Published Monday, 25 February 2013
Northern Ireland has decided to surrender its power of Antarctica. (© Getty)
Earlier this year, Stormont MLAs were informed they had the power to regulate expeditions and environmental matters of the Southern Ocean continent.
However, the revelation received a 'chilly' reception from the UK Foreign Office, who requested the powers back.
Scotland has now surrendered its powers, and on Monday, the Assembly also agreed to do the same.
Junior minister Jonathan Bell introduced the mechanism to transfer the powers back and the Assembly agreed - showing the MLAs aren't 'poles' apart on every issue.
It was discovered during the course of the drafting of the Antarctic Bill by Westminster that Antarctica had been left off the list of excepted matters in the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
The powers gave local government responsibility for implementing the UK's international obligations to protect the Antarctic environment.
The First and deputy First Minister agreed that there is "little or no rationale for the retention of legislative competence given that no Department here has, or is likely to seek, any corresponding functional powers".
The regulation of activities in Antarctica has now been made an excepted matter.
The consent motion passed by Stormont states it is the view of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness "that in the interests of enhancing the protection of the Antarctic environment and of clarifying the responsibility for doing so, the Antarctic Bill should extend to Northern Ireland and the regulation of activities in Antarctica should be made an excepted matter."