DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS IN NORTHERN IRELAND
1. This agreement provides for a democratically elected Assembly in
Northern Ireland which is inclusive in its membership, capable of
exercising executive and legislative authority, and subject to safeguards to
protect the rights and interests of all sides of the community.
2. A 108-member Assembly will be elected by PR(STV) from existing
3. The Assembly will exercise full legislative and executive authority in
respect of those matters currently within the responsibility of the six
Northern Ireland Government Departments, with the possibility of taking
on responsibility for other matters as detailed elsewhere in this agreement.
4. The Assembly - operating where appropriate on a cross-community
basis - will be the prime source of authority in respect of all devolved
5. There will be safeguards to ensure that all sections of the community
can participate and work together successfully in the operation of these
institutions and that all sections of the community are protected,
(a) allocations of Committee Chairs, Ministers and Committee
membership in proportion to party strengths;
(b) the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and any Bill of
Rights for Northern Ireland supplementing it, which neither the Assembly
nor public bodies can infringe, together with a Human Rights
(c) arrangements to provide that key decisions and legislation are proofed
to ensure that they do not infringe the ECHR and any Bill of Rights for
(d) arrangements to ensure key decisions are taken on a cross-community
(i) either parallel consent, i.e. a majority of those members present and
voting, including a majority of the unionist and nationalist designations
present and voting;
(ii) or a weighted majority (60%) of members present and voting,
including at least 40% of each of the nationalist and unionist designations
present and voting.
Key decisions requiring cross-community support will be designated in
advance, including election of the Chair of the Assembly, the First
Minister and Deputy First Minister, standing orders and budget
allocations. In other cases such decisions could be triggered by a petition
of concern brought by a significant minority of Assembly members
(e) an Equality Commission to monitor a statutory obligation to promote
equality of opportunity in specified areas and parity of esteem between the
two main communities, and to investigate individual complaints against
Operation of the Assembly
6. At their first meeting, members of the Assembly will register a
designation of identity - nationalist, unionist or other - for the purposes of
measuring cross-community support in Assembly votes under the relevant
7. The Chair and Deputy Chair of the Assembly will be elected on a crosscommunity basis, as set out in paragraph 5(d) above.
8. There will be a Committee for each of the main executive functions of
the Northern Ireland Administration. The Chairs and Deputy Chairs of the
Assembly Committees will be allocated proportionally, using the d’Hondt
system. Membership of the Committees will be in broad proportion to
party strengths in the Assembly to ensure that the opportunity of
Committee places is available to all members.
9. The Committees will have a scrutiny, policy development and
consultation role with respect to the Department with which each is
associated, and will have a role in initiation of legislation. They will have
the power to:
• consider and advise on Departmental budgets and Annual Plans in the
context of the overall budget allocation;
• approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of
relevant primary legislation;
• call for persons and papers;
• initiate enquiries and make reports;
• consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by its
10. Standing Committees other than Departmental Committees may be
established as may be required from time to time.
11. The Assembly may appoint a special Committee to examine and
report on whether a measure or proposal for legislation is in conformity
with equality requirements, including the ECHR/Bill of Rights. The
Committee shall have the power to call people and papers to assist in its
consideration of the matter. The Assembly shall then consider the report
of the Committee and can determine the matter in accordance with the
cross-community consent procedure.
12. The above special procedure shall be followed when requested by the
Executive Committee, or by the relevant Departmental Committee, voting
on a cross-community basis.
13. When there is a petition of concern as in 5(d) above, the Assembly
shall vote to determine whether the measure may proceed without
reference to this special procedure. If this fails to achieve support on a
cross-community basis, as in 5(d)(i) above, the special procedure shall be
14. Executive authority to be discharged on behalf of the Assembly by a
and Deputy First Minister and up to ten Ministers with Departmental
15. The First Minister and Deputy First Minister shall be jointly elected
into office by the Assembly voting on a cross-community basis, according
to 5(d)(i) above.
