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The Northern Ireland Assembly ( ga, Tionól Thuaisceart Éireann; Ulster Scots: ''Norlin Airlan Assemblie'') often referred to by the
metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of p ...
Stormont, is the
devolved Devolution is the statutory delegation of powers from the central government A central government is the government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), st ...
legislature of
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
. It has power to legislate in a wide range of areas that are not explicitly
reserved Reserved is a Poland, Polish clothing store chain, part of LPP (company), LPP, which has more than 1,700 stores located in 20 countries. History The LPP company was established in 1989 and the first stores under the Reserved fashion brand were ...
to the
Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kin ...
, and to appoint the
Northern Ireland Executive The Northern Ireland Executive is the devolved government of Northern Ireland, an administrative branch of the legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the stud ...
. It sits at Parliament Buildings at Stormont in
Belfast Belfast ( ; , ) is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom and the second-largest on the island of Ireland. It had a popul ...

Belfast
. The Assembly was in a period of suspension until January 2020, after it collapsed in January 2017 due to policy disagreements between its
power-sharing Consociationalism ( ) is a form of power sharing in a democracy. Political science, Political scientists define a consociational State (polity), state as one which has major internal divisions along ethnic, religious, or linguistic lines, with non ...
leadership, particularly following the
Renewable Heat Incentive scandal The Renewable Heat Incentive scandal (RHI scandal), also referred to as RHIgate and the Cash for Ash scandal, is a political scandal in Northern Ireland that centres on a failed renewable energy (wood pellet burning) incentive scheme that has been ...
. In January 2020, the British and Irish governments agreed on a deal to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland. The Assembly is a
unicameral In government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by ...
, democratically elected body comprising 90 members known as
Members of the Legislative Assembly Member may refer to: * Military jury, referred to as "Members" in military jargon * Element (mathematics), an object that belongs to a mathematical set * In object-oriented programming, a member of a class ** Field (computer science), entries in a ...
(MLAs). Members are elected under the
single transferable vote Single transferable vote (STV) is a type of ranked preferential electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are de ...
form of
proportional representation#REDIRECT Proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideolog ...

proportional representation
(STV-PR) In turn, the Assembly selects most of the ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive using the principle of
power-sharing Consociationalism ( ) is a form of power sharing in a democracy. Political science, Political scientists define a consociational State (polity), state as one which has major internal divisions along ethnic, religious, or linguistic lines, with non ...
under the
D'Hondt method The D'Hondt method, also called the Jefferson method or the greatest divisors method, is a method for allocating seats in parliaments among federal states A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by ...
to ensure that Northern Ireland's largest voting blocs, British unionists and Irish nationalists, both participate in governing the region. The Assembly's standing orders allow for certain contentious motions to require a
cross-community vote A cross-community vote or cross-community support is a form of voting Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an , in order to make a collective or express an opinion usually following discussions, debates or . elect holders o ...
; in addition to requiring the support of an overall majority of members, such votes must also be supported by a majority within both blocs in order to pass. The Assembly is one of two "mutually inter-dependent" institutions created under the 1998
Good Friday Agreement The Good Friday Agreement (GFA), or Belfast Agreement ( ga, Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta or ; Ulster-Scots: or ), is a pair of agreements signed on 10 April 1998 that ended most of the violence of the Troubles The Troubles ( ga, Na Trio ...
, the other being the
North/South Ministerial Council The North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) ( ga, An Chomhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas, Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is a body established under the Good Friday Agreement to co-ordinate activity and exercise certain governmental powers ...
with the
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland ('), is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective id ...

Republic of Ireland
. The Agreement aimed to end Northern Ireland's violent 30-year
Troubles The Troubles ( ga, Na Trioblóidí) was an ethno-nationalist period of conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted about 30 years from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. Also known internationally as the Northern Ireland conflict, it is sometimes de ...
. The first Assembly election was held in June 1998.


