Scrutinising the Executive Committee

After a Northern Ireland Assembly election, the Assembly appoints the Executive Committee to exercise executive authority on its behalf. This is the Northern Ireland Government, made up of Ministers who lead Government Departments, including the First Minister and deputy First Minister. 

The Executive Committee produces a draft Programme for Government and Budget, which have to be considered and approved by the Assembly. The Executive is responsible for delivering important public services and implementing laws. The Assembly has to pass any Bills that Ministers introduce, although Ministers also have the power to make operational decisions that do not require Assembly approval.

As the elected body, the Assembly holds the Executive to account on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland. In addition to examining Executive Bills, MLAs scrutinise the actions of Ministers and their Departments, asking questions and investigating issues. MLAs carry out this scrutiny role through their work in the Assembly Chamber and in Committees.

Following the election on 5 May 2016, arrangements were put in place to allow for an 'Official Opposition'. Parties entitled to seats on the Executive Committee could opt out to become part of an Official Opposition, which receives extra resources to carry out its scrutiny role: money and research support; extra speaking rights in the Chamber and the right to set the Assembly's business agenda on 10 plenary days per year. Other parties which are not in the Executive are known as the 'unofficial opposition'.