The Constitution Unit


New Constitution Unit report on challenges for the next British government in Northern Ireland

28 June 2024

A new Constitution Unit report by Alan Whysall sets out the challenges that the next Westminster government will have to face on Northern Ireland issues.

A shore. The image is used on the front cover of the report.

Key points:

  • A new Westminster government will face multiple complex issues in Northern Ireland.
  • Whatever its political make-up, it may want to comprehensively reappraise the way that it addresses Northern Ireland issues.

Read the report (pdf)

Read a summary

Whatever the result of the upcoming general election, a new Westminster government may want to comprehensively reappraise the way that it addresses Northern Ireland issues, a new Constitution Unit report says.

The report, which offers an agenda for discussion, sets out three features of the present political context in Northern Ireland that create challenges for the next Westminster government. These cover the power-sharing institutions, whose stability is not guaranteed; a highly polarised 'Union versus Irish unity' debate; and the ongoing impact of the changed role and approach of the British government since 2016.

The report suggests that a new government should approach Northern Ireland matters in a different way to recent predecessors, seeking to rebuild trust through even-handed engagement within Northern Ireland, and rebuilding relationships in particular with Dublin; and seeking new ideas to sustain constructive politics.

The report looks at some of the specific policy areas that underpin the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement settlement, where it suggests close attention is necessary: safeguarding the institutions; the Protocol and Windsor Framework; good government and finance; reform of the institutions; the legacy of the Troubles; policing; continuing paramilitarism; and identity, language and rights.

Northern Ireland: Challenges for the Next Westminster Government is by Alan Whysall, an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Constitution Unit and previously a senior civil servant in the Northern Ireland Office, where he worked for many years on the Northern Ireland peace process. He has previously written two reports for the Constitution Unit, Northern Ireland’s Political Future and The Agreement at 25.

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