History


Previous legislatures

From 7 June 1921 until 30 March 1972, the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland was the
Parliament of Northern Ireland The Parliament of Northern Ireland was the home rule legislature of Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label= Ulster-Scots, Norlin Airlann) is a part of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of ...
, which always had an
Ulster Unionist Party The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is a unionist and conservative Conservatism is a Political philosophy, political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in relation to ...
(UUP) majority and always elected a UUP government. The Parliament was suspended on 30 March 1972 and formally abolished in 1973 under the
Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 The Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 (c. 36) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to ...
. Shortly after this first parliament was abolished, attempts began to restore
devolution Devolution is the statutory A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislature, legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, State (polity), state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or p ...
on a new basis that would see power shared between Irish nationalists and unionists. To this end a new parliament, the
Northern Ireland Assembly The Northern Ireland Assembly ( ga, Tionól Thuaisceart Éireann; Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster Scots: ''Norlin Airlan Assemblie'') often referred to by the metonym Stormont, is the devolution, devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It has ...
, was established in 1973. However, this body was brought down by the
Ulster Workers' Council strike The Ulster Workers' Council (UWC) strike was a general strike that took place in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster-Scots: ') is #Descriptions, variously described as a country, prov ...
and was abolished in 1974. In 1982, another
Northern Ireland Assembly The Northern Ireland Assembly ( ga, Tionól Thuaisceart Éireann; Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster Scots: ''Norlin Airlan Assemblie'') often referred to by the metonym Stormont, is the devolution, devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It has ...
was established at Stormont, initially as a body to scrutinise the actions of the Secretary of State, the British minister with responsibility for Northern Ireland. It received little support from Irish nationalists and was officially dissolved in 1986.


Establishment and suspensions

The
Northern Ireland Act 1998__NOTOC__ The Northern Ireland Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a ...
formally established the Assembly in law, in accordance with the Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement. The first election of Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly was on 25 June 1998 and it first met on 1 July 1998. However, it only existed in "shadow" form until 2 December 1999 when full powers were devolved to the Assembly. Since then the Assembly has operated intermittently and has been suspended on five occasions: * 11 February – 30 May 2000 * 10 August 2001 (24-hour suspension) * 22 September 2001 (24-hour suspension) * 14 October 2002 – 7 May 2007 * 9 January 2017 – 11 January 2020 Attempts to secure its operation on a permanent basis had been frustrated by disagreements between the two main unionist parties (the
Democratic Unionist Party The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP; ga, Páirtí Aontachtach Daonlathach) is a unionist political party in Northern Ireland favouring British identity. It was founded in 1971 during the Troubles by Ian Paisley, who led the party for the nex ...
(DUP) and the
Ulster Unionist Party The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is a unionist and conservative Conservatism is a Political philosophy, political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in relation to ...
) and
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, "eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout Ireland; both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The History of Sinn Féin, original Sinn Féin organisation wa ...

Sinn Féin
, the largest nationalist party. Unionists refused to participate in the Good Friday Agreement's institutions alongside Sinn Féin until they were assured that the IRA had discontinued its activities, decommissioned its arms and disbanded. The 2002–2007 suspension occurred when Unionists withdrew from the
Northern Ireland Executive The Northern Ireland Executive is the devolved government of Northern Ireland, an administrative branch of the legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the stud ...
after Sinn Féin's offices at Stormont were raided by the police, who were investigating allegations of intelligence gathering on behalf of the IRA by members of the party's support staff. The Assembly, already suspended, dissolved on 28 April 2003 as scheduled, but the elections due the following month were postponed by the United Kingdom government and were not held until November that year.


"The Assembly" and "the Transitional Assembly"


"The Assembly established under the Northern Ireland Act 2006"

Although the Assembly remained suspended from 2002 until 2007, the persons elected to it at the 2003 Assembly election were called together on 15 May 2006 under the Northern Ireland Act 2006 to meet in an assembly to be known as "the Assembly" (or fully "the Assembly established under the Northern Ireland Act 2006") for the purpose of electing a First Minister and deputy First Minister and choosing the members of an Executive before 25 November 2006 as a preliminary to the restoration of devolved government. Multi-party talks on 11–13 October 2006 resulted in the
St Andrews Agreement The St Andrews Agreement ( ga, Comhaontú Chill Rímhinn; Ulster Scots: ''St Andra's 'Greement'', ''St Andrew's Greeance'' or ''St Andrae's Greeance'') is an agreement between the British and Irish governments and Northern Ireland North ...
, wherein Sinn Féin committed to support the
Police Service of Northern Ireland The police are a constituted body of persons empowered by a state, with the aim to enforce the law, to ensure the safety, health and possessions of citizens, and to prevent crime and civil disorder. Their lawful powers include arrest an ...
and the mechanism for nominating First and deputy First Ministers was changed. Previously on 23 May 2006,
Ian Paisley Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Baron Bannside, (6 April 1926 – 12 September 2014) was a Northern Irish loyalist Loyalism, in the United Kingdom, its British Overseas Territories, overseas territories and its British Empire, former colonies ...
, leader of the DUP had refused Sinn Féin's nomination to be First Minister alongside Sinn Féin's chief negotiator,
Martin McGuinness James Martin Pacelli McGuinness ( ga, Séamus Máirtín Pacelli Mag Aonghusa; 23 May 1950 – 21 March 2017) was an Irish republican Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, " eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political ...

