For many years, the IRBC has supplied the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) with a list of Irish rarities for inclusion in the BBRC annual 'Report on rare birds in Great Britain'. Although this report is published late in the year (usually in the November issue of British Birds (BB)), it is not widely known that BB's publication schedule dictates that the deadline for the inclusion of material in it is July. Up to 1995, the IRBC had maintained a tradition of supplying BB with unedited data without really being aware of the negative consequences of such premature data forming the basis for the Irish dimension in the BBRC Report. Any list we draw up in July of a particular year will, inevitably, be less complete and not as accurate as the final draft of the Irish Bird Report (IBR). In the past, this has been the principal cause of many discrepancies between the information published in BB and in the IBR. These discrepancies involved not only details such as numbers, dates, ageing or sexing but also the omission (in the BBRC Reports) of numerous corrections published in subsequent IBRs. We feel it is essential that if an official account of rare birds in Ireland is to be published in BB, it should be based on exactly the same data as is submitted to the editor of Irish Birds, i.e. the final draft of the IBR. We therefore decided that we were no longer willing to supply BB with premature data which results in those who do not see the IBR having only an incomplete and, to some extent, inaccurate record of the occurrence of rare birds in Ireland.
The Managing Editor of British Birds, Dr. J.T.R. Sharrock, was informed of our decision, and the reasons for it (as outlined above). The IRBC's decision was met with resistance from Dr. Sharrock who urged the Committee to reconsider its position. The IRBC, as the body responsible for the publication of records of rarities in Ireland, sees no reason to continue to compromise the quality of the data in a publication which, from an Irish perspective, was a secondary source of information on the subject by supplying premature data for it in July. Dr. Sharrock indicated that he regretted the decision, but accepted it and there was no animosity or ill-feeling between BB and the IRBC as a result of this.
Furthermore, once we had made our decision regarding the British and Irish list, a logical consequence of this is that it no longer makes sense for Irish rarity records to be included in the BBRC Rarities Report. The information will remain freely accessible in the primary and long-established outlet for the Committee's work, the Irish Bird Report, and if Dr. Sharrock sees fit to publish Irish rare bird records within a framework different to that of the BBRC Report, he can do so. The IRBC's desire to see the IBR achieve more recognition as the primary source of annually published information on the status of birds in Ireland is not an indication of a rift or a withdrawal of co-operation with BB and the BBRC. It is, rather, a long overdue move to identify Ireland more clearly as one of the distinct components within Europe and not, as many continental Europeans assume, the westernmost extension of Britain. This inaccurate perception persists even though Dr. Sharrock has always been punctilious about stressing the fact that Irish rare bird records are assessed solely by the IRBC. We maintain an excellent working relationship with both British Birds and the BBRC and we sincerely hope that this will continue.
Northern Ireland Birdwatchers' Association
The IRBC did not formally consult with the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers' Association (NIBA) prior to taking the decisions announced above. We have since been in direct contact with them to apologise for this failure and we have also supplied them with documentary background information about the decisions. The NIBA, for its part, will carefully consider the material we have sent them and prepare a response in due course. We have also promised the NIBA that representatives from the IRBC will attend the joint RSPB/BirdWatch Ireland conference in March 1997 in Templepatrick, Co. Antrim and will meet NIBA representatives there informally to discuss the matter. We regard a healthy relationship with the NIBA as integral to the successful operation of the Committee, we wish to maintain the excellent relationship that has existed between the IRBC and the NIBA and we look forward to progressing these issues with them.