16. Following the election of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister,
the posts of Ministers will be allocated to parties on the basis of the
d’Hondt system by reference to the number of seats each party has in the
17. The Ministers will constitute an Executive Committee, which will be
convened, and presided over, by the First Minister and Deputy First
18. The duties of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will include,
inter alia, dealing with and co-ordinating the work of the Executive
Committee and the response of the Northern Ireland administration to
19. The Executive Committee will provide a forum for the discussion of,
and agreement on, issues which cut across the responsibilities of two or
more Ministers, for prioritising executive and legislative proposals and for
recommending a common position where necessary (e.g. in dealing with
20. The Executive Committee will seek to agree each year, and review as
necessary, a programme incorporating an agreed budget linked to policies
and programmes, subject to approval by the Assembly, after scrutiny in
Assembly Committees, on a cross-community basis.
21. A party may decline the opportunity to nominate a person to serve as a
Minister or may subsequently change its nominee.
22. All the Northern Ireland Departments will be headed by a Minister.
All Ministers will liaise regularly with their respective Committee.
23. As a condition of appointment, Ministers, including the First Minister
and Deputy First Minister, will affirm the terms of a Pledge of Office
Annex A) undertaking to discharge effectively and in good faith all the
responsibilities attaching to their office.
24. Ministers will have full executive authority in their respective areas of
responsibility, within any broad programme agreed by the Executive
Committee and endorsed by the Assembly as a whole.
25. An individual may be removed from office following a decision of the
Assembly taken on a cross-community basis, if (s)he loses the confidence
of the Assembly, voting on a cross-community basis, for failure to meet
his or her responsibilities including, inter alia, those set out in the Pledge
of Office. Those who hold office should use only democratic, non-violent
means, and those who do not should be excluded or removed from office
under these provisions.
26. The Assembly will have authority to pass primary legislation for
Northern Ireland in devolved areas, subject to:
(a) the ECHR and any Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland supplementing
it which, if the courts found to be breached, would render the relevant
legislation null and void;
(b) decisions by simple majority of members voting, except when decision
on a cross-community basis is required;
(c) detailed scrutiny and approval in the relevant Departmental
(d) mechanisms, based on arrangements proposed for the Scottish
Parliament, to ensure suitable co-ordination, and avoid disputes, between
the Assembly and the Westminster Parliament;
(e) option of the Assembly seeking to include Northern Ireland provisions
in United Kingdom-wide legislation in the Westminster Parliament,
especially on devolved issues where parity is normally maintained (e.g.
social security, company law).
27. The Assembly will have authority to legislate in reserved areas with
the approval of the Secretary of State and subject to Parliamentary
28. Disputes over legislative competence will be decided by the Courts.
29. Legislation could be initiated by an individual, a Committee or a
Relations with other institutions
30. Arrangements to represent the Assembly as a whole, at Summit level
and in dealings with other institutions, will be in accordance with
paragraph 18, and will be such as to ensure cross-community
31. Terms will be agreed between appropriate Assembly representatives
and the Government of the United Kingdom to ensure effective coordination and input by Ministers to national policy-making, including on
32. Role of Secretary of State:
(a) to remain responsible for NIO matters not devolved to the
Assembly, subject to regular consultation with the Assembly and
(b) to approve and lay before the Westminster Parliament any
Assembly legislation on reserved matters;
(c) to represent Northern Ireland interests in the United Kingdom
(d) to have the right to attend the Assembly at their invitation.
33. The Westminster Parliament (whose power to make legislation for
Northern Ireland would remain unaffected) will:
(a) legislate for non-devolved issues, other than where the Assembly
legislates with the approval of the Secretary of State and subject to the
control of Parliament;
(b) to legislate as necessary to ensure the United Kingdom’s international
obligations are met in respect of Northern Ireland;
(c) scrutinise, including through the Northern Ireland Grand and Select
Committees, the responsibilities of the Secretary of State.
34. A consultative Civic Forum will be established. It will comprise
representatives of the business, trade union and voluntary sectors, and
such other sectors as agreed by the First Minister and the Deputy First
Minister. It will act as a consultative mechanism on social, economic and
cultural issues. The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will by
agreement provide administrative support for the Civic Forum and
establish guidelines for the selection of representatives to the Civic
35. The Assembly will meet first for the purpose of organisation, without
legislative or executive powers, to resolve its standing orders and working
practices and make preparations for the effective functioning of the
Assembly, the British-Irish Council and the North/South Ministerial
Council and associated implementation bodies. In this transitional period,
those members of the Assembly serving as shadow Ministers shall affirm
their commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and
democratic means and their opposition to any use or threat of force by
others for any political purpose; to work in good faith to bring the new
arrangements into being; and to observe the spirit of the Pledge of Office
applying to appointed Ministers.