Martin McGuinness
, as deputy First Minister; from St Andrews, these positions were now chosen by larger parties only, while other positions were voted in by sitting MLAs. Eileen Bell was appointed by the
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland The secretary of state for Northern Ireland (; ), also referred to as the Northern Ireland secretary or SoSNI, is a secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred ...
Peter Hain Peter Gerald Hain, Baron Hain (born 16 February 1950) is a British politician who served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland The secretary of state for Northern Ireland (; ), also referred to as the Northern Ireland secretary or S ...

Peter Hain
to be the Speaker of the Assembly, with
Francie Molloy Francie Molloy ( ga, Proinsias Ó Maolmhuaidh; born 16 December 1950) is an Irish Sinn Féin politician who has been the abstentionism, abstentionist Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Mid Ulster (UK Parliament ...

Francie Molloy
and Jim Wells acting as deputies. The Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006 repealed the Northern Ireland Act 2006 and disbanded "the Assembly".


"The Transitional Assembly"

The St Andrews Agreement Act provided for a "Transitional Assembly" (or fully "the Transitional Assembly established under the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006") to take part in preparations for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland. A person who was a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly was also a member of the Transitional Assembly. Eileen Bell was Speaker of the Transitional Assembly and Francie Molloy and Jim Wells continued as deputies. The Transitional Assembly first met on 24 November 2006, when the proceedings were suspended due to a bomb threat by
loyalist Loyalism, in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdo ...
paramilitary Michael Stone. It was dissolved on 30 January 2007 when the election campaign for the current Northern Ireland Assembly started. An
election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold Public administration, public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative dem ...

election
to the then-suspended Northern Ireland Assembly was held on 7 March 2007. Secretary of State,
Peter Hain Peter Gerald Hain, Baron Hain (born 16 February 1950) is a British politician who served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland The secretary of state for Northern Ireland (; ), also referred to as the Northern Ireland secretary or S ...

Peter Hain
signed a restoration order on 25 March 2007 allowing for the restoration of devolution at midnight on the following day. The DUP and Sinn Féin consolidated their positions as the two largest parties in the election and, agreed to enter power-sharing government together. An administration was eventually established on 10 May with Ian Paisley as First Minister and Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister.


Ten years of power-sharing and three years of deadlock

This third Assembly was the first to complete a full term, and saw powers in relation to policing and justice transferred from Westminster on 12 April 2010. A five-year term came into effect with the fourth Assembly
elected in 2011
elected in 2011
. Members elected Peter Robinson of the DUP as First Minister and Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister. The subsequent period was dominated by issues of culture and dealing with the past which culminated in the Fresh Start Agreement of 2014. The first
Official Opposition Parliamentary opposition is a form of political opposition to a designated government, particularly in a Westminster Westminster is a district in central London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the Unite ...
was formed by the UUP in the closing months of the fourth term. Following the
election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold Public administration, public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative dem ...
of the fifth Assembly in 2016, only the DUP and Sinn Féin took the seats they were entitled to in the fourth Executive, with Arlene Foster as First Minister and Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister. In the wake of the
Renewable Heat Incentive scandal The Renewable Heat Incentive scandal (RHI scandal), also referred to as RHIgate and the Cash for Ash scandal, is a political scandal in Northern Ireland that centres on a failed renewable energy (wood pellet burning) incentive scheme that has been ...
, McGuinness resigned from the post, bringing an end to almost a decade of unbroken devolution. Sinn Féin withdrew from the Assembly, and a
fresh election
fresh election
was held on 2 March 2017. Negotiations mediated by then Secretary of State
James Brokenshire James Peter Brokenshire (born 8 January 1968) is a British politician, most recently serving as Minister of State for Security at the Home Office The Home Office (HO), also known (especially in official papers and when referred to in Parliam ...
missed the three-week deadline provided in law for the formation of an Executive. The passing of an extended legal deadline of 29 June left decisions on funding allocations in the hands of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, and a budget for the ongoing 2017–18 financial year began its passage through the UK Parliament on 13 November. Over time, further legislation was passed for Northern Ireland at Westminster, repeatedly extending the deadline for Executive formation. In 2019, the UK Parliament amended one such Bill to legalise same-sex marriage and liberalise abortion, bringing Northern Ireland in line with the rest of Britain and Ireland. Talks eventually succeeded under a third Secretary of State Julian Smith. The sixth Assembly resumed on 11 January 2020, shortly before
the UK's exit from the European Union
the UK's exit from the European Union
. In February 2021, DUP MLAs threatened to bring down the Assembly and force an early election in protest at
Boris Johnson Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (; born 19 June 1964) is a British politician and writer serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of govern ...

Boris Johnson
's Brexit deal, which put a border in the
Irish Sea The Irish Sea or , gv, Y Keayn Yernagh, sco, Erse Sie, gd, Muir Èireann , Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster ...
.


