Northern Ireland law

Northern Ireland law refers to the legal system of statute and common law operating in Northern Ireland since the partition of Ireland established Northern Ireland as a separate jurisdiction within the United Kingdom in 1921.


For the purposes of private international law the United Kingdom is divided into three distinct legal jurisdictions:

Northern Ireland is a common law jurisdiction. Although its common law is similar to that in England and Wales, and partially derives from the same sources, there are some important differences in law and procedure between Northern Ireland and England and Wales. While influenced by English law, the Northern Ireland legal system is distinctive for a number of reasons: it has roots in Irish common law prior to Irish independence in 1921; following Irish independence, Northern Ireland became a devolved jurisdiction within the United Kingdom.

Legislation

The current statute law of Northern Ireland comprises those Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that apply to Northern Ireland and Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly, as well as statutory instruments made by departments of the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government. Also remaining on the statute books are many Acts of the Parliament of Northern Ireland passed between 1921 and 1972, certain Acts of the Parliament of Ireland made before the Act of Union 1800, and Acts of the Parliament of England, and of the Parliament of Great Britain, extended to Ireland under Poynings' Law between 1494 and 1782.

The expression "Northern Ireland legislation" is defined by statute. The Northern Ireland Act 1998 establishes the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It creates a distinction between excepted matters, reserved matters and other matters (which are transferred i.e. they fall within the NI Assembly's competence). The Northern Ireland Act 1998 functions as a constitution for Northern Ireland as indicated in the Robinson case.

The Northern Ireland Parliament was prorogued in 1972; from then until the establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly following the Good Friday Agreement, the primary method of making legislation for Northern Ireland was by means of orders in council under the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972. A number of important legislative measures were adopted using the order in council procedure: this included the Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1988 restricting the right to silence, the Fair Employment and Treatment Order (Northern Ireland) 1998 on religious and political discrimination.

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