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Evolution of Devolution

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

The Assembly was set up after the Belfast Agreement was reached on Good Friday, 10 April 1998. It is also known as the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement was the result of peace talks, involving 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.

It was agreed that Northern Ireland should have a special type of power-sharing government. This meant that political parties from the main communities - Unionist and Nationalist - would share the power to make decisions about Northern Ireland. Ministers in charge of Government Departments would be drawn from both communities. Northern Ireland would have 2 first ministers, a First Minister and a deputy First Minister, one unionist and one nationalist, and they 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.