty board roomImage source, SPL
Image caption,
Jersey Chief Minister Ian Gorst says "getting around the table serving the interests of our communities is really important"

Jersey's chief minister has expressed disappointment that no Stormont politicians are attending a British-Irish summit on the island.

Senator Ian Gorst is hosting this year's summit of the British-Irish Council, an east-west body created as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

The gathering is being attended by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and UK Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green.

The political deadlock in NI and Brexit are expected to top the agenda.

The summit will also be attended by Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, as well as the Scottish and Welsh first ministers.

Last year, the Northern Ireland Executive was represented by former first minister Arlene Foster and the late Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister.

Empty seats

This year, the failure of the talks aimed at restoring devolution means that Stormont's seats at the table in Jersey are empty.

Senator Gorst told the BBC that "every member of the British-Irish Council gathered here is disappointed the Northern Ireland Executive is not up and running and being represented.

Image source, Ian Gorst
Image caption,
Senator Gorst said the issues at Stormont had to be resolved by NI politicians

"We face challenges, we face the Brexit negotiations and getting around the table serving the interests of our communities is really important."

Senator Gorst said the issues in the Stormont talks have to be resolved by Northern Ireland politicians but he is hopeful the Northern Ireland Executive will return and will be represented at future summits.

Jersey has attracted international media attention this week in the wake of the leak of the Paradise Papers, which revealed that the technology giant Apple had moved billions of dollars to the Channel island after the Irish government closed a loophole in its tax rules.

Challenged about whether Jersey is profiting from tax avoidance, Senator Gorst told the BBC Jersey had "got nothing to hide".

"In fact, I think we can be proud of the financial intermediation we do," he said.

"It facilitates cross border trade and capital investment in the UK, across Europe and around the globe.

"But we have got to continue to show that we are not being used by rogue operators."