Powers and functions

The Assembly has both legislative powers and responsibility for electing the Northern Ireland Executive. The First and deputy First Ministers were initially elected on a
cross-community vote A cross-community vote or cross-community support is a form of voting Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an , in order to make a collective or express an opinion usually following discussions, debates or . elect holders o ...
, although this was changed in 2006 and they are now appointed as leaders of the largest parties of the largest and second largest Assembly 'block' (understood to mean 'Unionist', 'Nationalist' and 'Other'). The
Minister of Justice A justice ministry, ministry of justice, or department of justice is a ministry or other government agency in charge of the administration of justice. The ministry or department is often headed by a minister of justice (minister for justice in a ...
is appointed by cross-community agreement. The seven other ministerial positions are distributed among willing parties roughly proportionate to their share of seats in the Assembly by the
D'Hondt method The D'Hondt method, also called the Jefferson method or the greatest divisors method, is a method for allocating seats in parliaments among federal states A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by ...
, with ministers chosen by the nominating officers of each party. The Assembly has authority to legislate in a field of competences known as "transferred matters". These matters are not explicitly given in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Rather they include any competence not explicitly retained by the Parliament at Westminster. Powers reserved by Westminster are divided into "excepted matters", which it retains indefinitely, and "reserved matters", which may be transferred to the competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly at a future date. A list of transferred, reserved and excepted matters is given below. While the Assembly was in suspension, its legislative powers were exercised by the UK Government, which governs through procedures at Westminster. Laws that would have normally been within the competence of the Assembly were passed by the UK Parliament in the form of Orders-in-Council rather than Acts of the Assembly. Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly as with other subordinate legislatures are subject to judicial review. A law can be struck down if it is found to: * exceed the competences of the Assembly; * violate
European Union law European Union law is a system of rules operating within the member states of the European Union. Since the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community following World War II, the EU has developed the aim to "promote peace, its values and ...
; * violate the
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by t ...
; or * discriminate against individuals on the grounds of political opinion or religious belief.


Transferred matters

A transferred matter is defined as "any matter which is not an excepted or reserved matter". There is therefore no full listing of transferred matters but they have been grouped into the responsibilities of the
Northern Ireland Executive The Northern Ireland Executive is the devolved government of Northern Ireland, an administrative branch of the legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the stud ...
ministers: * Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs *
Communities A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as norms, religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, wor ...
*
Economy An economy (; ) is an area of the production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products ...
*
Education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion ...
*
Finance Finance is a term for the management, creation, and study of money In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted with the beggar whose legs and arms were amputated, in the left corn ...
*
Health Health, according to the World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United Nations and each ...
*
Infrastructure Infrastructure is the set of fundamental facilities and systems that support the sustainable functionality of households and firms. Serving a country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy An ec ...
*
Justice Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspectives, ...
* First and deputy First Minister


Reserved matters

Reserved Reserved is a Poland, Polish clothing store chain, part of LPP (company), LPP, which has more than 1,700 stores located in 20 countries. History The LPP company was established in 1989 and the first stores under the Reserved fashion brand were ...
matters are outlined in Schedule 3 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998: *
Navigation Navigation is a field of study that focuses on the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another.Bowditch, 2003:799. The field of navigation includes four general categories: land navigation, ...

Navigation
(including
merchant shipping File:CMA CGM Balzac.jpg, A container ship belonging to the French shipping line CMA CGM. Maritime transport (or ocean transport) and fluvial transport, or more generally waterborne transport, is the transport of people (passengers) or goods ( ...
) *
Civil aviation Civil aviation is one of two major categories of flying, representing all non-military and non-state aviation Aviation is the activities surrounding mechanical flight and the aircraft industry. ''Aircraft'' includes airplane, fixed-wing and ...
* The
foreshore
foreshore
,
sea bed The seabed (also known as the seafloor, sea floor, ocean floor, and ocean bottom) is the bottom of the ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of the Eart ...
and
subsoil Subsoil is the layer of soil under the topsoil Topsoil is the upper, outermost layer of soil Soil is a mixture In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural sci ...
and their natural resources *
Postal services The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcards, letter (message), letters, and parcel (package), parcels. A postal service can be private or public, though many governments place restrictions on private systems. Since the mid ...
* Import and export controls, external trade *
National minimum wage The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 creates a minimum wage A minimum wage is the lowest remuneration that employers can legally pay their employees—the price floor below which employees may not sell their labor. Most List of minimum wages by c ...
*
Financial services Financial services are the economic services provided by the finance Finance is a term for the management, creation, and study of money In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contra ...
*
Financial markets A financial market is a market Market may refer to: *Market (economics) *Market economy *Marketplace, a physical marketplace or public market Geography *Märket, an island shared by Finland and Sweden Art, entertainment, and media Films *M ...
* Intellectual property *
Units of measurement A unit of measurement is a definite magnitude Magnitude may refer to: Mathematics *Euclidean vector, a quantity defined by both its magnitude and its direction *Magnitude (mathematics), the relative size of an object *Norm (mathematic ...
* Telecommunications, Broadcasting, Internet services * The National Lottery *
Xenotransplantation Xenotransplantation (''xenos-'' from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. I ...
*
Surrogacy Surrogacy is an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman (the gestational carrier) agrees to bear a child for another person or people, who will become the child's parent(s) after birth. People may seek a surrogacy a ...
* Human fertilisation and
embryology Embryology (from Ancient Greek, Greek ἔμβρυον, ''embryon'', "the unborn, embryo"; and -λογία, ''-logy, -logia'') is the branch of biology that studies the Prenatal development (biology), prenatal development of gametes (sex cells), ...
* Human
genetics Genetics is a branch of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, ...

