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Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is the British cabinet minister who has responsibility for the government of Northern Ireland.

The office was created following the suspension, then abolition, of the home rule Northern Ireland Stormont parliament in 1972-3. The post of Secretary of State in effect fills two roles under the previous Stormont regime; the nominal head of the Northern Ireland executive, the Governor of Northern Ireland (the representative of Queen Elizabeth II) and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State resides in Hillsborough Castle, the previous residence of the Governor and the Queen's official residence in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State presided over an administration of 'ministers', attached to the Northern Ireland Office. Members of the Secretary of State's cabinet are chosen from British MPs in the governing party.

Under the Belfast Agreement (also called the Good Friday Agreement) a new coalition government, called the Executive Committee was created, consisting of a First Minister of Northern Ireland, a Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and an inter-party cabinet. The coalition consisted of members of

However the Executive Committee has no power over policing and security, which remain the responsibility of a team of ministers under the Secretary of State.

Note: The Situation in 2003

The Northern Ireland Executive Committee is currently suspended, amid allegations of a republican spy ring operating in Stormont. The failure of the Provisional IRA to complete decommissioning within the period specified in the Good Friday Agreement also let to threats from the Ulster Unionists to resign. The responsibilities of the ministers in the Executive are currently exercised by British ministers answerable to the Secretary of State.

Secretaries of State (1972- present)

  1. William Whitelaw 1972-1973 (Conservative) - Prime Minister Edward Heath
  2. Francis Pym 1973-1974 (Conservative) - UK PM Edward Heath
  3. Merlyn Rees 1974-1976 (Labour) - UK PM Harold Wilson
  4. Roy Mason 1976-1979 (Labour) - UK PM James Callaghan
  5. Humphrey Atkins 1979-1981 (Conservative) - UK PM Margaret Thatcher
  6. James Prior 1981-1984 (Conservative) - UK PM Margaret Thatcher
  7. Douglas Hurd 1984-1985 (Conservative) - UK PM Margaret Thatcher
  8. Tom King 1985-1989 (Conservative) - UK PM Margaret Thatcher
  9. Peter Brooke 1989-1992 (Conservative) - UK PM Margaret Thatcher/John Major
  10. Sir Patrick Mayhew 1992-1997 (Conservative) - UK PM John Major
  11. Mo Mowlam 1997-1999 (Labour) - UK PM Tony Blair
  12. Peter Mandelson 1999-2001 (Labour) - UK PM Tony Blair
  13. John Reid 2001-2002 (Labour) - UK PM Tony Blair
  14. Paul Murphy 2002- (Labour) - UK PM Tony Blair