“an exceptional but justified step in the circumstances..”

As the BBC report here, Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, MP, has agreed to a request from Environment Minister Arlene Foster, MLA, to delay the local government elections – scheduled for next year – until 2011. The Notes to Editors in the statement points out that “An Order in Council under section 84 (1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 will be required to make the postponement.” Of course, if elections threatened to change anything.. Adds As announced in the Assembly on 31 March in a ministerial statement on the Review of Public Administration.From the statement

Shaun Woodward said:

“I am committed to doing everything within my power to facilitate local politicians in local government to work together for the people of Northern Ireland.

“The Executive has agreed to recommendations for the creation of new local government districts by 2011.

“I have agreed to the request from the Environment Minister to hold the next council elections in May 2011 so that they may be held under the new local government structure.”

A postponement to May 2011 has been agreed to as an exceptional but justified step in the circumstances.

, ,

  • Rory

    Yet again Westminster does for its loyal citizens’ of NI what mummy knows best is good for them. Aren’t you lucky?

  • RepublicanStones

    Pete do you think it was the spectre of ‘The Unionist Vanguard’ which precipitated this postponement?

  • joeCanuck

    So just that I can understand this better:
    Elections are held for the benefit of political parties and not for the electorate to be able to dump losers and pick better representatives – Right?

  • Pete Baker


    I’m sure it was considered.. before the Executive agreed to the move.

    And Arlene Foster informed the Assembly.

  • The Raven

    Umm…I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but there really *isn’t* any Mulder-esque conspiracy behind this.

    Under the new Councils there will be transfer of certain functions. They aren’t huge, but in the case of some – for example, community planning – they are pretty complicated. Some functions won’t come directly to the new councils, but they will have significant input into the direction of them, post new-council-setup.

    This one was always on the cards. The delay will allow the new working groups and issuing workstreams to be put in place. It will allow at least a year for a “shadow” changeover, for the first of the new positions to be put in place – Chief Execs and HR teams, and so on. It will allow time for some of the processes behind – e.g. community planning – to become bedded-in.

    The Councils were the last of the existing structures to experience RPA change. They were always the ones under the microscope simply because of ALL the changes, this is the only one that directly affected “elected” “representatives” (I use the terms lightly…)

    This one-year delay has been discussed for well over 18 months.

    Sorry folks – while it may be expedient for some parties who are feeling the squeeze at the moment, it HAS been around for quite sometime. Indeed, if you speak to anyone in Council circles, they will tell you they expected nothing less.

  • Rory to be fair the NI executive ministers asked for it. Though it is sad that the NIO wouldn’t refuse outright – it does have a distinctly undemocratic feel to it.

  • It is nice to get there before slugger for once though 😉

  • ulsterfan

    Does this really mean that Westminster Rules OK.
    What on earth have Republicans been doing this past 10 years.

  • Cynic

    “The delay will allow the new working groups and issuing workstreams to be put in place. It will allow at least a year for a “shadow” changeover, for the first of the new positions to be put in place – Chief Execs and HR teams, and so on. It will allow time for some of the processes behind – e.g. community planning – to become bedded-in.”

    I wonder what was worse for us, 35 years of violence or having our communitites ‘planned’ by SF and the DUP supported by the NI Civil Service?

  • pith

    Is this an example of Robinson’s tactical genius or is it just the UK govt bailing him out?

  • Cynic

    No Pith, its worse than that, it’s a taste of the joys to come. For example:-

    ” The (RPA) SUB-GROUP (on Community Planning) ….. comprised OVER 50 MEMBERS, covering political representation, local government officers, the voluntary and community, rural, private and other key sectors along with Government Departments and other public agencies.”{My caps}


    With just 50 members on the sub-group no wonder they need another 3 years …and probably another few tens of millions. That money from America will come in handy!

    And why do we need all this and all the politicans too? What the hell do we elect them for if it isnt to represnt us and take decisions?

  • Mark McGregor

    I’ve just read Section 84,I know most of you have it memorised. As there is no NI legislation on this what is the ” Act of Parliament passed before this Act in so far as the provision is part of the law of Northern Ireland.” that they are claiming allows the delay?