genetics
* Consumer safety in relation to goods


Excepted matters

Excepted matters are outlined in Schedule 2 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998: *
The Crown The Crown is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper i ...

The Crown
*
Parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of ...
*
International relations International relations (IR), international affairs (IA) or international studies (IS) is the scientific study of interactions between sovereign states. In a broader sense, it concerns all activities between states—such as war, diplomacy ...
*
Defence Defense or defence may refer to: Tactical, martial, and political acts or groups * Defense (military) A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is ...
* Immigration and Nationality * Taxation *
National insurance National Insurance (NI) is a fundamental component of the welfare state in the United Kingdom The welfare state of the United Kingdom began to evolve in the 1900s and early 1910s, and comprises expenditures by the government of the United Ki ...
* Elections * Currency *
National security National security or national defence is the security Security is freedom from, or resilience against, potential Potential generally refers to a currently unrealized ability. The term is used in a wide variety of fields, from physics ...
*
Nuclear energy Nuclear energy may refer to: *Nuclear power, the use of sustained nuclear fission or nuclear fusion to generate heat and electricity *Nuclear binding energy, the energy required to split a nucleus of an atom *Nuclear potential energy, the potential ...

Nuclear energy
*
Outer space Outer space, commonly shortened to space, is the expanse that exists beyond Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting ...
* Activities in
Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Oc ...

Antarctica


Procedure

The Assembly has three primary mechanisms to ensure effective power-sharing: * in appointing ministers to the Executive (except for the Minister of Justice), the
D'Hondt method The D'Hondt method, also called the Jefferson method or the greatest divisors method, is a method for allocating seats in parliaments among federal states A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by ...
is followed so that ministerial portfolios are divided among the parties in proportion to their strength in the Assembly. This means that all parties with a significant number of seats are entitled to at least one minister; * certain resolutions must receive " cross community support", or the support of a minimum number of MLAs from both communities, to be passed by the Assembly. Every MLA is officially designated as either nationalist, unionist or other. The election of the
Speaker Speaker may refer to: Roles * Speaker (politics), the presiding officer in a legislative assembly * Public speaker, one who gives a speech or lecture * A person producing speech, sometimes also called a speaker-hearer Electronics * Loudspeaker, a ...
, appointment of the Minister of Justice, any changes to the standing orders and the adoption of certain money bills must all occur with cross-community support. The election of the First and deputy First Ministers previously occurred by parallel consent but the positions are now filled by appointment; and * any vote taken by the Assembly can be made dependent on cross-community support if a petition of concern is presented to the Speaker. A petition of concern may be brought by 30 or more MLAs. In such cases, a vote on proposed legislation will only pass if supported by a weighted majority (60%) of members voting, including at least 40% of each of the nationalist and unionist designations present and voting. Effectively this means that, provided enough MLAs from a given community agree, that community (or a sufficiently large party in that community) can exercise a veto over the Assembly's decisions. The purpose is to protect each community from legislation that would favour the other community. The Assembly has the power to call for witnesses and documents, if the relevant responsibility has been transferred to its remit. Proceedings are covered by privilege in
defamation Defamation (also known as calumny, vilification, libel, slander, or traducement) is the oral or written communication of a false statement about another that unjustly harms their reputation and usually constitutes a tort A tort, in comm ...
law.


