Equality and Devolution in the United Kingdom: A Story in Three Acts and a Sequel

Paula Devine, Grace Kelly, Martina McAuley

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Within the United Kingdom (UK), many of the arguments driving devolution and Brexit focused on equality. This article assesses how notions of equality have been shaped over the past two decades. Using a chronology of theoretical, political and public interpretations of equality between 1998 and 2018, the article highlights the shifting positions of Northern Ireland (NI) and the rest of the UK. NI once led the way in relation to equality legislation, and equality was the cornerstone of the Good Friday/Belfast peace agreement. However, the Equality Act 2010 in Britain meant that Northern Ireland was left behind. The nature of future UK/EU relationships and how these might influence the direction and extent of the equality debate in the UK is unclear. While this article focuses on the UK, the questions that it raises have global application, due to the international influences on equality discourse and legislation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Publication statusAccepted - 08 Dec 2020


  • equality
  • equality duties
  • devolution
  • Brexit
  • Northern Ireland
  • United Kingdom

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