Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is the British cabinet minister who has responsibility for the government of Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland have no say in the secretary's appointment.
The office was created following the suspension, then abolition, of the home rule Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1972. The post of Secretary of State in effect fills two roles under the previous Stormont regime; the nominal head of the Northern Ireland executive, the Governor of Northern Ireland (the representative of Queen Elizabeth II) and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State resides in Hillsborough Castle, the previous residence of the Governor and the Queen's official residence in Northern Ireland.
Power was devolved back to Northern Ireland on January 1, 1974 to the Northern Ireland Assembly under Brian Faulkner, but this administration collapsed on May 29 after a widespread strike organised by the loyalist Ulster Worker's Council. In 1982 a second Northern Ireland Assembly was established with the hope that it would eventually take power, but this Assembly was prorogued shortly after the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Under the Belfast Agreement (also called the Good Friday Agreement), the Northern Ireland Assembly was established. In 1999 the new coalition government was established, consisting of a First Minister of Northern Ireland, a Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and an inter-party cabinet. The coalition consisted of members of four parties:
- Ulster Unionist Party (UUP)
- Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)
- Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) (DUP ministers worked in their departments but refused to sit at Executive Committee meetings, in the absence of the disbandment of the Provisional IRA).
- Sinn Féin
The devolved administration had several times to be suspended because the Unionists refused to work with Sinn Féin. The insistence that the Provisional IRA completely decommission within the period specified in the Good Friday Agreement led to threats from the Ulster Unionists to withdraw completely. From 2002 the Executive and Assembly were suspended after allegations of a republican spy ring operating in Stormont. The responsibilities of the ministers in the Executive are currently exercised by British ministers answerable to the Secretary of State. Again, the people of Northern Ireland have no control over these unelected officials.
Secretaries of State (1972- present)
- William Whitelaw (March 24, 1972 - December 2, 1973)
- Francis Pym (December 2, 1973 - March 4, 1974)
- Merlyn Rees (March 5, 1974 - September 10, 1976)
- Roy Mason (September 10, 1976 - May 4, 1979)
- Humphrey Atkins (May 5, 1979 - September 14, 1981)
- James Prior (September 14, 1981 - September 11, 1984)
- Douglas Hurd (September 11, 1984 - September 3, 1985)
- Tom King (September 3, 1985 - July 24, 1989)
- Peter Brooke (July 24, 1989 - April 10, 1992)
- Sir Patrick Mayhew (April 10, 1992 - May 2, 1997)
- Mo Mowlam (May 3, 1997 - October 11, 1999)
- Peter Mandelson (October 11, 1999 - January 24, 2001) (Resigned)
- John Reid (January 25, 2001 - October 24, 2002)
- Paul Murphy (October 24, 2002 -)
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