Composition

The Assembly's composition is laid down in the
Northern Ireland Act 1998__NOTOC__ The Northern Ireland Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a ...
. It initially had 108 members (MLAs) elected from 18 six-member constituencies on the basis of universal adult
suffrage Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, is the right to vote in public, political elections (although the term is sometimes used for any right to vote). In some languages, and occasionally in English, the right to vote is called a ...

suffrage
and the
Single transferable vote Single transferable vote (STV) is a type of ranked preferential electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are de ...
. Under the
Assembly Members (Reduction of Numbers) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 The Assembly Members (Reduction of Numbers) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 is a 2016 Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly The Northern Ireland Assembly, frequently referred to by the metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech in which a thing or ...
the number of MLAs per constituency was reduced from 6 to 5, leaving a total of 90 seats. This took effect at the March 2017 election. The constituencies used are the same as those used for elections to the United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster. The
Northern Ireland Act 1998__NOTOC__ The Northern Ireland Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a ...
provides that, unless the Assembly is dissolved early, elections should occur once every four years on the first Thursday in May. The
Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 The Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to ...
was passed to bring the Northern Ireland Assembly into line with the other devolved legislatures and to extend each Assembly term to five years instead of four. The second election to the Assembly was delayed by the UK government until 26 November 2003. The Assembly is dissolved shortly before the holding of elections on a day chosen by the Secretary of State. After each election the Assembly must meet within eight days. The Assembly can vote to dissolve itself early by a two-thirds majority of the total number of its members. It is also automatically dissolved if it is unable to elect a
First Minister and deputy First Minister The First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster-Scots: ') is #Descriptions, variously described as a country, province, or region which is Count ...
(effectively joint first ministers, the only distinction being in the titles) within six weeks of its first meeting or of those positions becoming vacant. There have been six elections to the Assembly since 1998.


Designations

Each MLA is free to designate themselves as "nationalist", "unionist", or "other", as they see fit, the only requirement being that no member may change their designation more than once during an Assembly session. The system has been criticised by some, in particular the cross-community Alliance Party, as entrenching
sectarian Sectarianism is a political or cultural conflict between two groups often related to the form of government they live under. Prejudice Prejudice can be an affect (psychology), affective feeling towards a person based on their perceived grou ...
divisions. Alliance supports ending the official designation of identity requirement and the taking of important votes on the basis of an ordinary
super-majority A supermajority, supra-majority, qualified majority or special majority, is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level of support which is greater than the threshold of more than one-half used for a majority. Supermajority rules in a ...
, as does the largest unionist party, the DUP.


Executive and Opposition

Which parties can appoint ministers to the
Northern Ireland Executive The Northern Ireland Executive is the devolved government of Northern Ireland, an administrative branch of the legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the stud ...
is determined by a combination of mandatory coalition, the D'Hondt method and cross-community support, depending on the role, as explained above. Coalitions of between three and five parties have governed over the Assembly's history. The Executive of the Sixth Assembly was formed on 11 January 2020. Unlike the
United Kingdom Parliament The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind ...
and the
Oireachtas The Oireachtas ( , ), sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, count ...
(Irish Parliament), the Assembly had no provision for an
official opposition Parliamentary opposition is a form of political opposition Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution ...
to hold governing parties to account until legislation was passed in 2016. A party may now form or join an Assembly Opposition, granting it additional speaking, scrutiny and funding rights, if it was entitled to Ministerial roles under the D'Hondt method and declined them, or if it wins 8% or more of the seats. This opportunity was qualified for and taken by the UUP and SDLP following the 2016 election. Even within the Executive, however, the parties (which have collectively held large majorities in the Assembly) have frequently voted against each other due to political and/or policy differences.


Historical participation

Alongside independents, a total of 15 parties have held seats in the Assembly since 1998: Unionist: *
Ulster Unionist Party The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is a unionist and conservative Conservatism is a Political philosophy, political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in relation to ...
*
Democratic Unionist Party The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP; ga, Páirtí Aontachtach Daonlathach) is a unionist political party in Northern Ireland favouring British identity. It was founded in 1971 during the Troubles by Ian Paisley, who led the party for the nex ...
*
Progressive Unionist Party The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is a small unionist political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold s ...
*
UK Independence Party The UK Independence Party (UKIP ) is a Eurosceptic Euroscepticism, also known as EU-scepticism, means criticism of the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of Member state of the European Unio ...
*
Traditional Unionist Voice The Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) is a unionist political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar id ...
*
NI21 NI21 was a short-lived political party in Northern Ireland. It was founded in 2013 by ex-Ulster Unionist Party Member of the Legislative Assembly (Northern Ireland), MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister. Although it explicitly supported Norther ...
*
United Unionist Coalition The United Unionist Coalition (UUC), formerly known as the United Unionist Assembly Party, was a minor Unionists (Ireland), unionist political formation in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Assembly The UUC was formed by three members of the No ...
*
UK Unionist Party The UK Unionist Party (UKUP) was a small Unionism in Ireland, unionist list of political parties in Northern Ireland, political party in Northern Ireland from 1995 to 2008 that opposed the Good Friday Agreement. It was nominally formed by Robert M ...
*
Northern Ireland Unionist Party The Northern Ireland Unionist Party (NIUP) was a small political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have similar i ...
Nationalist: *
Social Democratic and Labour Party The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) ( ga, Páirtí Sóisialta Daonlathach an Lucht Oibre) is a social-democratic Social democracy is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy within s ...
*
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, "eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout Ireland; both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The History of Sinn Féin, original Sinn Féin organisation wa ...

