Law and State: The Case of Northern Ireland

Law and State: The Case of Northern Ireland

Law and State: The Case of Northern Ireland

Law and State: The Case of Northern Ireland

Excerpt

The troubles in Northern Ireland over the past six years have been and continue to be one of the most inflammatory issues in contemporary British politics. Yet for all that the majority of the citizens of the United Kingdom remain ignorant of the nature and dimensions of the problem. Northern Ireland has been bracketed off: the geographical divide of the Irish Sea has apparently allowed the turmoil in the province to be isolated as part of a separate political reality. Northern Ireland has been defined as just another troubled, distant place; in the rest of the United Kingdom this is manifested in emotional outcry or in a crude neo-colonialist attitude to the 'Irish problem'. The administration of law in Northern Ireland, for example, has been changed in ways which, had they occurred in the rest of the Kingdom, would have been perceived as radically altering the nature of the 'legal order'. But as a consequence of the distancing of Northern Ireland these changes have not been seen as necessitating a reappraisal of the nature and operation of law in the rest of the country.

In the United Kingdom there are differing substantive laws, court structures and legal procedures in the different jurisdictions of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In spite of this it has been traditionally espoused that there is a shared adherence to 'the rule of law', with a similar notion of legal order prevailing; thus the variations have been presented as matters of detail and of secondary importance. Yet the administration of law in Northern Ireland, and the changes in procedures adopted in the province in recent years, can only be understood if a rather different concept of legal order is first adopted. This leads to a fundamental questioning of the rule of law in Great Britain.

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