"The mechanism which eats itself? Revisiting parliamentary procedure: examining the Petition of Concern mechanism in the Northern Ireland Assembly"

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract

Parliamentary procedure provides for the operation of established rules to regulate business conducted within parliamentary institutions. However, parliamentary procedure may be invoked in a manner which undermines its role, to the detriment of parliamentary business and the responsibilities of the legislature and/or government more widely.

Within the operational procedure of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Petition of Concern is a mechanism which effectively serves as a veto power, enabling decisions requiring a vote in the Assembly to be blocked by changing the way a vote is taken. Whilst designed to prevent the dilution of human rights and equality standards, particularly to safeguard minority rights, the mechanism has been invoked to operate contrary to its intention. This has included utilisation to block legislative progress and business deliberations on issues of minority rights such as language, culture, and identity. Parliamentary procedure in Northern Ireland has therefore provided a means for the entrenchment of the politicisation of human rights.

This paper examines how parliamentary procedure can serve as a barrier to parliamentary business and wider state obligations. Through content analysis, it critically analyses the operation of the Petition of Concern mechanism in the Northern Ireland Assembly during the timeframe 1998-2017 to determine the impact of the mechanism upon Assembly business and particularly to determine the relationship between parliamentary procedure and progression of human rights standards. It posits the mechanism has been utilised contrary to its intention and has undermined the roles of the Assembly and Executive, particularly in the sphere of human rights.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2022
EventIAPSS World Congress 2022 -
Duration: 26 Apr 202229 Apr 2022

Conference

ConferenceIAPSS World Congress 2022
Period26/04/2229/04/22

Keywords

  • Northern Ireland, constitutionalism, parliamentary procedure, human rights, politicisation

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