Northern Ireland Office

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Northern Ireland Office
Northern Ireland Office logo.svg
Parliament Buildings Stormont.jpg
Department overview
Formed 24 March 1972
Preceding Department
Jurisdiction Northern Ireland
  1. Stormont House, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3SH
  2. 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ
Employees 167 (September 2011)[1]
Annual budget £23 million for 2011–12[2]
Minister responsible
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Northern Ireland
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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the United Kingdom
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The Northern Ireland Office (NIO; Irish: Oifig Thuaisceart Éireann,[3] Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlann Oaffis)[4] is a UK government department responsible for Northern Ireland affairs. The NIO is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and is based at Stormont House in Belfast and 1 Horse Guards Road in London.


The NIO's role is to "maintain and support" the devolution settlement resulting from the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement and the devolution of criminal justice and policing to the Northern Ireland Assembly.[5] The department has responsibility for:

It also represents Northern Irish interests at UK government level and the interests of the UK Government in Northern Ireland.[6]

The Northern Ireland Office has a close working relationship with the Irish government as a co-guarantor of the peace process; this includes the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and its joint secretariat.[7]

In the Irish Government, the NIO's main counterparts are:


Before the partition, Ireland was governed through the Dublin Castle administration and the Home Office was also responsible for Irish affairs. From 1924 to 1972, Northern Ireland affairs were handled by the Northern Ireland Department of the Home Office.[13] In August 1969, for example, Home Secretary James Callaghan approved the sending of British Army soldiers to Northern Ireland.[14]

As the Troubles worsened, the UK Government was increasingly concerned that the Northern Ireland Government (at Stormont) was losing control of the situation. On 24 March 1972, it announced that direct rule from Westminster would be introduced. This took effect on 30 March 1972.[15]

The formation of the NIO put Northern Ireland on the same level as Scotland and Wales, where the Scottish Office and Welsh Office were established in 1885 and 1965 respectively. The NIO assumed policing and justice powers from the Ministry of Home Affairs. NIO junior ministers were placed in charge of other Northern Ireland Civil Service departments.

Direct rule was seen as a temporary measure, with a power-sharing devolution preferred as the solution. Under the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland replaced the Governor of Northern Ireland and direct rule was annually renewed by a vote in Parliament.[16]

The Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 resulted in a brief, power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive, which was ended by the Ulster Workers' Council strike on 28 May 1974. The Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention (1975–1976) and Northern Ireland Assembly (1982–1986) were unsuccessful in restoring devolved government. After the Anglo-Irish Agreement on 15 November 1985, the UK Government and Irish Government co-operated more closely on security and political matters.

Following the Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement) on 10 April 1998, devolution returned to Northern Ireland on 2 December 1999. The Northern Ireland Executive was suspended on 15 October 2002 and direct rule returned until devolution was restored on 8 May 2007.

The devolution of policing and justice powers on 12 April 2010 transferred many of the NIO's previous responsibilities to the Northern Ireland Assembly and its devolved government, the Northern Ireland Executive. The Department of Justice is now responsible for those matters. This transfer of power resulted in a smaller Northern Ireland Office, comparable to the Scotland Office and Wales Office.


The NIO ministers are as follows:[17][18]

Minister Rank Portfolio
The Rt Hon. Karen Bradley MP Secretary of State Overall responsibility, relationships with the Executive and Assembly, national security, the legacy of the Troubles
Shailesh Vara MP Minister of State EU Exit, Security-related issues and casework, Legacy stakeholder management, Parliamentary liaison with Northern Ireland MPs the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, and other interested parliamentarians
Lord Duncan of Springbank Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (jointly with Scotland Office) (Department business in the House of Lords Engagement to community groups, electoral services, armed forces covenant, human rights and equality, and parliamentary liaison with peers

As Attorney General for England and Wales, The Rt Hon. Jeremy Wright MP is Advocate General for Northern Ireland, advising the UK Government on Northern Ireland law.

The NIO's Director General was Sir Julian King KCVO CMG. He was appointed in November 2011 and held the position until 2014. He chaired the NIO Management Board and is the department's Accounting Officer.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Northern Ireland Quarterly Employment Survey Historical Data". Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Spending Review 2010 (PDF). London: HM Treasury. 2010. p. 88. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 November 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "Northern Ireland Office". té – Dictionary of Irish Terms. Foras na Gaeilge and Dublin City University. Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
  4. ^ Tha Owersman fur tha Polis Archived 16 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
  5. ^ Cabinet Office List of Ministerial Responsibilities July 2010
  6. ^ Northern Ireland Office, About the NIO Archived 17 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC)". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 15 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Department of Foreign Affairs: Anglo-Irish Relations/The Peace Process
  9. ^ Department of the Taoiseach: Northern Ireland
  10. ^ Department of Justice and Law Reform: Terrorism
  11. ^ Department of Justice and Law Reform: Northern Ireland
  12. ^ Environment, Heritage and Local Government: Voting
  13. ^ "Home Office". National Archives Catalogue. National Archives. Retrieved 15 October 2011. 
  14. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "The Deployment of British Troops – 14 August 1969". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 15 October 2011. 
  15. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "A Chronology of the Conflict – 1972". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 15 October 2011. 
  16. ^ Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972
  17. ^ "Our ministers". GOV.UK. Northern Ireland Office. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  18. ^ "Her Majesty's Official Opposition". UK Parliament. Retrieved 17 October 2017. 
  19. ^ "Julian King CMG CVO". Retrieved 4 September 2013. 

External links[edit]