The Role of the Speaker

The Speaker is the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Speaker’s most visible role is to chair plenary meetings in the Assembly Chamber. Outside the Chamber, he also chairs:

  • the Business Committee, which decides what business will be discussed in the Chamber; and
  • the Assembly Commission, which is responsible for ensuring that the Assembly has the accommodation, staff and services it needs to carry out its work.

After an Assembly election, the first task for MLAs is to choose a Speaker. This is an important position that is politically neutral. The Speaker will not take part or vote in debates and must act impartially at all times. MLAs elect the Speaker with cross-community support. This means that he/she must have the support of both nationalists and unionists in the Chamber.