Northern Ireland

How democratic are the basic structures of the UK’s devolution settlement?

How democratic are the basic structures of the UK’s devolution settlement?

Devolution encompasses a range of quite different solutions in three countries (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), plus markedly smaller delegations of powers to London and some English cities and regions. There remain important issues around the stability and effectiveness of these arrangements, which were designed to meet specific demands for national or regional control and to bring government closer to citizens. In an article from our book, The UK’s Changing Democracy, Diana Stirbu and Patrick Dunleavy explore how far relations between Westminster and the key devolved institutions have been handled democratically and effectively.

Schrodinger’s devolution and the potential for ongoing political instability after Brexit

Schrodinger’s devolution and the potential for ongoing political instability after Brexit

Territorial governance in the UK has taken the form of ‘Schrodinger’s devolution’, where the devolved nations both have and have not experienced fundamental constitutional change. But Brexit highlights the need for exact decisions where ambiguity has so far existed, explain Mark Sandford and Cathy Gormley-Heenan.

Conservative Brexiteers are offering unserious answers to serious questions in Northern Ireland: the consequences for the Union are significant

Conservative Brexiteers are offering unserious answers to serious questions in Northern Ireland: the consequences for the Union are significant

Proposals from backbench Brexiteer MPs as to how to resolve the border question in Northern Ireland fail to address the problem of maintaining a common set of standards with Ireland post-Brexit. Sean Swan argues that, given public opinion in England, a customs border in the Irish Sea, with divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a likely outcome.

Local journalists have key role to play in combating ‘fake news’ in Northern Ireland

Local journalists have key role to play in combating ‘fake news’ in Northern Ireland

With Northern Ireland politics at a dangerous stalemate, Paul Reilly argues that the countering of disinformation by both politicians and an independent local media, and a robust and independent press complaints procedure, is vital for ensuring trust in the news media and creating a healthy information environment.

The backstop is dividing Northern Ireland. We urgently need new talks

The backstop is dividing Northern Ireland. We urgently need new talks

Brexit has become highly politicised in Northern Ireland. A damaging chasm is opening up between the two political blocs, and between the British and Irish governments, on the EU backstop. Mary C Murphy argues that a compromise formula is possible, but the lack of devolved government means new efforts – and new forums – will be needed to break the stalemate.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Northern Ireland’s abortion law – what now?

The Supreme Court’s decision on Northern Ireland’s abortion law – what now?

Kathryn McNeilly, Fiona Bloomer and Claire Pierson explain the background and implications of the recent ruling which, although found Northern Ireland’s abortion law to be incompatible with human rights law, dismissed the case on technical grounds.

Ireland votes to repeal the 8th: will Northern Ireland be next to liberalise its abortion laws?

Ireland votes to repeal the 8th: will Northern Ireland be next to liberalise its abortion laws?

Ireland’s abortion referendum on 25 May resulted in a victory for the ‘Yes’ side campaigning to reform the country’s strict abortion laws by repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Irish constitution. For Jennifer Thomson, the result underlines a dramatic transformation that has taken place in Irish society over recent decades, however it also shines a light on Northern Ireland, which now looks increasingly isolated in its lack of liberalisation around abortion and LGBT rights.

Hume’s legacy: British-Irish relations need strengthening to face the challenges of Brexit

Hume’s legacy: British-Irish relations need strengthening to face the challenges of Brexit

The formal side of British-Irish relations needs strengthening to face the challenges of Brexit. In this post, in the week the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is marked and ahead of the UK’s impending exit from the EU, Etain Tannam  invokes John Hume’s peacebuilding legacy to better explain the current state of British-Irish relations. She argues that Hume’s concept of the totality of British-Irish relations has taken on new importance and is as significant as it was thirty years ago. 

Critical actors and abortion law: a group of individuals in Northern Irish politics obstructs change

Critical actors and abortion law: a group of individuals in Northern Irish politics obstructs change

There are various reasons why progress on legal abortion in Northern Ireland has been blocked over the years. Key among them is that individual politicians rule out any suggestion of change, writes Jennifer Thomson. She argues that more attention should be given to the actions of individual actors, considering their role can often be as important as that of political parties or institutions. 

Gender and power-sharing – why a Citizens’ Assembly is needed in Northern Ireland

Gender and power-sharing – why a Citizens’ Assembly is needed in Northern Ireland

The prospects for Northern Ireland’s power-sharing democracy look bleak. A Citizens’ Assembly is planned for members of the public to deliberate on the disputed topics. Claire Pierson and Jennifer Thomson argue that these forms of public participation have a particular benefit for the representation of women, and has the potential to break down entrenched party political divides.