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Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006

Part 4: Devolution of policing and justice etc.

11.In the Belfast Agreement of 1998 the British Government said that in principle, and following consultation with the Irish Government, it would be ready to devolve responsibility for policing and justice issues if the Northern Ireland political parties agreed. The 2003 Joint Declaration by the British and Irish Governments (“the Joint Declaration”) undertook to address and agree the practicalities of the proposed devolution, with a view to introducing the necessary legislation in the Westminster Parliament at the earliest opportunity.

12.Consequently, responsibility for those policing, justice and associated functions which are designated as “reserved matters” under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (c.47) (“the 1998 Act”) will be transferred, when circumstances are right, to the Northern Ireland Assembly (“the Assembly”) and Executive. The British Government and UK Parliament will retain responsibility for “excepted matters” such as defence of the realm, the armed forces and national security.

13.This Act does not itself initiate the devolution process. That will not happen until the Northern Ireland parties have been able to concur on institutional models for devolved functions which the British Government agrees are robust, workable and sustainable. Also, for devolution to occur, other conditions will need to be satisfied. In particular, the Assembly will need to be restored, and a resolution requesting devolution will need to be passed by the Assembly with the support of a majority of the designated Nationalists voting and a majority of the designated Unionists voting (see section 16 of the Act).

14.To help enable the eventual devolution to be carried out by order, without the need for further primary legislation, the Act makes provision allowing the Assembly to put in place various arrangements for Ministerial appointments to a new policing and justice department.

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