  • [aside]There may be a few fireworks at the next meeting of Moyle District Council. Paudie McShane SF, Moyle’s newest councillor, apparently has been inquiring about the ‘absentee’ fifteenth councillor and Councillor McAllister DUP – for it is he – is rumoured to be making an appearance. I’ve had a look at the council minutes and I can find no record of his attendance for the best part of a year.

  • Mark McGregor

    Sorry, I’m not being clear but I’m no ‘constitutional’ lawyer. Surely if they are quoting Section 84 they have to quote either the relevant NI legislation or the previous British legislation they are invoking? Section 84 gives a right to legislate but it seems, to me, to demand either British or 6 county legislation is utilised.

    Or have I got this wrong?

  • Mark, postponement would simply be by Order in Council.

  • Pete Baker


    The quoted reference seems sufficient for the postponement.

    84 Provision with respect to certain matters relating to Northern Ireland

    (1) Her Majesty may by Order in Council make provision with respect to elections (but not the franchise) and boundaries in respect of district councils in Northern Ireland.


    (2) Her Majesty may by Order in Council make such amendments of the law of any part of the United Kingdom as appear to Her Majesty to be necessary or expedient in consequence of any provision made by or under-

    (a) Northern Ireland legislation; or
    (b) any Act of Parliament passed before this Act in so far as the provision is part of the law of Northern Ireland.

    With the proviso that

    (3) An Order in Council under subsection (1) or (2) may contain such consequential and supplemental provisions as appear to Her Majesty to be necessary or expedient.

    (4) No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty to make an Order in Council under this section unless a draft of the Order has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

  • Mark McGregor


    How do you read legislation? (not you personally)

    To me I read it as she can do 1) but it must meet 2)

    For a simpleton like me I see:

    1. She can do stuff
    2. It must be based on NI or UK law

    If she can just do stuff, why the reference in 2) to supporting legislation?

    I’m not twatting about. Just asking for an explanation of how the law works and why it doesn’t work like this layman would read it.

  • Pete Baker


    (3) indicates that (1) and (2) are discrete circumstances for the purposes of the legislation.

    So she can do (1) and/or (2), which may include the items mentioned in (3), but the conditions in (4) must be met.

  • Mark McGregor

    So, the primary authority on when/how elections can be held is the British Queen? And she has used that ‘power’? Or am I now interpreting it wrong again?

  • Pete Baker

    “Or am I now interpreting it wrong again?”

    Nope, that would seem to be the correct interpretation.. this time.

    It is a constitutional monarchy, after all.

    With the stated provisos.

  • Pete, I’ve just spotted this:

    The power to legislate by Order in Council will, however, lapse if the Assembly is restored before that date.

  • Douglas

    Mark, the point about ‘Her Majesty may by Order in Council …’ isn’t uncommon. You also get clauses allowing ‘the Secretary of State’ to make orders or regulations.

    The ultimate authority remains Parliament as any powers delegated in this way must keep to the limits imposed by the Act (and furthermore, in this instance the Commons and Lords have to vote to approve the Order). The Order is secondary legislation (which matters as e.g. courts can strike them down for being outside the competence of powers granted by a given Act), not primary.

    Nevin, if I understand that correctly, doesn’t it only apply to the former catch-all power to legislate via Order-in-Council for Northern Ireland? If there’s a Northern Ireland Assembly in operation, there’s no need to be able to legislate on health, education and everything else by Order from Westminster as used to be the case under direct rule. If other bits of legislation allow more specific Order-making powers, they won’t lapse just because they can’t be used for the whole range of NI devolved legislation anymore.

  • Danny O’Connor

    DUP + SF concoct another deal to see them through a couple more years without having to go to the electorate,to ensure their unholy alliance is not further weakened(dromore)-but hey look on the bright side it gives us more time to have real dialogue with FF and others about the future of politics on this island,come 2011 SF will have to deal with the changing /evolving nature of nationalist politics.

  • pia lugum

    The 2 year democracy stall will allow the bevy of slumbering unionists of Empey’s party to remain blissfully dormant in Magherafelt for a while longer. And also allow Willy McRea’s tamed councillors to bed-in that little bit better with their new found SF allies.

    I just hope that no-one is losing too much sleep over the fact that some of us ordinary pay-through-the-nose ratepayers might have wanted to replace some of the more useless politicians this time next year – instead of having to wait until 2011!!!!

  • steve white

    surely to give the super councils authority and legitimacy there has to be elections.