Northern Ireland Office

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO; Irish: Oifig Thuaisceart Éireann,[3] Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlann Oaffis)[4] is a ministerial department of the Government of the United Kingdom. It is responsible for handling Northern Ireland affairs. The NIO is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and is based at Erskine House in Belfast City Centre and 1 Horse Guards Road in London.

Northern Ireland Office
Department overview
Formed24 March 1972
Preceding Department
JurisdictionGovernment of the United Kingdom
  • Northern Ireland
    • Erskine House, 20-32 Chichester Street, Belfast, BT1 4GF
  • Westminster
Employees167 (September 2011)[1]
Annual budget£23 million for 2011–12[2]
Secretary of State responsible
Department executive



The NIO's role is to "maintain and support" the devolution settlement resulting from the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement and the devolution of criminal justice and policing to the Northern Ireland Assembly.[5] The department has responsibility for:

It also represents Northern Irish interests at UK Government level and the interests of the UK Government in Northern Ireland.[6]

The Northern Ireland Office has a close working relationship with the Government of Ireland as a co-guarantor of the peace process; this includes the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and its joint secretariat.[7]

In the Irish Government, the NIO's main counterparts are:



After partition in 1924 the Dublin Castle administration was largely replaced by the Parliament of Northern Ireland with the Northern Ireland Department of the Home Office handling the oversight from London,[13] with some extremely important decisions such as sending of British Army soldiers to Northern Ireland in 1969 being made by the Home Secretary.[14] In March 1972 with the Troubles worsening and the UK Government losing confidence in the Northern Ireland Government, direct rule from Westminster was introduced.[15]

The formation of the NIO put Northern Ireland on the same level as Scotland and Wales, where the Scottish Office and Welsh Office were established in 1885 and 1965 respectively. The NIO assumed policing and justice powers from the Ministry of Home Affairs. NIO junior ministers were placed in charge of other Northern Ireland Civil Service departments.

Direct rule was seen as a temporary measure, with a power-sharing devolution preferred as the solution. Under the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland replaced the Governor of Northern Ireland and direct rule was annually renewed by a vote in Parliament.[16]

The Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 resulted in a brief, power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive, which was ended by the Ulster Workers' Council strike on 28 May 1974. The Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention (1975–1976) and Northern Ireland Assembly (1982–1986) were unsuccessful in restoring devolved government. After the Anglo-Irish Agreement on 15 November 1985, the UK Government and Irish Government co-operated more closely on security and political matters.

Following the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998, devolution returned to Northern Ireland on 2 December 1999. The Northern Ireland Executive was suspended on 15 October 2002 and direct rule returned until devolution was restored on 8 May 2007.

The devolution of policing and justice powers on 12 April 2010 transferred many of the NIO's previous responsibilities to the Northern Ireland Assembly and its devolved government, the Northern Ireland Executive. The Department of Justice is now responsible for those matters. This transfer of power resulted in a smaller Northern Ireland Office, comparable to the Scotland Office and Wales Office.



The NIO ministers are as follows, with cabinet members in bold:[17][18]

Minister Portrait Office Portfolio
The Rt Hon. Chris Heaton-Harris MP   Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Overall responsibility; Political stability and relations with the Northern Ireland Executive; National security and counter-terrorism; Implementation of the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements, including legacy of the past; Representing Northern Ireland in the Cabinet on EU exit, including new economic opportunities; International interest in Northern Ireland, including relations with the Irish government.
The Rt Hon. Steve Baker FRSA MP   Minister of State for Northern Ireland
Minister of State at the Cabinet Office
Driving Economic and Domestic Policy; Long-term economic recovery from COVID-19; Promotion of the economy, levelling up and innovation - including City Deals and the Shared Prosperity Fund; Leading the department's work on the most critical constitution and rights issues in NI.

Supporting the Secretary of State in his responsibilities, including: Legacy stakeholder engagement; Strengthening and sustaining the Union in Northern Ireland; Vital security casework; Building substantive relationships across sectors and communities; Leading workstreams on New Decade, New Approach Agreement; and the NI Protocol

The Rt Hon. Lord Caine   Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Supporting the Secretary of State on legacy, New Decade, New Approach and Protocol. Reviewing planning for future political negotiations and developing plans to help achieve greater levels of Integrated Education in Northern Ireland. Leading the department’s work on Constitution and Rights such as abortion and ensuring women have access to services. Responsible for legislation and engagement in the House of Lords. Aiding political stability such as reviewing plans for the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Building substantive relationships across sectors and communities through engagement.

As Attorney General for England and Wales, The Rt Hon. Victoria Prentis KC MP is Advocate General for Northern Ireland, advising the UK Government on Northern Ireland law.

Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland


The department is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Ministers of State for Northern Ireland


Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland


Permanent Secretary


The senior civil servant in the NIO is Julie Harrison, who was appointed in September 2023.

See also



  1. ^ "Northern Ireland Quarterly Employment Survey Historical Data". Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  2. ^ Spending Review 2010 (PDF). London: HM Treasury. 2010. p. 88. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 November 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  3. ^ "Northern Ireland Office". té – Dictionary of Irish Terms. Foras na Gaeilge and Dublin City University. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  4. ^ Tha Owersman fur tha Polis Archived 16 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
  5. ^ "Government ministers and responsibilities". GOV.UK. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  6. ^ Northern Ireland Office, About the NIO Archived 17 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC)". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  8. ^ "Northern Ireland - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Department of the Taoiseach: Northern Ireland". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  10. ^ Equality, The Department of Justice and. "Terrorism". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  11. ^ Equality, The Department of Justice and. "Northern Ireland". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  12. ^ Stuart-Mills, Ian (18 December 2015). "Voting - General". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  13. ^ "Home Office". National Archives Catalogue. National Archives. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  14. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "The Deployment of British Troops – 14 August 1969". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  15. ^ Melaugh, Martin. "A Chronology of the Conflict – 1972". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). University of Ulster. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  16. ^ "Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972" (PDF). Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  17. ^ "Our ministers". GOV.UK. Northern Ireland Office. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  18. ^ "Her Majesty's Official Opposition". UK Parliament. Retrieved 17 October 2017.