Special Legislation Begins

The Northern Whig, 3 December 1921

One of the most controversial aspects of the Northern Ireland state, as it existed in the mid 20th century, was the existence of special legislation. The Northern Ireland government passed the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act in 1922. Essentially a modified version of the Defence of the Realm Act used by the British government during the First World War, it gave the Northern Ireland government wide-ranging powers of arrest and censorship. This resulted in the Northern Ireland government permanently possessing powers usually reserved for emergencies. While the Civil Authorities Act was not passed until 1922, already in late 1921 the Minister for Home Affairs (Richard Dawson Bates) was advocating for exceptional powers to control the nationalist population, as seen in this article from the Northern Whig. The “incident” at Omagh refers to police attempts to remove the Tyrone County Council.


Ulster Government & Recalcitrant Bodies

The incident at Omagh yesterday imparts significance to the announcement by the Minister for Home Affairs in Parliament yesterday regarding the urgency of the special legislation designed to meet the situation which has arisen owing to the refusal of certain local authorities to recognise the Ulster Government. Sir Dawson Bates said he proposed to ask the House to pass the Bill through all its stages on Tuesday next. It is assumed that the Bill gives specific powers to the Government, in the event of a local body refusing to obey or recognise its authority, to dissolve the body forthwith and to transfer its functions either to some superior local body or to a specially-appointed authority. The Bill also makes provision for dealing with the officials and employees of any recalcitrant body.