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A meeting of the Atlantic Archipelago

Mark Devenport | 14:06 UK time, Tuesday, 10 July 2007

So the first British Irish Council meeting is to take place at Stormont next week. The attendant hacks can expect Gordon Brown and a fair bit of red tape. The Assembly Commission has agreed that "security arrangements similar to 8 May's events would apply". I am intending to be off on leave next Monday, but if all goes according to plan Martina Purdy should be blogging away here in my absence.

So I shall let her tackle the linguistic minefield posed by BIC meetings. Ian Paisley has just said that the "East/West summit will involve all the administrations within the United Kingdom, including Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey". However the last three on that list will swiftly point out that they are not part of the UK, but federated dependencies.

I have just talked on Radio Ulster's Talkback about the summit bringing together all parts of the "British Isles". But I have since been reminded that the Irish government doesn't like this term. So is it the "Council of the Isles"? This gets around nationalist sensibilities, but doesn't help much if you are trying top explain things to someone who lives in the Canaries or another archipelago.

Which brings me to "the Atlantic Archipelago" - a term coined by some geographers. It avoids all political controversy, but would provoke blank looks so far as most people are concerned.

Perhaps the only answer is to repeat the words "British Irish Council" without seeking to explain it any further. Unless, of course, any of archipelago dwellers can come up with useful alternative suggestions?

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 03:53 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • RJ wrote:

I take back what I said about Grinning Gordon in an earlier post. Thanks for making me look silly, Gordon.

  • 2.
  • At 04:35 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • david morgan wrote:

Inner Hebrides?

  • 3.
  • At 07:35 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Gary wrote:

Given the directive that emerged from a Sinn Fein Minister's office about using the name of Northern Ireland (ie. 'here'), maybe the British-Irish Council should be described as 'here, there and everywhere'?

  • 4.
  • At 08:01 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Doc wrote:

Didn't someone (Albert Reynolds, I think) try to introduce the term IONA as in Islands Of the North Atlantic.

  • 5.
  • At 11:27 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Brendan McVeigh wrote:

I like reading your blog, it keeps me up to date with what's happening behind the scenes in the north. Of course I have to wade through your anti-nationalist bias, unattractive in a journalist, but you still provide a good service, keep it up.
We ex-pats, regardless of persuasion are still longing for peace, and a climate where one section of the community doesn't poke at the other.

  • 6.
  • At 03:17 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • RJ wrote:


Jersey, Isle of Man, Guernsey, All Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland and Here.

The Inner Hebrides and Iona already exist as islands. British-Irish is to straightforward, simple and sensible to apply to anything we are involved in.
That only leaves Jigawesh. Thank you.

  • 7.
  • At 01:58 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

The original Greek name for the Archipeligo coined by Pytheas circa 320 BC was the Pretanic Isles.

  • 8.
  • At 01:32 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Liam wrote:

Well surely it is not only the Irish government who object to it being termed as a council of the British Isles given that the Channel Islands are not in the British Isles. Further, I am sure that some Manx, Welsh, Scots would object to being termed British as much as Irish people would.

I am Irish and the term British Isles does not hugely offend me. Its origins lie in the pre-Germanic peoples of Britain (and possibly pre-Gaelic peoples of Ireland) - that is the Celtic Brittonic speaking peoples now limited to Welsh, Cornish (and in France Bretons). Note that in Irish Wales is called "Britain" and Brittany "Little Britain" (ha ha).

Ironically the only people who should really be offended by the term British are the English!!!

  • 9.
  • At 03:00 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • RJ wrote:

Brendan McVeigh, if people weren't so sensitive we would be even further on towards normality.

Trust me, it's ok for a journalist to poke fun at a politician. They do it all over the world. Politicians do it back at the journalists as well. Sometimes lawyers get involved. There's nothing biased, one-sided, anti-anything or wrong about it.

Journalists and politicians certainly have less redeeming features than most people (they think being the world's greatest smart-arse is a worthy ambition and that they are doing the rest of us a favour by turning up for work), but they provide great entertainment and occasionally can do something useful.

Lastly, if all you ex-pats long for peace, come home. We have it here!

  • 10.
  • At 09:51 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • gary wrote:

Surely as a journalist you should be using proper terminology. Ireland is not part of the British Isles albeit that this term is applied quite frequently to describe the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. It's the same with `ulster' or `the province (of Ulster)' being used to describe Northern Ireland which only consists of six of the nine counties of Ulster, the other three being part of the Republic of Ireland. This is lazy journalism and if I was a conspiracy theorist I would be suggesting that Mark is seeking to impose his mindset upon me by forcing his phraseology upon me. Ireland is not british, indeed if it were there would be no need for a United Kingdom passport to bear the words `..United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland..'Well Mark just how impartial can the British Broadcasting Corporation be??

  • 11.
  • At 11:18 PM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • RJ wrote:

Mark, maybe you should restrict blog entries to 3 paragraphs so people actually read them properly.

Gary, what phraseology are you talking about? Surely not 'British Irish Council'? I have read and re-read Mark's original entry and your post, and I can't see what else you could be talking about. How amusing!

And what is this mindset being imposed upon you?

And to answer your question about how impartial the BBC can be - it has accused itself of the sort of bias that makes Conservatives, Israelis and Unionists feel their criticisms of the corporation are vindicated.

  • 12.
  • At 05:42 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Alan Anderson wrote:

Well the term North- Western Europe appeals to me, i mean it shows our alliegence to the union of which we are all loyal, Its neither green or orange, and its capital in a small country so innofensive that all of us from Athenry to Athens can stand together, also I might add that this union has assisted this island more than anyother in 30 years than X hundred years in the defunct union.

North Western Europe is the only way to fly. Neither side can whinge.

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