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Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006

Part 4: Devolution of Policing and Justice Etc.

Section 16:  Conditions for devolving policing and justice matters

73.Section 16 amends section 4 of the 1998 Act to make the devolution of policing and justice contingent upon a motion to that effect being tabled by the First Minister and deputy First Minister acting jointly, and passed with the support in the Assembly of a majority both of designated Nationalists and designated Unionists. (Devolution of other matters will continue to require the passing of a resolution with cross-community support.)

74.The amendments reflect the Government’s view that the support of a majority of both sections of the community in Northern Ireland would be essential for the devolution of policing and justice functions to succeed. The substantive amendment – new section 4(2A) – is made by subsection (3) of the section: the other subsections make drafting amendments pursuant to that.

Section 17: Department with policing and justice functions

75.This section inserts a new section 21A into the 1998 Act along with an accompanying new Schedule 4A (which is set out in Schedule 2 to the Act). It applies where an Act of the Assembly establishes a new department responsible for devolved policing and justice functions. (Devolved policing and justice functions are defined in section 21A(8).) Where such a department is established, an Act of the Assembly may provide for the department to be headed by a single elected Northern Ireland Minister, or by two elected Northern Ireland Ministers acting jointly. Alternatively, the Act may provide for the department to be headed by one elected Minister supported by an elected junior Minister, and for those persons to rotate at intervals.

76.This section is additional to existing provision in the 1998 Act which provides for separate departments to be established, and headed up by a single Northern Ireland Minister. The 1998 Act would already allow for a new department for policing and criminal justice to be established under the control of a single Minister appointed via the d’Hondt process.

77.The overall purpose is to ensure that policing and justice functions can be devolved to any possible departmental structure agreed by the Northern Ireland parties. The range of possible departmental structures was discussed in the Joint Declaration of 2003.

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