Founded in 1972 the British-Irish Association (BIA) is a registered educational charity (Number 265094). Among our founding members were David Astor, Robert Kee, John Vaizey, T.K Whitaker, Garret Fitzgerald and Thomas Pakenham. Throughout our existence, our aim has been to promote mutual understanding between the peoples of our islands, to identify emerging issues, to support positive change and to look to the future.

Our main function is to bring together a wide range of people – senior politicians and government officials, businessmen and women, academics, faith leaders, writers, former paramilitaries and community workers – to discuss matters of mutual concern at a conference each year in September. These meetings give the voluntary sector an unparalleled opportunity to put its case to those in positions of power and to shape the political agenda for the coming year. Recent conferences have focused on Brexit, sectarianism, positive approaches to commemoration, varieties of devolution, restoring trust, and coming to terms with the past.

Speakers have included British, Irish and Scottish Cabinet Ministers, the First Ministers of Northern Ireland and of Wales, leading academics and writers such as Colm Toíbin and Michael Longley. The conferences take place over a weekend in a range of beautiful settings; time away from home, to think and to meet new people, is often cited as a crucial ingredient in the BIA’s success.

The BIA is governed by an elected executive committee, drawn from Britain and from Ireland, North and South.

The current members are:

  • Hugo MacNeill (Chairman)
  • Bob Collins  (Hon Treasurer)
  • Patrick Handley
  • Professor Deirdre Heenan
  • Roisin McDonough
  • Mark Hennessy
  • Simon Kingston
  • Duncan Morrow
  • Trevor Ringland


  • Francesca Kay

The members of its Advisory Board are:

  • Professor Lord Bew
  • Conor Brady
  • Caitriona Murphy
  • Vincent O’Doherty
  • Baroness O’Loan
  • Baroness O’Neill
  • Andy Pollak
  • Dame Veronica Sutherland

Foundation members, patrons and friends include:

  • Lord Dubs
  • Barbara FitzGerald
  • Marigold Johnson
  • Mary Keen
  • Sir Anthony Kenny
  • Thomas Pakenham

The BIA has no permanent endowment and depends for its continuing existence on grants from official funds and the generosity of individual and corporate sponsors. Current sponsors include the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Northern Ireland Office, the Ireland Funds, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, ESB and Provident Financial.

We are always glad to hear from potential donor