Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

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Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Karen Bradley MP 2015.jpg
Incumbent
Karen Bradley

since 8 January 2018
Northern Ireland Office
Style Northern Ireland Secretary
(informal)
The Right Honourable
(within the UK and the Commonwealth)
Residence Hillsborough Castle
Appointer The Monarch
on advice of the Prime Minister
Precursor Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Governor of Northern Ireland
Formation 24 March 1972
First holder William Whitelaw
Website www.nio.gov.uk
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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Northern Ireland
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Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, informally known as the Northern Ireland Secretary (Irish: Rúnaí Stáit Thuaisceart Éireann[1][2]), is the principal secretary of state in Her Majesty's Government with responsibilities for Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State is a Minister of the Crown who is accountable to the Parliament of the United Kingdom and is the chief minister in the Northern Ireland Office. As with other ministers, the position is appointed by the British monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The position is normally described simply as 'the Secretary of State' by residents of Northern Ireland.

Formerly holding a large portfolio over home affairs in Northern Ireland, the current devolution settlement has lessened the Secretary of State's role, granting many of the former powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. The Secretary of State is now generally limited to representing Northern Ireland in the UK cabinet, overseeing the operation of the devolved administration and a number of reserved and excepted matters which remain the sole competence of the UK Government e.g. security, human rights, certain public inquiries and the administration of elections.[3]

Created in 1972, the position has switched between Members of Parliament from the Conservative Party and Labour Party. As Labour has not fielded candidates in Northern Ireland and the Conservatives have not had candidates elected to Northern Ireland Assembly or for House of Commons seats in the province, those appointed as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have not represented a constituency in Northern Ireland. This contrasts with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales.

The Secretary of State resides in Hillsborough Castle, the previous residence of the Governor and the official government and royal residence in Northern Ireland, and exercises their duties through the Northern Ireland Office.

History[edit]

Historically, the principal ministers for Irish (and subsequently Northern Ireland) affairs in the UK Government and its predecessors were:

In August 1969, for example, Home Secretary James Callaghan approved the sending of British Army soldiers to Northern Ireland.[5] Scotland and Wales were represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland and Secretary of State for Wales from 1885 and 1965 respectively but Northern Ireland remained separate, due to the devolved Northern Ireland Government and Northern Ireland Parliament.

The office of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was created after the Northern Ireland government (at Stormont) was first suspended and then abolished following widespread civil strife. The British government was increasingly concerned that Stormont was losing control of the situation. On 30 March 1972, direct rule from Westminster was introduced.[6] The Secretary of State filled three roles which existed under the previous Stormont regime:[7]

Direct rule was seen as a temporary measure, with a power-sharing devolution preferred as the solution, and was annually renewed by a vote in Parliament.

The Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 resulted in a brief, power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive, from 1 January 1974, which was ended by the loyalist Ulster Workers' Council strike on 28 May 1974. The strikers opposed the power-sharing and all-Ireland aspects of the new administration.

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. This removed many of the duties of the Secretary of State and his Northern Ireland Office colleagues and devolved them to locally elected politicians, constituting the Northern Ireland Executive.

The devolved administration was suspended several times (especially between 15 October 2002 and 8 May 2007) because the Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party were uncomfortable being in government with Sinn Féin when the Provisional Irish Republican Army had failed to decommission its arms fully and continued its criminal activities. On each of these occasions, the responsibilities of the ministers in the Executive then returned to the Secretary of State and his ministers. During these periods, in addition to administration of the region, the Secretary of State was also heavily involved in the negotiations with all parties to restore devolved government.

Power was again devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 8 May 2007. The Secretary of State retained responsibility for policing and justice until most of those powers were devolved on 12 April 2010.[8]

List of Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland[edit]

Colour key
  Conservative   Labour

Portrait Name Term of office Party Prime Minister
No image.svg William Whitelaw
MP for Penrith and The Border
24 March
1972
2 December
1973
Conservative Edward Heath
Zconcam61.jpg Francis Pym
MP for Cambridgeshire
2 December
1973
4 March
1974
Conservative
Merlyn Rees appearing on "After Dark", 16 July 1988.jpg Merlyn Rees
MP for Leeds South
5 March
1974
10 September
1976
Labour Harold Wilson
No image.svg Roy Mason
MP for Barnsley
10 September
1976
4 May
1979
Labour James Callaghan
No image.svg Humphrey Atkins
MP for Spelthorne
5 May
1979
14 September
1981
Conservative Margaret Thatcher
No image.svg Jim Prior
MP for Lowestoft (until 1983)
MP for Waveney (from 1983)
14 September
1981
11 September
1984
Conservative
Douglas Hurd, November 2007 cropped.jpg Douglas Hurd
MP for Witney
11 September
1984
3 September
1985
Conservative
Official portrait of Lord King of Bridgwater crop 2.jpg Tom King
MP for Bridgwater
3 September
1985
24 July
1989
Conservative
No image.svg Peter Brooke
MP for Cities of London
and Westminster South
24 July
1989
10 April
1992
Conservative
John Major
No image.svg Sir Patrick Mayhew
MP for Tunbridge Wells
10 April
1992
2 May
1997
Conservative
No image.svg Mo Mowlam
MP for Redcar
3 May
1997
11 October
1999
Labour Tony Blair
Peter Mandelson at Politics of Climate Change 3.jpg Peter Mandelson
MP for Hartlepool
11 October
1999
24 January
2001
Labour
ReidTaormina crop.jpg John Reid
MP for Hamilton North and Bellshill
25 January
2001
24 October
2002
Labour
Official portrait of Lord Murphy of Torfaen crop 2.jpg Paul Murphy
MP for Torfaen
24 October
2002
6 May
2005
Labour
Official portrait of Lord Hain crop 2.jpg Peter Hain
MP for Neath
(also Welsh Secretary)
6 May
2005
27 June
2007
Labour
Shaun Woodward, June 2009 cropped.jpg Shaun Woodward
MP for St Helens South
28 June
2007
11 May
2010
Labour Gordon Brown
Official portrait of Mr Owen Paterson crop 2.jpg Owen Paterson
MP for North Shropshire
12 May
2010
4 September
2012
Conservative David Cameron
(Coalition)
Official portrait of Theresa Villiers crop 2.jpg Theresa Villiers
MP for Chipping Barnet
4 September
2012
14 July
2016
Conservative
David Cameron
(II)
Official portrait of James Brokenshire crop 2.jpg James Brokenshire
MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup
14 July
2016
8 January
2018
Conservative Theresa May
Karen Bradley at UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum.jpg Karen Bradley
MP for Staffordshire Moorlands
8 January
2018
Incumbent Conservative

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Affairs, Department of Foreign. "Buaileann an Tánaiste le Rúnaí Stáit Thuaisceart Éireann - An Roinn Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus Trádála". www.dfa.ie.
  2. ^ "'Níl sé de cheart ag Brokenshire an Riail Dhíreach a thabhairt ar ais agus ní ghlacfaimis léi' – Sinn Féin". Archived from the original on 2017-04-18.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  4. ^ "Home Office". National Archives Catalogue. National Archives. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  5. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "The Deployment of British Troops – 14 August 1969". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  6. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "A Chronology of the Conflict – 1972". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  7. ^ "Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972" (PDF). legislation.gov.uk.
  8. ^ Mark Simpson (12 April 2010). "New era for policing and justice in Northern Ireland". BBC News. Retrieved 11 April 2010.