36. After a specified period there will be a review of these arrangements,
including the details of electoral arrangements and of the Assembly’s
procedures, with a view to agreeing any adjustments necessary in the
interests of efficiency and fairness.Annex A
Pledge of Office
(a) to discharge in good faith all the duties of office;
(b) commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and
(c) to serve all the people of Northern Ireland equally, and to act in
accordance with the general obligations on government to promote
equality and prevent discrimination;
(d) to participate with colleagues in the preparation of a programme for
(e) to operate within the framework of that programme when agreed
within the Executive Committee and endorsed by the Assembly;
(f) to support, and to act in accordance with, all decisions of the Executive
Committee and Assembly;
(g) to comply with the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
CODE OF CONDUCT
Ministers must at all times:
• observe the highest standards of propriety and regularity involving
impartiality, integrity and objectivity in relationship to the stewardship of
• be accountable to users of services, the community and, through the
Assembly, for the activities within their responsibilities, their stewardship
of public funds and the extent to which key performance targets and
objectives have been met;
• ensure all reasonable requests for information from the Assembly, users
of services and individual citizens are complied with; and that
Departments and their staff conduct their dealings with the public in an
open and responsible way;
• follow the seven principles of public life set out by the Committee on
Standards in Public Life;
• comply with this code and with rules relating to the use of public funds;
• operate in a way conducive to promoting good community relations and
equality of treatment;
• not use information gained in the course of their service for personal
gain; nor seek to use the opportunity of public service to promote their
• ensure they comply with any rules on the acceptance of gifts and
hospitality that might be offered;
• declare any personal or business interests which may conflict with their
responsibilities. The Assembly will retain a Register of Interests.
Individuals must ensure that any direct or indirect pecuniary interests
which members of the public might reasonably think could influence their
judgement are listed in the Register of Interests;
NORTH/SOUTH MINISTERIAL COUNCIL
1. Under a new British/Irish Agreement dealing with the totality of
relationships, and related legislation at Westminster and in the Oireachtas,
a North/South Ministerial Council to be established to bring together
those with executive responsibilities in Northern Ireland and the Irish
Government, to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the
island of Ireland - including through implementation on an all-island and
cross-border basis - on matters of mutual interest within the competence
of the Administrations, North and South.
2. All Council decisions to be by agreement between the two sides.
Northern Ireland to be represented by the First Minister, Deputy First
Minister and any relevant Ministers, the Irish Government by the
Taoiseach and relevant Ministers, all operating in accordance with the
rules for democratic authority and accountability in force in the Northern
Ireland Assembly and the Oireachtas respectively. Participation in the
Council to be one of the essential responsibilities attaching to relevant
posts in the two Administrations. If a holder of a relevant post will not
participate normally in the Council, the Taoiseach in the case of the Irish
Government and the First and Deputy First Minister in the case of the
Northern Ireland Administration to be able to make alternative
3. The Council to meet in different formats:
(i) in plenary format twice a year, with Northern Ireland representation
led by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Irish
Government led by the Taoiseach;
(ii) in specific sectoral formats on a regular and frequent basis with each
side represented by the appropriate Minister;
(iii) in an appropriate format to consider institutional or cross-sectoral
matters (including in relation to the EU) and to resolve disagreement.
4. Agendas for all meetings to be settled by prior agreement between the
two sides, but it will be open to either to propose any matter for
consideration or action.
5. The Council:
(i) to exchange information, discuss and consult with a view to cooperating on matters of mutual interest within the competence of both
Administrations, North and South;
(ii) to use best endeavours to reach agreement on the adoption of
common policies, in areas where there is a mutual cross-border and allisland benefit, and which are within the competence of both
Administrations, North and South, making determined efforts to
overcome any disagreements;
(iii) to take decisions by agreement on policies for implementation
separately in each jurisdiction, in relevant meaningful areas within the
competence of both Administrations, North and South;
(iv) to take decisions by agreement on policies and action at an all-island
and cross-border level to be implemented by the bodies to be established
as set out in paragraphs 8 and 9 below.
