|Formed||24 March 1972|
|Employees||167 (September 2011)|
|Annual budget||£23 million for 2011–12|
|This article is part of a series on|
|Politics of the United Kingdom|
The Northern Ireland Office (NIO; Irish : Oifig Thuaisceart Éireann, Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlann Oaffis) is a UK Government department responsible for Northern Ireland affairs. The NIO is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and is based at Stormont House in Belfast and 1 Horse Guards Road in London.
The NIO's role is to "maintain and support" the devolution settlement resulting from the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement and the devolution of criminal justice and policing to the Northern Ireland Assembly.The department has responsibility for:
It also represents Northern Irish interests at UK government level and the interests of the UK Government in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Office has a close working relationship with the Irish government as a co-guarantor of the peace process; this includes the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and its joint secretariat.
In the Irish Government, the NIO's main counterparts are:
Before partition, Ireland was governed through the Dublin Castle administration and the Home Office was also responsible for Irish affairs. From 1924 to 1972, Northern Ireland affairs were handled by the Northern Ireland Department of the Home Office.In August 1969, for example, Home Secretary James Callaghan approved the sending of British Army soldiers to Northern Ireland.
As the Troubles worsened, the UK Government was increasingly concerned that the Northern Ireland Government (at Stormont) was losing control of the situation. On 24 March 1972, it announced that direct rule from Westminster would be introduced. This took effect on 30 March 1972.
The formation of the NIO put Northern Ireland on the same level as Scotland and Wales, where the Scottish Office and Welsh Office were established in 1885 and 1965 respectively. The NIO assumed policing and justice powers from the Ministry of Home Affairs. NIO junior ministers were placed in charge of other Northern Ireland Civil Service departments.
Direct rule was seen as a temporary measure, with a power-sharing devolution preferred as the solution. Under the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland replaced the Governor of Northern Ireland and direct rule was annually renewed by a vote in Parliament.
The Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 resulted in a brief, power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive, which was ended by the Ulster Workers' Council strike on 28 May 1974. The Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention (1975–1976) and Northern Ireland Assembly (1982–1986) were unsuccessful in restoring devolved government. After the Anglo-Irish Agreement on 15 November 1985, the UK Government and Irish Government co-operated more closely on security and political matters.
Following the Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement) on 10 April 1998, devolution returned to Northern Ireland on 2 December 1999. The Northern Ireland Executive was suspended on 15 October 2002 and direct rule returned until devolution was restored on 8 May 2007.
The devolution of policing and justice powers on 12 April 2010 transferred many of the NIO's previous responsibilities to the Northern Ireland Assembly and its devolved government, the Northern Ireland Executive. The Department of Justice is now responsible for those matters. This transfer of power resulted in a smaller Northern Ireland Office, comparable to the Scotland Office and Wales Office.
The NIO ministers are as follows:
|The Rt Hon. Brandon Lewis MP||Secretary of State||Overall responsibility; Political stability and relations with the Northern Ireland Executive; National security and counter-terrorism; Implementation of the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements, including legacy of the past; Representing Northern Ireland in the Cabinet on EU exit, including new economic opportunities; International interest in Northern Ireland, including relations with the Irish government.|
|Hon. Robin Walker MP||Minister of State||Driving Economic and Domestic Policy; Long-term economic recovery from COVID-19; Promotion of the economy, levelling up and innovation - including City Deals and the Shared Prosperity Fund; Leading the department's work on the most critical constitution and rights issues in NI. |
Supporting the Secretary of State in his responsibilities, including: Legacy stakeholder engagement; Strengthening and sustaining the Union in Northern Ireland; Vital security casework; Building substantive relationships across sectors and communities; Leading workstreams on New Decade, New Approach Agreement; and the NI Protocol
As Attorney General for England and Wales, The Rt Hon. Suella Braverman MP is Advocate General for Northern Ireland, advising the UK Government on Northern Ireland law.
The Department is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
The senior civil servant in the NIO is Madeleine Alessandri, who replaced Sir Jonathan Stephens in February 2020. She was formerly the Prime Minister's Adviser on National Resilience and Security.
The Troubles were an ethno-nationalist period of conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted about 30 years from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. Also known internationally as the Northern Ireland conflict, it is sometimes described as an "irregular war" or "low-level war". The conflict began in the late 1960s and is usually deemed to have ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Although the Troubles mostly took place in Northern Ireland, at times the violence spilled over into parts of the Republic of Ireland, England, and mainland Europe.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland also referred to as the Northern Ireland Secretary, is the principal secretary of state in Her Majesty's Government who represents Northern Ireland in Cabinet. The Secretary of State is a minister of the Crown who is accountable to the Parliament of the United Kingdom and is the chief minister in the Northern Ireland Office. As with other ministers, the position is appointed by the British monarch on the advice of the prime minister. The position is normally described simply as 'the Secretary of State' by residents of Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom,, situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland. It was created as a separate legal entity on 3 May 1921, under the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The new autonomous Northern Ireland was formed from six of the nine counties of Ulster: four counties with unionist majorities – Antrim, Armagh, Down, and Londonderry – and two counties with slight Irish nationalist majorities – Fermanagh and Tyrone – in the 1918 General Election. The remaining three Ulster counties with larger nationalist majorities were not included. In large part unionists, at least in the north-east, supported its creation while nationalists were opposed.
