Professor Derek Birrell (University of Ulster): Is the idea that Northern Ireland is over-governed a myth?

Much has been said about the extent to which Northern Ireland is over-governed with the solution generally seen in terms of reducing the number of departments. Yet, to define the problem as the number of departments makes presuppositions about the issue. Rather, the core question is what form of central administration is important for devolution? The mini Whitehall model adopted in NI creates difficulties, especially for joined up governance. Rather than the solution being seen only as the amalgamation of department’s consideration should be given to other options: aligning with the main themes of the Programme for Government; copying Scottish or Welsh clusters; or aligning with main trends of expenditure. Any discussion of governance must also include the relationship between departments and very large centralised quangos.

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