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Evolution of Devolution

What events lead to the creation of the Northern Ireland Assembly?

The Assembly was set up after the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was reached on Good Friday, 10 April 1998. It was the result of peace talks, between political parties in Northern Ireland and the Governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland. They wanted to find a way to end The Troubles of the previous 30 years by making sure the different communities could contribute their ideas on how Northern Ireland should be governed.

They agreed that Northern Ireland should have a special type of power-sharing government. This meant that Unionist and Nationalist political parties would share the power to make decisions about Northern Ireland. Minister in charge of Government Departments would be drawn from both communities. The Finance Minister and deputy First Minister, one unionist and one nationalist, would have equal powers.

After the Agreement, the UK Parliament handed over powers to make laws and decisions about Northern Ireland to the new Assembly and Executive Committee of Ministers. Delegating powers from a central to a regional government is called devolution. The issues that regional or ‘devolved’ governments make decisions on are called Transferred/Devolved Matters.

Scotland and Wales have devolved governments too, but the Northern Ireland system is different because of our history.

Explore the Evolution of Devolution story to understand why.