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How has devolved government developed in Northern Ireland

When Ireland was partitioned and the South effectively became independent, Northern Ireland was given a devolved Parliament to control most areas of policy and the Stormont Parliament first met in 1921. However, Stormont was dominated by the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party and policies discriminated against Catholics in areas such as housing and jobs.  Protest against this in the 1960s ended in sectarian conflict between the Catholic and Protest and communities and, when the Stormont Government  refused to hand over control of law and order to the British Government, Stormont was dissolved by the Conservative Government in 1972 and Northern Ireland was controlled by Direct Rule from London.

A slow change in political attitude within both communities provided the opportunity for Tony Blair to broker the Good Friday Agreement in 1998,   This provided for a New Northern Ireland Assembly elected under a proportional voting system so that both communities were fairly represented , a Government run by a power-sharing Executive so that all parties achieving a significant vote would be included, and cross-border cooperation with the Irish Republic. The settlement was approved by a vote in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. The First Minister and Deputy First Minister have to have support from a majority of Nationalist and Unionist members of the Assembly.  The Assembly controls most domestic areas such as education, agriculture, employment, housing and health.  Although arguments have occurred over issues such as the decommissioning of weapons and policing, and disagreements have led to the suspension of the Assembly by the British Government for short periods, cooperation between the parties has resumed.


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