The Democratic Unionist Party is a unionist political party in Northern Ireland favouring British identity. It was founded in 1971 during the Troubles by Ian Paisley, who led the party for the next 37 years. Now led by Arlene Foster, it has, by a margin of one, the most seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and it is the fifth-largest party in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
The only official flag in Northern Ireland is the Union Flag of the United Kingdom. The flying of various flags in Northern Ireland is a significant sectarian issue, with different communities identifying with different flags.
Unionism in Ireland is a political tradition on the island that professes loyalty to the unifying Crown and constitution of the United Kingdom. The overwhelming sentiment of a once ascendant minority Protestant population, in the decades following Catholic Emancipation (1829) it mobilised to oppose the restoration of an Irish parliament. As "Ulster unionism", in the century since Partition (1921), its commitment has been to the retention within the United Kingdom of the six Ulster counties that constitute Northern Ireland. Within the framework of a peace settlement for Northern Ireland, since 1998 unionists have reconciled to sharing office with Irish nationalists in a devolved administration, while continuing to rely on the connection with Great Britain to secure their cultural and economic interests.
The Northern Ireland Assembly, often referred to by the metonym Stormont, is the devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It has power to legislate in a wide range of areas that are not explicitly reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and to appoint the Northern Ireland Executive. It sits at Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast. The Assembly was in a period of suspension until January 2020, after it collapsed in January 2017 due to policy disagreements between its power-sharing leadership, particularly following the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal. In January 2020, the British and Irish governments agreed on a deal to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Executive is the devolved government of Northern Ireland, an administrative branch of the legislature – the Northern Ireland Assembly. It is answerable to the assembly and was initially established according to the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which followed the Good Friday Agreement. The executive is referred to in the legislation as the Executive Committee of the assembly and is an example of consociationalist ("power-sharing") government.
The Sunningdale Agreement was an attempt to establish a power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive and a cross-border Council of Ireland. The agreement was signed at Sunningdale Park located in Sunningdale, Berkshire, on 9 December 1973. Unionist opposition, violence and general strike caused the collapse of the agreement in May 1974.
Stormont Castle is a manor house on the Stormont Estate in east Belfast which is home to the Northern Ireland Executive and the Executive Office. It is a Grade A listed building.
The Downing Street Declaration (DSD) was a joint declaration issued on 15 December 1993 by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, John Major, and the Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, Albert Reynolds at the British Prime Minister's office in 10 Downing Street.
The Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party (VUPP), informally known as Ulster Vanguard, was a unionist political party which existed in Northern Ireland between 1972 and 1978. Led by William Craig, the party emerged from a split in the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and was closely affiliated with several loyalist paramilitary groups. The party was set up in opposition to power sharing with Irish nationalist parties. It opposed the Sunningdale Agreement and was involved in extra-parliamentary activity against the agreement. However, in 1975, during discussions on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland in the constitutional convention, William Craig suggested the possibility of voluntary power sharing with the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party. In consequence the party split, with dissenters forming the United Ulster Unionist Party. Thereafter Vanguard declined and following poor results in the 1977 local government elections, Craig merged the remainder of Vanguard into the UUP in February 1978.
The Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention (NICC) was an elected body set up in 1975 by the United Kingdom Labour government of Harold Wilson as an attempt to deal with constitutional issues surrounding the status of Northern Ireland.
The Department for Communities is a devolved Northern Ireland government department in the Northern Ireland Executive. The minister with overall responsibility for the department is the Minister for Communities. The department was previously created in May 2016 following the Fresh Start Agreement and the dissolution of several departments, such as the Department for Social Development, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department for Employment and Learning from which several functions have amalgamated.
The Department of Education (DENI) is a devolved Northern Irish government department in the Northern Ireland Executive. The minister with overall responsibility for the department is the Minister of Education.
The Northern Ireland Civil Service is the permanent bureaucracy of employees that supports the Northern Ireland Executive, the devolved government of Northern Ireland.
The Executive Office is a devolved Northern Ireland government department in the Northern Ireland Executive with overall responsibility for the running of the Executive. The Ministers with overall responsibility for the department are the First Minister and deputy First Minister.
The Department of Justice is a government department in the Northern Ireland Executive, which was established on 12 April 2010 as part of the devolution of justice matters to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The position of Minister for Justice is currently Naomi Long. The department's Permanent Secretary is Peter May. It combines the previous work of the Northern Ireland Office and the Ministry of Justice, within the United Kingdom Government, which were respectively responsible for justice policy and the administration of courts in Northern Ireland.
The Stormont House Agreement is a political accommodation between the British and Irish Governments, and a majority of parties that make up the Northern Ireland Executive. The Agreement was published on 23 December 2014. The Stormont House Agreement is intended to bind the parties and communities closer together on resolving identity issues, coming to a settlement on welfare reform, and on making government finance in Northern Ireland more sustainable. After ten weeks of further talks, it led to the Fresh Start Agreement in November 2015, which aimed to secure the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and to deal with the impact of continued paramilitary activity.