The Assembly and Executive

Ministers are more accountable to the Executive and the Assembly because:

  • there is a legally binding Ministerial Code;
  • the First and deputy First Minister together can determine that an issue should be dealt with by the Executive as a whole, rather than by an individual Minister;
  • the Executive should seek consensus on all decisions; however, where this is not possible and a vote is taken, three Ministers can ask for the vote to be taken on a cross-community basis; and
  • if thirty MLAs are unhappy with a ministerial decision of public importance, they can refer it back to the Executive for review. This is known as an Assembly Referral for Executive Review.

The First Minister and the deputy First Minister are no longer elected. Instead the largest party nominates the First Minister, and the largest party in the other community (nationalist or unionist) nominates the deputy First Minister.

A new Ministerial Pledge of Office refers to support for the ‘rule of law’. This includes policing and the courts, and commitment to both the joint nature of OFMdFM and participating in all the institutions.

A new committee (now the Assembly and Executive Review Committee) reviews the way the Assembly and Executive function. The first issue it considered was the devolution of policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland.

Members cannot change their designation unless they change political party.