Irish nationalists of all strands have greeted the Council more favourably than this view would imply. At the same time, they have been slow to endorse the view of their Scottish and Welsh counterparts who see the Council as a framework for the break-up of the UK.
The Irish Government has been wary of any embrace of Scottish nationalism that would threaten its relationship with the British Government. During an address in Edinburgh in 1998, Bertie Ahern insisted that: “Scotland has a different history from Ireland, and a different geographical situation, with the Union on the whole having been more benign.”
Similarly, Sinn Fein heavily rejected a motion at its 2004 conference calling for a ‘tactical alliance with the Scottish and Welsh parliaments’ that would ‘facilitate the break-up of the so-called United Kingdom.’
However, the recent successes of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists mean that their Irish counterparts have taken a fresh look at the potential for east-west alliances. Such an idea is not unprecedented even among the most traditionalist republicans. In 1976, Sinn Fein voted to endorse the idea of a Celtic League embracing Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but excluding England.
Given the line up at the British-Irish Council, and the lack of any specific representation for England, a facetious observer might wonder whether that vision has been realised.