Posted in Politics

The Northern Ireland Assembly

The devolved government of Northern Ireland has taken various forms and been suspended several times. One constant has been the venue for its proceedings ~ namely, Parliament Buildings on the Stormont estate in  east Belfast. At the time of the partition of Ireland in 1921, Stormont (formerly Storm Mount) consisted of an abandoned 1830s manor house and 235 acres which were purchased for £20,334 by the new government. The Parliament building was a £1,700,000 addition.

Another constant has been the difficulty of setting aside seemingly irreconcilable divisions: between Protestants and Catholics, and between those against the partition (‘nationalists’) and those wishing to remain British (‘unionists’). From 1921 to 1972 the mainly pro-UK Protestants dominated the Northern Ireland government, but nationalist uprisings eventually led to the UK government having to take over.

A new Assembly could not be formed until 1998 and it has suffered many tussles between opposing sides, now in a power-sharing structure designed to accommodate all viewpoints. Amid periods of shutdown due to intransigence, the Assembly deals with all local affairs, including health, housing, farming, schools, infrastructure and the law. It has 90 Members, 8 departmental Ministers and a dual leadership of First Minister and Deputy First Minister who must act jointly, even if from different political parties.

(Image: Mike Faherty at / CC BY-SA 2.0)