Department of agriculture and rural development

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
Department overview
Formed June 1921 (as Ministry of Agriculture)
Preceding Department Dublin Castle administration
Jurisdiction Northern Ireland
Headquarters Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 3SB
Employees 3,836 (September 2011)[1]
Annual budget £220.1 million (current) & £21.2 million (capital) for 2011–12[2]
Minister responsible Michelle O'Neill

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) (Irish: An Roinn Talmhaíochta agus Forbartha Tuaithe; Ulster-Scots: Männystrie o Fairms an Kintra Fordèrin)[3] is a devolved Northern Irish government department in the Northern Ireland Executive. The minister with overall responsibility for the department is the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.


DARD's official vision is of a "thriving and sustainable rural community and environment". It has five stated objectives: to help the agri-food industry prepare for future market opportunities and economic challenges; to promote the economic and social well-being and self-reliance of the rural community; to enhance animal, fish and plant health and welfare; to help deliver improved sustainable environmental outcomes; and to manage its business and deliver services to customers in a cost-effective way.[4]

The incumbent Minister is Michelle O'Neill (Sinn Féin).[5]


DARD has responsibility for the following areas of policy:[6]

  • agriculture
  • rural development
  • food
  • agri-environmental policy
  • sea fisheries
  • flood risk management [7]
  • forestry[8]
  • animal health and welfare
  • administration of Defra support schemes
  • application of EU Common Agricultural Policy
  • application of EU rural development policy

DARD's main counterpart in the United Kingdom Government is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).[9] Its main counterpart in the Irish Government is the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.[10]


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

Under direct rule, the Department of Agriculture was responsible for inland waterways and inland fisheries (now held by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

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 Agriculture was renamed as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and granted a slightly reduced remit. DARD 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:

Since 8 May 2007, devolution has operated without interruption.

Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development

Minister Image Party Took office Left office
    Bríd Rodgers 60px SDLP 2 December 1999 11 February 2000
Office suspended
    Bríd Rodgers 60px SDLP 30 May 2000 14 October 2002[19]
Office suspended
    Michelle Gildernew Sinn Féin 8 May 2007 5 May 2011
    Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin 5 May 2011 Incumbent

Direct rule ministers

During the periods of suspension, the following ministers of the Northern Ireland Office were responsible for the department:

See also


External links

  • DARD
  • Rivers Agency
  • The Departments (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 PDF (37.0 KB)

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