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Roles of the NI Government Departments

Updated: Feb 3, 2020


There are 9 government departments in the Northern Ireland Government. The main role of the departments is to advise ministers and put government policy into action.

Ministers who lead each department are nominated by the political parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly, according to their share of the seats in the Assembly.

Ministers must take a pledge of office, promising to:

- carry out their duties in good faith

- be committed to non-violence

- serve all the people of Northern Ireland equally, no matter what their religion, race or political views may be

- to help prepare a programme of government

- to comply with the code of conduct

- to support decisions made by the Northern Ireland Executive and the Assembly

So what is the role of each department?

Executive Office

The role of the Executive Office is to:

  • produce a Programme for Government (a 5-year strategic plan which outlines the priorities and the actions the Northern Ireland Government will take to address them)

  • allocate budget funds to government departments

  • promote Northern Ireland and encouraging international investment

  • implement and fund programmes to build good relations, deliver social change and build a united community

  • co-operate with the British and Irish Governments, Joint Ministerial Committee, North/South bodies, European policy

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)

The role of DAERA is to:

  • protect the environment (including tackling air pollution and CO2 emissions and nature conservation)

  • develop and invest in rural areas to tackle rural poverty and isolation

  • support agriculture and farming and hygiene to ensure food safety throughout the food chain starting with primary production

  • oversee angling, animal health and welfare, preserving wildlife, countryside management, fisheries, farming, marine environment

Department for Communities (DfC)

The role of Department for Communities is to:

  • oversee urban regeneration – targeting social need through social, economic and physical regeneration of cities, towns and villages and local government reform

  • support the arts and creative industries, including community festivals, museums and libraries

  • reform social housing provision, oversee housing legislation and advise private rented and social housing tenants

  • develop strategy for sport and physical recreation and the promotion of sport in Northern Ireland

Department of Education (DE)

The role of Department of Education is to:

  • support the curriculum, assessment and learning in schools, raising standards and school improvement

  • setting teachers’ pay, conditions, and pensions and provision of training and professional development

  • provide school funding and setting conditions for schools’ financial management of budgets.

  • provide transport for pupils to and from school

Department for the Economy (DfE)

The role of Department for the Economy is to:

  • develop economic strategy and policy to support businesses and economic growth in Northern Ireland

  • fund and support education, research and related activities in the Northern Ireland further and higher education sector.

  • provide advice for jobseekers and employers on employment and recruitment programmes to deliver a skilled workforce to meet the needs of the Northern Ireland economy

Department of Finance (DoF)

The role of Department of Finance is to:

  • review and monitor departments’ spending.

  • provide information on public sector procurement, including advice, guidance and business opportunities

  • set and collect revenue from rates on domestic and non-domestic premises

  • valuate all properties which are subject to rates in Northern Ireland

Department for Infrastructure

The role of the Department of Infrastructure is to:

  • manage, maintain and develop the road network and road and transport improvement schemes

  • oversee public transport provision – road, rail and ferry – and ensuring compliance with legislation

  • manage and maintain water and sewage services

  • manage regional planning and development of land, housing and transport to support economic growth.

Department of Health (DoH)

The role of Department of Health is to:

  • develop policy and legislation in health, social care and public safety.

  • fund health care and social services

  • development including education, careers and skills, health workforce

  • promote health promotion, protection and prevention, e.g. obesity, sexual health, skin cancer, suicide and tobacco control

  • advise on medical employment terms and conditions (except GPs).

  • manage provision of social care, e.g. adult care, children and young people care and community care, mental health services, nursing

Department of Justice (DoJ)

The role of the Department of Justice is to:

  • manage and maintain justice and the law, including compensation, courts and tribunals, North-South co-operation and access to justice reports and policies.

  • manage the prison service, prison life, prison reform, the prison estate, management issues and family contact

  • review and implement policies, strategies and legislation on criminal history disclosure, organised crime, policing and community safety

  • oversee the youth justice agency that provides custodial facilities for children and young people referred to it by the court system in Northern Ireland

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