Prime Minister of Northern Ireland


Prime Minister of Northern Ireland

The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was the de facto head of the Government of Northern Ireland. No such office was provided for in the "Government of Ireland Act 1920". [Alan J. Ward, "The Irish Constitutional Tradition". p.111.] However the Lord Lieutenant, [The new office of Governor had not yet come into being because its creation required an amendment to the original Act. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had originally been granted the role and exercised the powers, functions and duties pending the creation of governor's post in 1922. ibid p.116.] as with Governors-General in other Westminster Systems such as in Canada, chose to appoint someone to head the executive even though no such post existed in statute law. The office-holder assumed the title "Prime Minister" to draw parallels with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. On the advice of the new Prime Minister, the Lord Lieutenant then created the "Department of the Prime Minister". [ibid p.116.] The office of Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was abolished in 1972, along with the Stormont government, when direct rule of Northern Ireland was returned to London.

The "Government of Ireland Act" provided for the appointment of the Executive Committee of the Privy Council by the Governor. [Section 8, Government of Ireland Act, 1920.] No parliamentary vote was required. Nor, theoretically, was the Executive Committee and its prime minister "responsible" to the House of Commons of Northern Ireland. In reality the Governor chose the leader of the party with a majority in the House to form a government. On each occasion this was the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, such was the UUP's electoral dominance using both a simple plurality and for the first two elections, a proportional electoral system.

The Prime Minister's residence from 1920 until 1922 was Cabin Hill, later to become the junior school for Campbell College. After 1922 Stormont Castle was used, though some prime ministers chose to live in Stormont House, the unused residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

A new office of First Minister of Northern Ireland was created by the Belfast Agreement in 1998. In contrast with the Westminster style of the earlier Stormont regime, the new power-sharing assembly operates on the principles of consociational democracy.

Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland

Footnotes

ources

* Alan J. Ward, "The Irish Constitutional Tradition" (Irish Academic Press, 1994)
* [http://www.politics.ie/wiki/index.php?title=Government_of_Ireland_Act%2C_1920_(Document) Government of Ireland Act, 1920]


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