Difficult to disagree with the reported assessment by Derek Birrell, Professor of Social Administration and Policy at the University of Ulster’s Social and Policy Research Institute. His book’s a bit pricey but, although he argues that “Looking at the overall picture it is obvious that devolution contributes more to the better governance of Northern Ireland particularly for realising an inclusive cross-community cross-party form of government” and that devolution helped address the “democratic deficit” of direct rule, here’s his assessment of the “indigenous” deal – from the University’s press release
“Devolution provides less cohesive government, not based on collective responsibility,” [Derek Birrell] explains. “It has brought a lack of decision making or generalised statements with no agreed underpinning ideology and decisions made on a lowest common denominator basis or by ministerial bargaining. There is also limited evidence of efficient government. The Executives complex and rigid decision-making procedures and blocking mechanism has led to much slower decision-making than under direct rule and hold-ups have been frustrating for civil servants, the media and the public. It has also led to poorer service provision than in the rest of Great Britain.”
He goes on to say
Contrasting the two systems influence Professor Birrell says: “Devolution has made little difference to the large role and scope of the powers of quangos or public bodies in the governance of Northern Ireland.
“There is little evidence of the devolved administration moving to reduce the functions of quangos or making them more responsive to local communities.”
He adds: There has also been little difference between the two systems in the outcome for reform of local government.”
“Political factors will determine how Northern Ireland is governed in the future but direct rule has certainly left a legacy which future devolved governments will have difficulty in moving away from.”