How to find Northern Irish law

This guide explains how to find law for Northern Ireland in our library and online.

Primary legislation

2007 to present

The Northern Ireland assembly was restored on 8 May 2007. The UK parliament legislates on reserved matters such as defence.

2002 to 2007

The assembly was suspended from midnight on 14 October 2002 and dissolved in April 2003. Westminster took over assembly functions.

2000 to 2002

Northern Ireland acts were passed in Belfast by the Northern Ireland assembly, apart from February to May 2000 when the assembly was suspended. Some legislation was still made in Westminster.

1972 to 1999

Primary legislation in Northern Ireland was either*:

  • acts made in Westminster, in which 'Northern Ireland' comes before 'Act' – for example: Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991
  • orders in Council with an SI number and a Northern Ireland (NI) number – for example: The Airports (Northern Ireland) Order 1994, SI 1994/426 (NI 1)

*except for four measures passed by the assembly in 1974.

1921 to 1972

Primary legislation was made by the parliament of Northern Ireland in Belfast or by the UK parliament in Westminster.

Finding primary legislation

You can find primary legislation for Northern Ireland using:

  • Northern Ireland Public General Acts/Statutes – legislation from 1921 to 2015 (Bay 191)
  • Public and General Acts – legislation passed at Westminster since 1972 (Bay 168)
  • legislation.gov.uk – original, unamended versions of selected Westminster Acts and Orders in Council applying exclusively or primarily to Northern Ireland. You can also find Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the official online revised edition of Westminster Acts and orders in Council applying exclusively or primarily to Northern Ireland. Many acts are not updated so always check the ‘changes to legislation’ note at the beginning of each section
  • Justis – a subscription service with original versions of Westminster Acts and Orders in Council, covering either all the UK or only Northern Ireland. Also includes Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly
  • LexisLibrary – a subscription service providing updated versions of Westminster Acts and selected Orders in Council applying exclusively or primarily to Northern Ireland
  • Westlaw UK – a subscription service providing updated versions of post-1991 Westminster Acts and Orders in Council applying exclusively or primarily to Northern Ireland
  • Public Information Online – a subscription service containing unamended acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly

Primary legislation by subject

You can find primary legislation by subject using:

  • Current Law Yearbooks – Bay D
  • Current Law Monthly Digests – Bay D
  • Index to the Statutes Northern Ireland (1996) – Bay 192

Amended and repealed legislation

You can find amended primary legislation using:

  • Statutes Revised Northern Ireland – (up to 2016 in hard copy) consolidated amended legislation in force in 1981 (Bay 191). Use the cumulative supplement to update legislation found in volumes A to D (1226 to 1920)
  • Chronological table of the Statutes Northern Ireland – legislation with amendments (Bay 192)
  • LexisLibrary – post-1991 legislation
  • Westlaw UK – post-1991 legislation
  • legislation.gov.uk – check the 'Changes to legislation' note at the beginning of each section

You can find amendment information for post-1921 Westminster acts in Bay 191.

Commencement

You can find commencement information using:

  • Chronological table of the Statutes Northern Ireland part IV – the appointed day and SI/SR (Bay 192)
  • Current Law Monthly Digests – check the Northern Ireland section (Bay D)
  • LexisLibrary – commencement information at the end of each section
  • Westlaw UK – commencement information for post-1991 legislation

Equivalent legislation

You can find equivalent legislation by using Dickson’s Concordance of English, Northern Irish and Irish legislation (1997). This is in Bay 192.

Secondary legislation

Northern Ireland secondary legislation will be either:

  • statutory rules and orders (SR&Os) made locally
  • statutory instruments (SIs) made in Westminster, distinguished from primary legislation by the absence of an NI number

Secondary legislation by date

To find secondary legislation by date, use:

  • Northern Ireland Statutory Rules from 1922 to 1990 – Bay 120
  • Northern Ireland Statutory Rules from 1991 onwards – Bays 193 to 194
  • HM Stationery Office bound volumes of Statutory Instruments – Bays 171 to 177

You can also use:

  • Justis – original SR&Os or statutory instruments
  • LexisLibrary – updated SIs applying exclusively or primarily to Northern Ireland
  • Westlaw UK – updated SIs applying exclusively or primarily to Northern Ireland
  • legislation.gov.uk – original SIs (1987 onwards) and SR&Os (selected from 1991 onwards, all from 1998 onwards)

Secondary legislation by subject

Index to the Statutory Rules and Orders Northern Ireland is arranged by subject (Bay 194).

You can also use the advanced search on legislation.gov.uk.

To find recent SR&Os and SIs by subject, use:

  • Justis
  • LexisLibrary
  • Westlaw UK
  • the Northern Ireland section of Current Law – Bay D
  • the monthly HM Stationery Office List of Statutory Publications – Bay N10

Amended and repealed secondary legislation

To find updated statutory rules, use:

  • Chronological table of statutory rules: Northern Ireland – Bay 194
  • legislation.gov.uk – use Advanced Search for SR&O commencement orders

Use LexisLibrary and Westlaw UK to find selected updated Westminster statutory instruments.

Law reports and journals

Northern Ireland Law Reports (1925 to 2016) is the official series for the Northern Ireland Supreme Court in Bay 188.

Northern Ireland Judgments Bulletin is the unofficial series. You can find this in Bay 188 and on LexisLibrary.

The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service publishes Judicial Decisions from 1999 onwards.

Some Court of Appeal and High Court decisions are on British and Irish Legal Information Institute.

Case law

Use the Index to cases decided in the courts of Northern Ireland in Bay 192 to find case law from 1921 to 1970. This has supplements covering 1971 to 1975 and 1975 to 1985.

To find case law from 1981 to 2012 by subject, use Bulletin of Northern Ireland Law in Bay 190.

Journals

Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly has journal articles from 1964 to 2016 in Bay 190.

Writ: Journal of Law Society of Northern Ireland is available on the Law Society of Northern Ireland website.