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Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006

Summary and Background

3.The Act gives legislative effect to particular elements of the St Andrews Agreement, which was reached on 13 October 2006 following negotiations between the British and Irish Governments and the Northern Ireland political parties.

4.The Northern Ireland Act 1998 (“the 1998 Act”) had enshrined in legislation the fundamental principles of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and made provision for the institutions necessary to deliver them, primarily the Northern Ireland Assembly (“the Northern Ireland Assembly”), the devolved Executive Committee, North-South and East-West collaborative institutions and new Equality and Human Rights Commissions for Northern Ireland.

5.The new devolved institutions, after a period in shadow format, came into being on 2 December 1999. Due to a breakdown in trust between the parties within the Executive coalition, devolution was suspended in October 2002 and has remained in suspension ever since. During that period, the British and Irish Governments have sought to find a way of rebuilding that trust to enable the parties once more to go into government together.

6.To do this, two main issues had to be resolved – the need for support for policing and the rule of law across the whole community which would enable, in due course, the safe devolution of policing and justice to the restored Assembly, and support for power-sharing and the political institutions.

7.On 8 May 2006, the Northern Ireland Act 2006 received Royal Assent. That Act recalled the Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to sit in a “2006 Assembly” whose focus was to provide a forum for the parties to begin preparations for devolved government. It set a deadline of 24 November 2006 for the parties to have made sufficient progress to allow for devolution to be fully restored.

8.The current Act, which gives effect to the St Andrews Agreement of 13 October 2006, builds on that legislation, in particular by creating a further “Transitional Assembly” which will sit from 24 November 2006 and by setting out the arrangements to facilitate a return to devolved government within Northern Ireland.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.

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