63 N. Ir. Legal Q. 509 (2012)
Modernising Environmental Regulation in Northern Ireland: A Case Study in Devolved Decision-Making

handle is hein.journals/nilq63 and id is 525 raw text is: NILQ 63(4): 509-32

Modernising environmental regulation in
Northern Ireland: a case study in devolved
decision-making
SHARON TURNER AND ClARA BRENNAN
School of Law, Queen's University Belfast*
Introduction
For over a decade, controversy about the quality of environmental regulation has cast a
shadow over the effectivenes's. of environmental governance in Northern Ireland. Most
fundamentally this debate has centred on a crisis of confidence about the quality of
regulation and a consensus that effective reform depends on the externalisation of this
responsibility from central government. Not surprisingly, the causes of weak regulation were
rooted in the eclipsing impact of the Troubles and the fossilisation of government that
occurred during the decades of Direct Rule.1 However, although the first steps towards
meaningful reform were evenituall taken under Direct Rule, the restoration of devolution
and the stabilising power-sharing process has meant that the trajectory of regulatory reform
has been largely shaped by a devolved administration. The purpose of this paper is to
examine the nature and implications of that process. Pressure for regulatory reform is an
issue that has confronted both configurations of Northern Ireland's power-sharing
Executive. Despite its brief and tumultuous lifespan, the first Ulster Unionist Part)
(UUP)/Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)-led administration was immediately
faced not only with the evidence of serious regulatory dysfunction but also the first stage of
what became a concerted civil society campaign for independent regulation. The collapse of
power-sharing did nothing to quell this pressure. Instead, when devolution was restored five
years later the new Democratic Unionist/Sinn Fein-led administration was faced once again
with pressure for regulator) reform. However, this time the case for independent regulation
was supported not only by civil society, but also the overwhelming majority of stakeholders
to this governance process, including all but one of the parties sharing power and all but one
of the industries subject to environmental regulation. This consensus was furthermore
School of Law, Queen's University Belfast, 27-30 University Square, Belfast BT7 INN. Email:
s.turner,,aqub.ac.uk and cbrennanl2@aqub.ac.uk
I  The impact of the conflict on en-vironm enta  ernance has been discussed in detail elsewhere. See, for
example, S Turner and K Morrow, North , Ire  ILanBironmenaLn (Gill and Macmillan 1997); K Morrow
and S Turner, 'The More Things Ch nge, the More Th ey Stay the Same; En-viron mental Law, Policy and
Funding in Northern IreIand' (1998) 10(1) Journal of Environmentl Law 41-59.

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