Examining Participatory Governance in a Devolving UK: insights from national parks policy development in Northern Ireland

Jonathan PW Bell, Aileen Stockdale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper provides a contemporary examination of policy making and participatory practice in the context of devolving governance in the UK. The paper takes Northern Ireland as its focus and is particularly timely considering the context of devolved governance, the ongoing transition from conflict to relative peace and the potential for rejuvenating democracy through participatory
governance. The paper concentrates on one particular policy process, namely the attempted designation of a national park in the Mournes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A thematic analysis of qualitative data is drawn upon to analyse the structural factors that framed the policymaking process, in particular the role of power in determining how consultation processes were 2 initiated, designed and undertaken. Using Lukes’ model) as an analytical framework, power is shown to manifest at multiple levels within the policy-making process to influence policy outcomes. The paper reveals how the persistence of a top-down approach to policy development combined with a highly parochial political outlook undermined attempts to designate a Mourne National Park. The paper concludes that, given the immaturity of recently devolved government in
Northern Ireland, in this instance, the democratising intentions of devolved governance have not been met. This has implications for Northern Ireland’s recent reform of public administration which devolves certain planning powers to local authority level and the management of the internationally significant Mournes landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1516-1539
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Early online date02 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2016


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