Roy Garland made some interesting comments on the British-Irish Council in the Irish News earlier this week:
The British state has been radically altered and today the agreement’s East-West Council of the Isles links a devolved UK with an independent Irish state.
This takes us beyond traditional notions of sovereignty and recognises the enduring connections between the peoples of the isles. The council has the capacity to transcend petty squabbles and usher in a new era of goodwill and cooperation on an unprecedented scale. Northern Ireland as a political entity can continue to exist, but in a dynamic relationship with an Irish state and a devolved Great Britain. In this context the goal of unity may prove unproductive and irrelevant. (Irish News, via Nuzhound)
Personally, I would argue, as have others, that the British-Irish Council is as much an alternative to the United Kingdom as to a united Ireland. This ambiguity may well help to secure the future of the institution.
Incidentally, Garland mentions an interesting recent book from UCD Press which I had missed:
Renovation or Revolution? New Territorial Politics in Ireland and United Kingdom
Renovation or Revolution? opens a new field of British-Irish studies, beyond devolution studies in the United Kingdom, and beyond Northern Ireland conflict studies. It examines the redistributions of power and the new networks of policy making on these islands. It analyses the extent to which they represent the emergence of a new regional British-Irish political arena within a European and international context. It asks whether we are seeing an emergent revolution in the territorial politics of these islands or whether the changes are simply renovations of an older territorial pattern. The book discusses in detail the implementation of constitutional reforms in Scotland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland and in British, North-South, British-Irish, European and international perspectives.