Direct rule and the governance of Northern Ireland

Direct rule and the governance of Northern Ireland

Derek Birrell
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Direct rule and the governance of Northern Ireland
    Book Description:

    This is the first comprehensive study of direct rule as the system of governance which operated in Northern Ireland for most of the period between 1972 and 2007. The major institutions of governance are described and examined in detail, including the often neglected sectors of the role of the Westminster parliament, the civil service, local government, quangos, ombudsmen offices, cross-border structures and the public expenditure process. The book explains how the complex system covering transferred, reserved and excepted functions worked and provided viable governance despite political violence, constitutional conflict and political party disagreements. In addition, a comparison is drawn between direct rule and devolution, analysing both the positive and negative impact of direct rule, as well as identifying where there has been minimal divergence in processes and outcomes. It will prove an invaluable reference source on direct rule and provide a comparative basis for assessing devolution for students of public administration, government, politics, public policy and devolution.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-271-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Figures and tables
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  5. List of abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Direct rule is best defined as the exercise of the transferred functions of government in Northern Ireland by the United Kingdom Government. Thus direct rule takes its meaning from its particular relationship with forms of devolution which have existed throughout the history of Northern Ireland. From 1921 to 1972 Northern Ireland had a unique system of executive, legislative and administrative devolution over a set of transferred (devolved) powers within the United Kingdom. This ended in 1972 when the British Government, faced with violent conflict and political turmoil, took action to transfer all statutory and executive responsibility for law and order...

  7. 2 The constitutional framework
    (pp. 6-20)

    All the provisions for the government of Northern Ireland since the Government of Ireland Act 1920 have been set out in legislation passed in the Westminster Parliament. It was on 24 March 1972 that Edward Heath the Prime Minister rose in the House of Commons to announce that the British Government was assuming full and direct responsibility for the administration of Northern Ireland until a political solution to its problems could be worked out in consultation with all those concerned. Legislation followed, transferring all legislative and executive powers from the existing Northern Ireland Parliament and Government to the United Kingdom...

  8. 3 The Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland ministers
    (pp. 21-39)

    Prior to direct rule the minister in the British Government responsible for Northern Ireland was the Home Secretary. Until 1968 this had been a less than onerous part of the Home Secretary’s job but the workload increased substantially with the growing intervention by the British Government between 1969 and 1972. With direct rule the transfer of all legislative and executive powers would have imposed too much of an extra burden on a Home Secretary and the wide range of ministerial duties justified a new Cabinet minister and department. Direct rule led directly to the establishment of the new office of...

  9. 4 Northern Ireland business in the Westminster Parliament
    (pp. 40-68)

    One of the main features of direct rule was the transfer of the functions of the devolved Stormont Parliament to the Westminster Parliament. The key elements related to dealing with Northern Ireland legislation and scrutinising Northern Ireland business. A range of procedures were introduced at Westminster to deal with Northern Ireland business and these were not to change very much over the time of direct rule.

    Prior to direct rule legislation on most major services in Northern Ireland had been carried into effect as acts of the Northern Ireland Parliament. The last act was the Agriculture (Abolition of County Committees)...

  10. 5 The Civil Service: a continuing institution
    (pp. 69-101)

    The system of devolved government from 1921 to 1972 had operated with its own Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS), as a separate entity from the United Kingdom Home Civil Service (Birrell, 1978). This separateness was demonstrated by its legal status, the existence of separate Northern Ireland Civil Service commissioners and the corporate status of Northern Ireland Government departments. Although independent the NICS has tended to follow very closely, if not exactly, the structures and practices of the Home Civil Service. In 1972, before the introduction of direct rule, the NICS was operating through eight separate government departments plus a Prime...

  11. 6 The use of quangos
    (pp. 102-119)

    Northern Ireland had a tradition of administration by statutory boards for a range of key public services. Such boards featured strongly in the nineteenth-century administration in Ireland. MacDonagh (1977) noted that in the nineteenth century a new type of public service was emerging in Ireland, in which administration was being divorced from politics. Hood and Schuppert (1988) noted the use of a network of non-ministerial boards at the time as a way of politically managing the peripheral areas of United Kingdom. Examples of such boards in Ireland were the Local Government Board and the General Permanent Board of Health. After...

  12. 7 The role of local government
    (pp. 120-142)

    The introduction of direct rule coincided with the reorganisation of local government. Local government reform had become one of the main priorities of the British Government during the period 1969–72, although proposals for reforming the existing structure had been put forward in the late 1960s. The old system of local government had existed since the nineteenth century and was similar to the system in Britain with two all-purpose county boroughs, Belfast and Londonderry and a two-tier system for the rest of the province with six county councils, ten borough councils, twenty-four urban districts and thirty-one rural district councils. A...

  13. 8 Finance and public expenditure
    (pp. 143-166)

    Prior to direct rule, Northern Ireland operated with financial arrangements laid down in the original Government of Ireland Act, 1920 and in a number of subsequent special agreements. All major items of taxation including income tax were levied and collected by the United Kingdom Government with Northern Ireland’s share of tax revenue then ‘handed back’ to the Stormont Government for devolved services. Originally an ‘Imperial Contribution’ was deducted, as Northern Ireland’s contribution to the cost of defence and foreign affairs but this sum almost disappeared over the years and in 1972–73 the payment was only £500,000. There were also...

  14. 9 Cross-border cooperation and British–Irish institutions
    (pp. 167-196)

    The introduction of direct rule facilitated a much more positive view of the political and practical value of cooperation between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland and cross-border cooperation in Ireland. Historically, there had been elements of cross-border cooperation, particularly following the historic meetings in 1965 between the Taoiseach, Sean Lemass and the new Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O’Neill. The agenda for cooperation at that time had been largely confined to areas of economic cooperation, trade, tourism, electricity supply, transport and communications (Tannam, 1999; Kennedy and Magennis, 2007). The first British document on the future of Northern Ireland...

  15. 10 Ombudsmen, commissioners and complaints
    (pp. 197-228)

    One of the first areas for reform identified by the British Government following their intervention after the civil disturbances in 1969 was citizen grievances against decisions and actions by government agencies. This approach was developed and rolled out by the direct rule administrations, based firstly on copying measures from Great Britain which involved setting up institutional structures to deal with maladministration and discrimination. A second area of development covered human rights and equality and a third area embraced the area of law and order and actions of the security forces. As direct rule developed some of the new institutions and...

  16. 11 Policy-making under direct rule
    (pp. 229-241)

    What has been the impact of direct rule on policy-making and policy outcomes? In assessing this, there are a number of significant contexts. Firstly, direct rule administrations have come from both Labour and Conservative Governments and this can account for the content of some policies and changes in policy (see Table 11.1). Secondly, policy decisions under direct rule covered both transferred matters and reserved/excepted matters and at times Governments treated policy as a unified entity. In some areas such as equality there can be difficulties in making a clear division of functions. Thirdly, it is easier to identify the impact...

  17. 12 Conclusions
    (pp. 242-247)

    Given that direct rule ended in 2007, it is appropriate to attempt to reach some conclusion on the achievements and failures of direct rule and what advantages and disadvantages have accrued. Such an exercise has to be undertaken, at least in part, in making a comparison with the evidence from the performance of what can be called the St Andrew’s form of devolved government. It remains a moot question as to whether direct rule will ever return, but given the volatility of Northern Ireland politics it would not be surprising. The positive features of direct rule may be classified as...

  18. References
    (pp. 248-269)
  19. Index
    (pp. 270-274)