Northern Ireland and the UK Constitution

Lisa Claire Whitten

‘An excellent read for anyone wishing to understand the complex historical and political relationships and challenges in Northern Ireland’
Margaret Ritchie, former leader of the SDLP

‘For many people, Northern Ireland’s anomalous constitutional status within the UK for over the century since its establishment in 1920 has been ever hard to grasp than its political conflicts. Lisa Claire Whitten’s careful dissection of the discrepancies between the famously ‘‘unwritten’’ British constitution and the sequence of written Northern Ireland constitutional arrangements from the 1920 Act to the 2023 ‘‘Windsor Framework’’ should provide a significant aid to comprehension as well as a helpful guide to possible future developments.’
Charles Townshend, author of The Partititon: Ireland Divided 1885-1925


Since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the Union has endured an unusual level of attention.

Lisa Claire Whitten has written a concise history of Northern Ireland through its pivotal moments: the 1920-72 Unionist-led governments, the following thirty years of bitter conflicts, the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. Considering each of the moments in the broader setting of UK constitutional norms and narratives, she addresses the exceptional constitutional characteristics of Northern Ireland and the ways in which these have often resulted in ‘blindspot’ analyses of the Union.

This short book also considers the implications of Brexit and the constitutional impacts and shifts it has brought to Northern Ireland and discusses the possible constitutional repercussions.

LISA CLAIRE WHITTEN is a research fellow at Queen’s University Belfast. Prior to entering academia, Whitten held a variety of posts in the public sector including working in Westminster and in the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels.

Co-published with The Constitution Society.

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