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Assess the extent to which the Northern Ireland Government was willing and able to use its extensive devolved powers to develop distinctive policies between 1921 and 1972.

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Introduction

QUESTION: Assess the extent to which the Northern Ireland Government was willing and able to use its extensive devolved powers to develop distinctive policies between 1921 and 1972. The issue of central importance within this essay, is to show the extent to which Northern Ireland was willing and able to use its new devolved powers after 1920 as well as the extent to which these powers were used. Within Northern Ireland, the 1920 Government of Ireland Act was deemed the most important treaty that set the foundation for partition structures. The key for working out what the Northern Ireland Government and its political structures were about could be established by analysing the main political institutions developed under the Government of Ireland Act. The first point to make is that Stormont had institutions and a Parliament. In terms of institutional structures what developed from the Act were the Stormont Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Senate was equivalent to the House of Lords and the structure of the Assembly was similar to that of the House of Commons. Thus, 'the new arrangements established a bicameral legislature, and a subordinate government in Belfast with authority over a number of devolved powers, including policing, education, local government and social services.'I The subsequent relationship between Westminster and Stormont was that during this period Stormont was subjective to Westminster, Northern Ireland was a miniature Westminster, referred to as the Westminster Model. ...read more.

Middle

In the course of events legislative devolution was virtually impossible because of the political and financial restraints imposed by the 1920 Government of Ireland Act. As a result there was more of an administrative devolution, especially with respect to agricultural policy within Northern Ireland that led to subsequent restraints in policy variation. The quasi-federal approach can also be used to describe the extent to which the Northern Ireland Government was willing and able to use its extensive devolved powers is. This can be explained by the fact that some scholars argue that the government was more akin to a federal system, as they were given powers in which they subsequently used. Birrell and Murie argue that 'in spite of very real constraints, Northern Ireland and its government could and did diverge substantially from the standards and legislation operating at Great Britain and at Westminster as independent action, different policies and substantially different policies did emerge.VIII In certain case studies, it was established that the implementation of policies within Northern Ireland was somewhat different to those implemented within Britain, for instance within educational policies. Great ambitions of the 1923 Education Act were hardly realised but did help improve certain areas of education. Although, despite the peculiarities of its politico-administrative system and the differences in it's political cleavages with Britain, Northern Ireland still forms part of the UK. ...read more.

Conclusion

The official British position is that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. ''The Northern Irish problem' is a term widely used in Northern Ireland and outside as if there were an agreed and universal understanding of what it means. It is more accurate, and more productive, to consider the issue, not as 'problem' with the implication that a solution lies around the corner, but as a tangle of interrelated problems.'XV For instance, there is the central constitutional problem of what the political context should be: integration with Britain? Or a united Ireland with independence? There are also continuing social and economic problems, which raise the issue of inequalities with Northern Ireland, for instance, in the area of employment. There is an evident problem with security, law and order within Northern Ireland as well as problems with cultural identity relating to education, religious difference and distinct problems with the day-to-day relationships with the people who live in Northern Ireland. All of these issues that have arisen show that these are elements to the problem within Northern Ireland and that there is not just one dominant problem. It can therefore be argued that 'the formulation and implementation of policy would have been more efficient and effective if removed from the bitter sectarian conflict, which constitutes Northern Ireland politics. ...read more.

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