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The Government of Northern Ireland
- A Working Paper for a Conference (1979)

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Text: NIO ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The Government of Northern Ireland

A Working Paper for a Conference

Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by Command of Her Majesty
November 1979

Published in London by,

Cmnd. 7763

ISBN 0 10 177630 6

Copyright notice:

Crown copyright material has been reproduced under licence from the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationary Office.
End-Users may access the Material and download it onto electronic, magnetic, optical or similar storage media provided that such activities are for private research, study or in-house use only.
End-Users must not copy, distribute, sell or publish the material.





        A: Institutions

        B: Powers to be Transferred

        C: The Exercise of Powers and the Role of the Minority


        APPENDIX A: Illustrative Models of Systems of Government

        APPENDIX B: Functions of Northern Ireland Departments


A Working Paper for a Conference


1 . For several years the people of Northern Ireland have lived under a system of "direct rule" from Westminster. Under this system no significant responsibilities are discharged by locally elected bodies. This has left the people of Northern Ireland with less responsibility for their own affairs than is the case in any other part of the United Kingdom. While these arrangements may be accepted in Northern Ireland as "second best" they are not satisfactory as a continuing basis for the government of the Province. Her Majesty's Government is therefore seeking a transfer of responsibility which will serve the best interests of Northern Ireland. Such a transfer cannot and must not be frustrated by terrorism

2. On 25 October 1979 the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced that the Government would put to Parliament at an early date proposals for transferring to locally elected representatives some of the powers of government in Northern Ireland at present exercised from Westminster. To that end a Conference of the main political parties would be convened so that the Government might proceed with the highest possible level of agreement.


39. The following questions, which arise from the issues considered earlier in this document and from the "model" systems of government illustrated in Appendix A, are set out as a framework or agenda for the Conference. It will be the Government's aim, in discussion and negotiation with the political parties in Northern Ireland at the Conference, to secure the highest level of agreement possible in providing the answers to these questions, so that the Government can then take the decisions on which to base legislation for a transfer to the people of Northern Ireland of greater responsibility for the conduct of their affairs.

Institutional Framework

    1. Should there be one elected body, or more?

    2. What should be the method of election of the elected body or bodies?

    3. In the case of one body, should there be one chamber or two; and if two, how should the upper chamber be chosen and what powers should it have?

    4. Should the Executive be "cabinet-style" or "committee-style"?

    5. What part (if any) should committees play in legislative or executive decision-taking; could they have an investigative or advisory function?

Powers to be exercised

    6. Should the range or number of functions transferred be on the 1973 scale or more limited?

    7. what should be the extent of the powers transferred: legislative and executive, or executive only?

    8. If legislative, should they extend to primary legislation (subject to over-ride by the Westminster Parliament) or only to subordinate legislation?

    9. If executive powers only are transferred, ie. On local government lines, should they be confined to management or include responsibility for policy within a legislative framework?

    10. How much financial power should be given to the elected body or bodies, and to the executive, as regards (a) the raising of revenue and (b) deciding how the available resources should be distributed?

Role of the Minority

    11. What are the best arrangements to take account of the interests of the minority community in the decision-taking, whether legislative or executive: for example, should a proportion of posts be reserved to their representatives or should certain posts and/or decisions require approval by a weighted majority vote?

    12. Should there be an established right of appeal by minority groups in the elected body (or bodies) to a higher authority to "override" or blocking powers?

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