Northern Ireland and the European Union: The Dynamics of a Changing Relationship by Mary C. Murphy

Northern Ireland and the European Union: The Dynamics of a Changing Relationship by Mary C. Murphy

Author:Mary C. Murphy [Murphy, Mary C.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: International Relations, European, Political Science, World, General
ISBN: 9781526111609
Goodreads: 22560780
Publisher: Manchester University Press
Published: 2014-09-25T00:00:00+00:00

OFMDFM: administrative advance

The OFMDFM has responsibility for a wide range of policy areas, including the EU and international affairs. Within the Department, this work is concentrated in the EPCU and the ONIEB. Collectively, both units constitute the European Division of OFMDFM. This entails providing a central policy and coordination role on EU matters and helping Northern Ireland ‘fulfil its EU responsibilities and develop a positive approach to participation in the European Union’ (http://goo.gl/tIJJDv). The creation of the European Division within OFMDFM represented a shift of strategic policy responsibility for EU matters from DFP, which had assumed this responsibility during the period of direct rule. Hitherto, the allocation of an EU coordination role to DFP reflected the financial focus of Northern Ireland’s dealings with the EU. The transfer of this role to OFMDFM suggests a subtle shift in emphasis. The move also entails placing responsibility for EU strategy under the direction of the two most senior Northern Ireland Ministers and their junior colleagues. The present situation, whereby a central policy and coordination role vis-à-vis the EU, is situated at the heart of the devolved system, represents a certain recognition by political actors that the EU is a matter of some strategic policy significance for the region.

The European Division in OFMDFM is led by the Director of the ONIEB, who is based in Brussels. The EPCU employs a relatively small staff in Belfast. Prompted by an increased work-load (a consequence of devolution) and coupled with political pressure from the Committee of the Centre as highlighted in their 2002 European Inquiry, there was a tangible sense that the size and scope of the tasks facing the unit warranted greater resources. In a Northern Ireland Assembly debate, one MLA made this point quite forcefully when he suggested: ‘a budget of £163 000 and four staff working under a director who has other responsibilities is insufficient to enable the unit to carry out its duties’ (Northern Ireland Assembly Hansard, 8 April 2002). The size of the unit has increased and it is currently led by a Head of Unit (who reports to the Head of Division), who is supported by two Principal Officers and two Administrative Officers.

The central coordination role of the EPCU involves the following activities (http://goo.gl/tIJJDv):

1. Leading on the development of the Executive Committee’s strategic approach to Europe.

2. Maintaining effective liaison arrangements with Whitehall, the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of the Taoiseach and across NICS departments on European matters.

3. Monitoring the transposition of European directives.

The means by which the unit delivers these outputs is detailed in Taking Our Place in Europe 2006–2010 (OFMDFM 2006: 18–19):

The European Policy and Coordination Unit (EPCU) works closely with Whitehall, especially the Cabinet Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (the key departments of the Westminster Government for European policy), as well as the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations. EPCU provides support to Northern Ireland’s European representatives and monitors the transposition of directives. It promotes European networking and supports


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