Sinn Féin
Other: *
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI; ga, Páirtí Comhghuaillíochta Thuaisceart Éireann) is a liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by count ...
*
Green Party Northern Ireland The Green Party Northern Ireland is a political party in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label= Ulster-Scots, Norlin Airlann) is a part of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain a ...
*
People Before Profit People Before Profit ( ga, Pobal Roimh Bhrabús, PBP) is a socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of Economic systems, economic and social systems ...
*
Northern Ireland Women's Coalition The Northern Ireland Women's Coalition (NIWC) was a minor cross-community political party in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * ...


Election results and changes

The course of the Assembly saw a marked shift in party allegiance among voters. At the 2003 election, the DUP and
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, "eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout Ireland; both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The History of Sinn Féin, original Sinn Féin organisation wa ...

Sinn Féin
displaced the more moderate UUP and
SDLP The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) ( ga, Páirtí Sóisialta Daonlathach an Lucht Oibre) is a social-democratic Social democracy is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy within s ...
as the largest parties in the unionist and nationalist blocks. The parties only agreed to share power after four years of negotiations and a new election. The DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP and UUP have remained the largest parties in the Assembly and so far the only ones entitled to ministerial roles in the Executive under the D'Hondt method. However, there has been growing support for parties designated "Other". The centrist
Alliance An alliance is a relationship among people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying ...
party secured the roles of Speaker from 1998 to 2007 and Minister of Justice from 2010 to 2016 ( and again from 11 January 2020) thanks to cross-community support, and has seen an increase in its seat wins from 6 to 8. While the NI Women's Coalition disbanded in 2003, two leftist parties, the
Green Party in Northern Ireland The Green Party Northern Ireland is a green Green is the color Color ( American English), or colour ( Commonwealth English), is the characteristic of visual perception described through color ''categories'', with names such a ...
and
People Before Profit People Before Profit ( ga, Pobal Roimh Bhrabús, PBP) is a socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of Economic systems, economic and social systems ...
, won their first seats, in 2007 and 2016, respectively. A rapidly shifting landscape of smaller unionist parties has also been a feature of the Assembly. In 1999 the
UK Unionist Party The UK Unionist Party (UKUP) was a small Unionism in Ireland, unionist list of political parties in Northern Ireland, political party in Northern Ireland from 1995 to 2008 that opposed the Good Friday Agreement. It was nominally formed by Robert M ...
lost four of its five MLAs, disagreeing over a protest against Sinn Féin. The four formed the NI Unionist Party, which again suffered a split and won no seats in the 2003 election. That election also saw the electoral demise of a loose trio of independently-elected unionists who had united as the
United Unionist Coalition The United Unionist Coalition (UUC), formerly known as the United Unionist Assembly Party, was a minor Unionists (Ireland), unionist political formation in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Assembly The UUC was formed by three members of the No ...
. Minor unionist parties flourished again after the 2011 election, which saw the disappearance of the PUP from the Assembly and the election of the TUV, a splinter group from the DUP opposed to the St Andrews Agreement. In 2012, a suspended UUP member became
UKIP The UK Independence Party (UKIP ) is a Eurosceptic, right-wing populist political party in the United Kingdom. The party reached its greatest level of success in the mid-2010s, when it gained two Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), members ...
's first MLA, and in 2013, two UUP MLAs resigned to form the progressive
NI21 NI21 was a short-lived political party in Northern Ireland. It was founded in 2013 by ex-Ulster Unionist Party Member of the Legislative Assembly (Northern Ireland), MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister. Although it explicitly supported Norther ...
, which later split. Of these only the TUV survived the 2016 and 2017 elections. Disagreements within the Executive precipitated the resignation of the UUP in 2015, and following the 2016 election they and the SDLP formed the first Assembly Opposition. The row also saw Alliance relinquish its Justice role, joining the Greens, PBPA and TUV in unofficial opposition. Independent unionist Claire Sugden gained the cross-community support needed to take over the Ministry of Justice. An Executive was formed on 11 January 2020 following the 2017 election results, which saw the unionist block lose its Assembly majority for the first time. The usual four largest parties have won enough seats to win ministerial roles under D'Hondt (the DUP three, Sinn Féin two and the SDLP and UUP one each provided neither of them choose to enter opposition). With the reduction in the number of Assembly seats, the 8% threshold now amounts to eight rather than nine seats, qualifying Alliance to enter official opposition if they choose. The Greens have retained their two seats and the TUV and Claire Sugden their single seats, while People Before Profit now hold only one seat. The table below details changes in members' allegiances and parties' seat possessions.


