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Constitutional Law / Droit constitutionnel 2009 Northern Ireland / Irlande du Nord

2009 / Vol. 21, No. 3, (73)
Digital Edition

Constitutional Law / Droit constitutionnel

Northern Ireland / Irlande du nord

Gordon Anthony / John Morison

School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast


This chronicle analyses case law that has arisen as part of the ongoing Northern Ireland peace process and considers its implications for constitutionalism in North­ern Ireland and elsewhere in the UK. It starts with a brief analysis of the unique con­stitutional features of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and the chal­lenges that those present for judicial decision-making in a traditionally conserva­tive common law setting. The chronicle next examines case law in three areas re­lated to the process of transition in Northern Ireland, viz (1) the constitutional status of the Agreement and its implementing legislation; (2) equality and repre­sentation in Northern Ireland’s institutions; and (3) truth-telling in respect of use of force by the State during the Northern Ireland conflict. It notes how the case law has been inventive in some instances and less so in others, and suggests that such in­consistency is inevitable at a time of transition and change. The chronicle nev­ertheless also suggests that there is much within the inventive case law to indicate the beginnings of a new judicial approach to constitutional questions in Northern Ireland and that this has a broader relevance to ongoing debates in the UK as a whole.