Social Policy and Society


Coalition Government in Northern Ireland: Social Policy and the Lowest Common Denominator Thesis

Ann Marie Graya1 and Derek Birrella1

a1 School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy, University of Ulster E-mail:


In analysing governance and social policy in Northern Ireland in the period of devolution 1999–2002 Eithne McLaughlin described and predicted the dominance of a lowest common denominator approach to the formulation of social policies. This paper examines the period of restored devolution 2007–11 using this thesis. It identifies the trends in the development of social policies after 2007 and examines social policy-making by the government under five categories. Having established the reasons for this complex approach to social policy formulation, consideration is also given to the outcomes of the policy process.