6. Each side to be in a position to take decisions in the Council within the
defined authority of those attending, through the arrangements in place for
co-ordination of executive functions within each jurisdiction. Each side to
remain accountable to the Assembly and Oireachtas respectively, whose
approval, through the arrangements in place on either side, would be
required for decisions beyond the defined authority of those attending.
7. As soon as practically possible after elections to the Northern Ireland
Assembly, inaugural meetings will take place of the Assembly, the
British/Irish Council and the North/South Ministerial Council in their
transitional forms. All three institutions will meet regularly and frequently
on this basis during the period between the elections to the Assembly, and
the transfer of powers to the Assembly, in order to establish their modus
8. During the transitional period between the elections to the Northern
Ireland Assembly and the transfer of power to it, representatives of the
Northern Ireland transitional Administration and the Irish Government
operating in the North/South Ministerial Council will undertake a work
programme, in consultation with the British Government, covering at least
12 subject areas, with a view to identifying and agreeing by 31 October
1998 areas where co-operation and implementation for mutual benefit will
take place. Such areas may include matters in the list set out in the
9. As part of the work programme, the Council will identify and agree at
least 6 matters for co-operation and implementation in each of the
(I) Matters where existing bodies will be the appropriate mechanisms for
co-operation in each separate jurisdiction;
(ii) Matters where the co-operation will take place through agreed
implementation bodies on a cross-border or all-island level.
10. The two Governments will make necessary legislative and other
enabling preparations to ensure, as an absolute commitment, that these
bodies, which have been agreed as a result of the work programme,
function at the time of the inception of the British-Irish Agreement and
the transfer of powers, with legislative authority for these bodies
transferred to the Assembly as soon as possible thereafter. Other
arrangements for the agreed co-operation will also commence
contemporaneously with the transfer of powers to the Assembly.
11. The implementation bodies will have a clear operational remit. They
will implement on an all-island and cross-border basis policies agreed in
12. Any further development of these arrangements to be by agreement in
the Council and with the specific endorsement of the Northern Ireland
Assembly and Oireachtas, subject to the extent of the competences and
responsibility of the two Administrations.
13. It is understood that the North/South Ministerial Council and the
Northern Ireland Assembly are mutually inter-dependent, and that one
cannot successfully function without the other.
14. Disagreements within the Council to be addressed in the format
described at paragraph 3(iii) above or in the plenary format. By agreement
between the two sides, experts could be appointed to consider a particular
matter and report.
15. Funding to be provided by the two Administrations on the basis that
the Council and the implementation bodies constitute a necessary public
16. The Council to be supported by a standing joint Secretariat, staffed by
members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the Irish Civil Service.
17. The Council to consider the European Union dimension of relevant
matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes
and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to
be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and
represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings.
18. The Northern Ireland Assembly and the Oireachtas to consider
developing a joint parliamentary forum, bringing together equal numbers
from both institutions for discussion of matters of mutual interest and
19. Consideration to be given to the establishment of an independent
consultative forum appointed by the two Administrations, representative
of civil society, comprising the social partners and other members with
expertise in social, cultural, economic and other issues.
Areas for North-South co-operation and implementation may include the
1. Agriculture - animal and plant health.
2. Education - teacher qualifications and exchanges.
3. Transport - strategic transport planning.
4. Environment - environmental protection, pollution, water quality, and
5. Waterways - inland waterways.
6. Social Security/Social Welfare - entitlements of cross-border workers
and fraud control.
7. Tourism - promotion, marketing, research, and product development.
8. Relevant EU Programmes such as SPPR, INTERREG, Leader II and
9. Inland Fisheries.
10. Aquaculture and marine matters
11. Health: accident and emergency services and other related crossborder issues.
12. Urban and rural development.
Others to be considered by the shadow North/ South Council.
