Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

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The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is the British cabinet minister who has responsibility for the government of Northern Ireland.

The office was created following the suspension, then abolition, of the home rule Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1972, following widespread civil strife. 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, who refused to countenance the power-sharing and All-Ireland aspects of the new administation. In 1982 a second Northern Ireland Assembly was established with the hope that it would eventually assume 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:

The devolved administration had several times to be suspended because the Unionists refused to share power with Sinn Féin. The failure of the Provisional IRA to complete decommissioning within a period specified in the Good Friday Agreement for decommissioning of all paramilitary weapons led to threats from the Ulster Unionists to withdraw completely, despite the fact that unionist paramilitaries also retained their weapons and continued killing. 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. The Secretary and his ministers are only responsible to London and not to the Assembly

Secretaries of State (1972- present)

See also

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