Official Opposition

Following the Assembly election on 5 May 2016, arrangements were introduced - for the first time in the history of the Assembly – to facilitate the establishment of an Official Opposition. Parties which are entitled, under d’Hondt, to a Minister or Ministers on the Executive Committee can now choose to opt out and form an Official Opposition. The current arrangements are those agreed at the Fresh Start talks. The Official Opposition is entitled to research and financial assistance, extra speaking and questioning rights in plenary meetings, and the right to determine Assembly business on 10 plenary days per year.

Other, smaller parties not in the Executive Committee perform an ‘unofficial opposition’ role.

The Assembly and Executive Reform (Opposition) Bill (2016) received Royal Assent and became an Act on 23 March 2016, shortly before dissolution of the Assembly for the May 2016 election. However, in order for it to be implemented, the Assembly’s Standing Orders have to be changed – by a cross-community vote in the Chamber. This has not yet happened. It is the role of the Procedures Committee of the Assembly (Standing Committee) to consider the implications of the Act and bring forward proposals to change the rules of the House.