Secretary of State For Northern Ireland
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Secretary of State For Northern Ireland

Secretary of State
for Northern Ireland
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Official portrait of Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP.jpg
Incumbent
Brandon Lewis

since 13 February 2020
Northern Ireland Office
StyleNorthern Ireland Secretary
(informal)
The Right Honourable
(within the UK and the Commonwealth)
StatusSecretary of state
Minister of the Crown
ResidenceHillsborough Castle
AppointerThe Monarch
on advice of the Prime Minister
Term lengthAt Her Majesty's pleasure
PrecursorLord Lieutenant of Ireland
Governor of Northern Ireland
Formation24 March 1972
First holderWilliam Whitelaw
Websitewww.nio.gov.uk

The secretary of state for Northern Ireland also referred to as the Northern Ireland secretary, is the principal secretary of state in Her Majesty's Government who represents Northern Ireland in Cabinet. 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.[1]

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 region, 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 officially resides in Hillsborough Castle, which was previously the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland, and remains the royal residence of the monarch in Northern Ireland. The secretary of state exercises their duties through, and is administratively supported by, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).

History

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.[3] Scotland and Wales were represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland and Secretary of State for Wales from 1885 and 1964 respectively, but Northern Ireland remained separate, owing to the devolved Government of Northern Ireland and Parliament of Northern Ireland.

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.[4] The Secretary of State filled three roles which existed under the previous Stormont regime:[5]

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 the brief existence of a 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.[6] Robert Hazell has suggested merging the offices of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales into one Secretary of State for the Union,[7] in a department into which Rodney Brazier has suggested adding a Minister of State for England with responsibility for English local government.[8]

List of Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland

Colour key

Portrait Name Term of office Length of term Party Prime Minister
No image.svg William Whitelaw
MP for Penrith and The Border
24 March
1972
2 December
1973
1 year, 8 months and 8 days Conservative Edward Heath
Francis Leslie Pym.jpg Francis Pym
MP for Cambridgeshire
2 December
1973
4 March
1974
3 months and 2 days Conservative
Merlyn Rees appearing on After Dark , 16 July 1988 - (cropped).jpg Merlyn Rees
MP for Leeds South
5 March
1974
10 September
1976
2 years, 6 months and 5 days Labour Harold Wilson
No image.svg Roy Mason
MP for Barnsley
10 September
1976
4 May
1979
2 years, 7 months and 24 days Labour James Callaghan
No image.svg Humphrey Atkins
MP for Spelthorne
5 May
1979
14 September
1981
2 years, 4 months and 9 days Conservative Margaret Thatcher
No image.svg Jim Prior
MP for Lowestoft (until 1983)
MP for Waveney (from 1983)
14 September
1981
11 September
1984
2 years, 11 months and 28 days Conservative
Douglas Hurd, November 2007 cropped.jpg Douglas Hurd
MP for Witney
11 September
1984
3 September
1985
11 months and 23 days Conservative
Official portrait of Lord King of Bridgwater crop 2.jpg Tom King
MP for Bridgwater
3 September
1985
24 July
1989
3 years, 10 months and 21 days Conservative
No image.svg Peter Brooke
MP for Cities of London
and Westminster South
24 July
1989
10 April
1992
2 years, 8 months and 17 days Conservative
John Major
No image.svg Sir Patrick Mayhew
MP for Tunbridge Wells
10 April
1992
2 May
1997
5 years and 22 days Conservative
No image.svg Mo Mowlam
MP for Redcar
3 May
1997
11 October
1999
2 years, 5 months and 8 days Labour Tony Blair
Peter Mandelson at Politics of Climate Change 3.jpg Peter Mandelson
MP for Hartlepool
11 October
1999
24 January
2001
1 year, 3 months and 13 days Labour
Official portrait of Lord Reid of Cardowan, 2020.jpg John Reid
MP for Hamilton North and Bellshill
25 January
2001
24 October
2002
1 year, 8 months and 29 days Labour
Official portrait of Lord Murphy of Torfaen 2020 crop 2.jpg Paul Murphy
MP for Torfaen
24 October
2002
6 May
2005
2 years, 6 months and 12 days Labour
Official portrait of Lord Hain crop 2, 2019.jpg Peter Hain
MP for Neath
(also Welsh Secretary)
6 May
2005
28 June
2007
2 years, 1 month and 22 days Labour
Shaun Woodward, June 2009 cropped.jpg Shaun Woodward
MP for St Helens South
28 June
2007
11 May
2010
2 years, 10 months and 13 days Labour Gordon Brown
Official portrait of Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP crop 2.jpg Owen Paterson
MP for North Shropshire
12 May
2010
4 September
2012
2 years, 3 months and 23 days Conservative David Cameron
(Coalition)
Theresa Villiers Official Portrait.jpg Theresa Villiers
MP for Chipping Barnet
4 September
2012
14 July
2016
3 years, 10 months and 10 days Conservative
David Cameron
(II)
Official portrait of Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP crop 2.jpg James Brokenshire
MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup
14 July
2016
8 January
2018
1 year, 5 months and 25 days Conservative Theresa May
Official portrait of Karen Bradley crop 2.jpg Karen Bradley
MP for Staffordshire Moorlands
8 January
2018
24 July
2019
1 year, 6 months and 16 days Conservative
Official portrait of Julian Smith crop 2.jpg Julian Smith
MP for Skipton and Ripon
24 July
2019
13 February
2020
6 months and 20 days Conservative Boris Johnson
Official portrait of Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP crop 2.jpg Brandon Lewis
MP for Great Yarmouth
13 February
2020
Incumbent 1 year, 3 months and 26 days* Conservative

* Incumbent's length of term last updated: 8 June 2021.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Home Office". National Archives Catalogue. National Archives. Retrieved 2011.
  3. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "The Deployment of British Troops - 14 August 1969". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 2011.
  4. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "A Chronology of the Conflict - 1972". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 2011.
  5. ^ "Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972" (PDF). legislation.gov.uk.
  6. ^ Mark Simpson (12 April 2010). "New era for policing and justice in Northern Ireland". BBC News. Retrieved 2010.
  7. ^ LETTERS@THETIMES.CO.UK, WRITE TO. "Times letters: Mark Sedwill's call for a cull of the cabinet". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ UKCLA (7 September 2020). "Rodney Brazier: Why is Her Majesty's Government so big?". UK Constitutional Law Association. Retrieved 2020.

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