Conventions as practice, conventions as barriers

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Constitutional conventions occupy an important role in the operation of constitutional systems. In the UK, constitutional conventions arising from devolution settlements are necessary to ensure the functioning of devolution, preventing devolution settlements from being undermined by recognising legislative competencies. However, the relative vagueness of such conventions including their policy scope and operation can be problematic. The operation of both historic and contemporary conventions arising from devolution settlements has resulted in a trend of delayed progress in the advancement of human rights standards in Northern Ireland since the formation of the state, raising ongoing questions in respect of human rights standards in Northern Ireland and the role of the Westminster Parliament in same.

My paper seeks to demonstrate how adherence to constitutional conventions by successive British Governments has resulted in the hindrance of human rights standards in Northern Ireland. The British Government holds a longstanding role as a guarantor of human rights standards in the UK (including in the parity of human rights standards across the UK) arising from its obligation to ensure compliance with standards contained within international treaties to which it is a state signatory. This, it is submitted, enables the British Government to act on matters pertaining to human rights standards within the UK’s devolved nations, irrespective of constitutional convention. Drawing on international law of State responsibility including the Vienna Convention 1969, my paper will argue the existence of devolution legislation / operation of same does not excuse inaction by the British Government to address human rights issues in accordance with its international treaty obligations. While treaty compliance may be achieved by regional authorities i.e. NI Executive meeting standards so outlined within the treaties, it is the state signatory which remains responsible if the devolved government does not deliver upon treaty compliance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Feb 2021
EventSocio-Legal Studies Association 2021 - Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Mar 20211 Apr 2021


ConferenceSocio-Legal Studies Association 2021
Abbreviated titleSLSA
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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