Co-options

Vacancies between Assembly elections are filled by co-option. A by-election is still available as an option if the nominated person cannot take his or her seat but none have been held. The possibility of by-elections or co-options was established by the Northern Ireland Act 1998. In 2001, the
Northern Ireland Office The Northern Ireland Office (NIO; ga, Oifig Thuaisceart Éireann, Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects ...
introduced a system of substitutes as the preferred option. Under a further change made in 2009, a political party leader directly nominates a new MLA if his or her party won that seat at the previous election. Independent MLAs can continue to use substitutes. When Sinn Féin MLA Michael Ferguson died in September 2006, no substitutes were available. Sinn Féin was allowed to use his vote in the Assembly (despite his death) and no by-election was held. His seat remained vacant until the 2007 Northern Ireland Assembly election. Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the
Oireachtas The Oireachtas ( , ), sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, count ...
(Irish Parliament), uses the same
single transferable vote Single transferable vote (STV) is a type of ranked preferential electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are de ...
system for elections as the Assembly but does allow List of Dáil by-elections, by-elections to fill vacancies. This method is also used for the seats chosen by election in the upper house, Seanad Éireann.


Organisation

The Assembly is chaired by the
Speaker Speaker may refer to: Roles * Speaker (politics), the presiding officer in a legislative assembly * Public speaker, one who gives a speech or lecture * A person producing speech, sometimes also called a speaker-hearer Electronics * Loudspeaker, a ...
and three Deputy Speakers, of whom one is appointed Principal Deputy Speaker. John Alderdice, Lord Alderdice served as the first Speaker of the Assembly from July 1998, but retired in March 2004 to serve as a member of the Independent Monitoring Commission that supervised paramilitary ceasefires. The position is currently held by the
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, "eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout Ireland; both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The History of Sinn Féin, original Sinn Féin organisation wa ...

Sinn Féin
MLA Alex Maskey. In the Assembly, the Speaker and ten other members constitute a quorum. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission, Assembly Commission is the body corporate of the Assembly with all that that entails. It looks after the pay and pensions of members directly and through tax-payer funded appointees, and the interests of political parties. The very first bill of the Assembly was to do with members' pensions and was taken through with minimum ado by a member of the Commission. The Assembly has 9 statutory committees, each of which is charged with scrutinising the activities of a single ministerial department. It also has 6 permanent standing committees and can establish temporary ad hoc committees. The Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of the committees are chosen by party nominating officers under the d'Hondt system procedure, used to appoint most ministers. Ordinary committee members are not appointed under this procedure but the Standing Orders require that the share of members of each party on a committee should be roughly proportionate to its share of seats in the Assembly. Committees of the Assembly take decisions by a simple majority vote. The following are the current statutory and standing committees of the Assembly:


Statutory (departmental) committees

* Committee for the Executive Office, Executive Office Committee * Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee * Committee for Communities, Communities Committee * Committee for the Economy, Economy Committee * Committee for Education, Education Committee * Committee for Finance, Finance Committee * Committee for Health, Health Committee * Committee for Infrastructure, Infrastructure Committee * Committee for Justice, Justice Committee


Standing committees

* Assembly and Executive Review Committee * Audit Committee * Business Committee * Procedures Committee * Public Accounts Committee * Standards and Privileges Committee


See also

* Member of the Legislative Assembly (Northern Ireland) * List of political parties in Northern Ireland * 2017 Northern Ireland Assembly election * Members of the 6th Northern Ireland Assembly * Scottish Parliament * Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament, Senedd Cymru *
Oireachtas The Oireachtas ( , ), sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, count ...


Notes


References


External links

*
The St Andrews' Agreement
The latest attempt to restore devolution to Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Act 1998
– Full text.
Standing Orders of the Northern Ireland Assembly
– HTML and PDF versions available on the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Northern Ireland Assembly awards outsourcing contract
brayleinobroadskill.co.uk; accessed 14 May 2016. website. {{Authority control Northern Ireland Assembly, The Troubles (Northern Ireland) 1973 establishments in Northern Ireland 1974 disestablishments in Northern Ireland 1982 establishments in Northern Ireland 1986 disestablishments in Northern Ireland 1998 establishments in Northern Ireland Politics of Northern Ireland History of Belfast Parliaments by country, Northern Ireland Unicameral legislatures, Northern Ireland