1. A British-Irish Council (BIC) will be established under a new BritishIrish Agreement to promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial
development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these
2. Membership of the BIC will comprise representatives of the British and
Irish Governments, devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, Scotland
and Wales, when established, and, if appropriate, elsewhere in the United
Kingdom, together with representatives of the Isle of Man and the
3. The BIC will meet in different formats: at summit level, twice per year;
in specific sectoral formats on a regular basis, with each side represented
by the appropriate Minister; in an appropriate format to consider crosssectoral matters.
4. Representatives of members will operate in accordance with whatever
procedures for democratic authority and accountability are in force in
their respective elected institutions.
5. The BIC will exchange information, discuss, consult and use best
endeavours to reach agreement on co-operation on matters of mutual
interest within the competence of the relevant Administrations. Suitable
issues for early discussion in the BIC could include transport links,
agricultural issues, environmental issues, cultural issues, health issues,
education issues and approaches to EU issues. Suitable arrangements to be
made for practical co-operation on agreed policies.
6. It will be open to the BIC to agree common policies or common
actions. Individual members may opt not to participate in such common
policies and common action.
7. The BIC normally will operate by consensus. In relation to decisions on
tional implementation, it will operate by agreement of all members participating
in such policies or actions.
8. The members of the BIC, on a basis to be agreed between them, will
provide such financial support as it may require.
9. A secretariat for the BIC will be provided by the British and Irish
Governments in co-ordination with officials of each of the other members.
10. In addition to the structures provided for under this agreement, it will
be open to two or more members to develop bilateral or multilateral
arrangements between them. Such arrangements could include, subject to
the agreement of the members concerned, mechanisms to enable
consultation, co-operation and joint decision-making on matters of mutual
interest; and mechanisms to implement any joint decisions they may
reach. These arrangements will not require the prior approval of the BIC
as a whole and will operate independently of it.
11. The elected institutions of the members will be encouraged to develop
interparliamentary links, perhaps building on the British-Irish
12. The full membership of the BIC will keep under review the workings
of the Council, including a formal published review at an appropriate time
after the Agreement comes into effect, and will contribute as appropriate
to any review of the overall political agreement arising from the multiparty negotiations.
BRITISH-IRISH INTERGOVERNMENTAL CONFERENCE
1. There will be a new British-Irish Agreement dealing with the totality of
relationships. It will establish a standing British-Irish Intergovernmental
Conference, which will subsume both the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental
Council and the Intergovernmental Conference established under the 1985
2. The Conference will bring together the British and Irish Governments
to promote bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual
interest within the competence of both Governments.
3. The Conference will meet as required at Summit level (Prime Minister
and Taoiseach). Otherwise, Governments will be represented by
appropriate Ministers. Advisers, including police and security advisers,
will attend as appropriate.
4. All decisions will be by agreement between both Governments. The
Governments will make determined efforts to resolve disagreements
between them. There will be no derogation from the sovereignty of either
5. In recognition of the Irish Government’s special interest in Northern
Ireland and of the extent to which issues of mutual concern arise in
relation to Northern Ireland, there will be regular and frequent meetings of
the Conference concerned with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters, on
which the Irish Government may put forward views and proposals. These
meetings, to be co-chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, would also deal with all-island
and cross-border co-operation on non-devolved issues.
6. Co-operation within the framework of the Conference will include
facilitation of co-operation in security matters. The Conference also will
address, in particular, the areas of rights, justice, prisons and policing in
Northern Ireland (unless and until responsibility is devolved to a Northern
Ireland administration) and will intensify co-operation between the two
Governments on the all-island or cross-border aspects of these matters.
7. Relevant executive members of the Northern Ireland Administration
will be involved in meetings of the Conference, and in the reviews
referred to in paragraph 9 below to discuss non-devolved Northern Ireland
8. The Conference will be supported by officials of the British and Irish
Governments, including by a standing joint Secretariat of officials dealing
with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters.
9. The Conference will keep under review the workings of the new
British-Irish Agreement and the machinery and institutions established
under it, including a formal published review three years after the
Agreement comes into effect. Representatives of the Northern Ireland
Administration will be invited to express views to the Conference in this
context. The Conference will contribute as appropriate to any review of
the overall political agreement arising from the multi-party negotiations
but will have no power to override the democratic arrangements set up by