Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment - History


A Ministry of Commerce was established at the foundation of Northern Ireland in June 1921, and was subsequently known as the Department of Commerce and Department of Economic Development under direct rule (introduced in March 1972). An economic ministry was also included in the Northern Ireland Executive briefly established in 1974.

The Department of Economic Development also incorporated elements of training and employment policy, now held by the Department for Employment and Learning.

Following a referendum on the Belfast Agreement on 23 May 1998 and the granting of royal assent to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 on 19 November 1998, a Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive were established by the United Kingdom Government under Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Department of Economic Development was renamed as the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and granted a reduced remit. DETI was therefore one of the six direct rule Northern Ireland departments that continued in existence after devolution in December 1999, following the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and The Departments (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.

A devolved minister took office on 2 December 1999. Devolution was suspended for four periods, during which the department came under the responsibility of direct rule ministers from the Northern Ireland Office:

  • between 12 February 2000 and 30 May 2000;
  • on 11 August 2001;
  • on 22 September 2001;
  • between 15 October 2002 and 8 May 2007.

Since 8 May 2007, devolution has operated without interruption. The Independent Review of Economic Policy, which reported in September 2009, recommended a single economic policy department within the Northern Ireland Executive, which would merge DETI and at least part of the Department for Employment and Learning.

On 11 January 2012, the First Minister and deputy First Minister, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness respectively, announced their intention to abolish the Department for Employment and Learning. The department's functions would be "divided principally" between the Department of Education and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment "in an agreed manner". The proposal was resisted by the Alliance Party, which viewed it as "power grab" by the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin, but was approved on 18 January 2012. No timescale for the abolition was outlined and the department remained in operation, as of late March 2012.

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