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Background - Northern Ireland

The story of primary legislation for Northern Ireland has been complicated by the history of the political situation in the province since the foundation of an independent Irish state in the South and the consequent partition of the island in 1921.


The Parliament of Northern Ireland existed from 1921 to 1972 when it was suspended. The parliament passed ‘Acts’. A new legislature was set up in 1973 (called, like the present body, the Northern Ireland Assembly) but this body passed only a few items of legislation (called ‘Measures’) in 1974 before being dissolved.


The present Northern Ireland Assembly was set up followed the signing of the Belfast Agreement on Good Friday in 1998. The Northern Ireland Act 1998 then devolved power to make legislation for Northern Ireland (in the form of ‘Acts’) to the new Assembly. The power to legislate on certain matters was retained by the UK Parliament. Having been suspended briefly on previous occasions, the Assembly was suspended in October 2002 and remained suspended for nearly four-and-a-half years. The Assembly and devolved government were restored on 8 May 2007.


During the periods when devolved government has been in abeyance, and during periods of suspension of the present Assembly, legislation has been made for Northern Ireland by the UK government. This has been effected by means of ‘Orders in Council’, that is to say, orders made by the Queen on the advice of her Privy Council.


All the legislation for Northern Ireland mentioned above, so far as remaining in force and including consolidated revisions, was brought together in the numbered volumes of the publication The Northern Ireland Statutes Revised (NISR). Produced by the staff of the Northern Ireland Statutory Publications Office (NISPO) in Belfast, NISR was the official revised version of the primary legislation of Northern Ireland. From 2002 to 2006, in addition to the hard copy publication, an electronic version (called ‘Updated Statutes of Northern Ireland’) was publicly available on the website of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO). NISR also included four volumes (A to D) containing pre-1921 Acts of the UK Parliament and its predecessor parliaments extending to Northern Ireland. These were not included in the version of NISR published on the HMSO website.


The development of the new SLD for the Statutory Publications Office (SPO) in London presented the opportunity for the Northern Ireland statutes to be maintained using the latest technology and with full historic versioning. It also held out the prospect for the first time of a truly comprehensive revised statute book for the whole of the UK. As a result, it was agreed between NISPO and SPO that the Northern Ireland revised statutes would be incorporated into SLD, but they would continue to be maintained remotely by NISPO in Belfast. The content of the numbered volumes of NISR, revised to 31 December 2005, has now been incorporated. The content of volumes A to D will be incorporated as soon as possible. Revision work is being carried forward by NISPO as from a new Northern Ireland basedate of 1 January 2006.


Our intention has been to make the incorporation of the Northern Ireland statutes into SLD as seamless as possible, but users should be aware that there remain many variations in presentation between the Northern Ireland statutes and other legislation on SLD. Some of the more significant of these variations have been noted at the appropriate places in Help.