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The new Assembly

The new Assembly, elected last Thursday, 5 May, meets today for the first time.

The 108 MLAs, including 31 new MLAs, will sign the register and designate as ‘Unionist’, ‘Nationalist’, or ‘Other’. They do this because certain decisions made by the Assembly require cross-community support.

The MLAs will then elect a new Speaker, who will chair Assembly Meetings. The Speaker is also like an ambassador, representing the Assembly on behalf of all the MLAs. The Speaker will step away from party politics and carry out his or her duties impartially. The Speaker does not take part in debates and does not have a vote in the Chamber. Three Deputy Speakers, including a Principal Deputy Speaker, will also be elected.

The Business Committee, chaired by the Speaker, which will also be appointed today. It is made up of MLAs from the main political parties, who agree the agendas of the Assembly’s plenary meetings in the Chamber on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The other important item on today’s Order Paper (agenda) is the appointment of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister. The largest party after an election nominates the First Minister and the largest party in the other main community nominates the deputy First Minister.

Other Ministers, who will take charge of government departments, such as Education, Health and Economy will be appointed in a week or so, following party talks about a Programme for Government.

The results of last week’s election were as follows:

Democratic Unionist Party 38
Sinn Féin 28
Ulster Unionist Party 16
Social Democratic and Labour Party 12
Alliance 8
Green Party 2
People Before Profit Alliance 2
Traditional Unionist Voice 1
Independent 1