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 may choose to opt out and form an Official Opposition.

The role of the Official Opposition is to question and scrutinise the work of the Executive Committee, (Northern Ireland Government). 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. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) formed the first Official Opposition, which was short lived due to collapse of the Executive in January 2017.

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

Note: John McCallister MLA introduced a Private Member's Bill to establish an Official Opposition. The Assembly and Executive Reform (Opposition) Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act on 23 March 2016, shortly before dissolution of the Assembly for the May 2016 election. It has not yet been implemented. For this to happen, the Assembly’s Standing Orders have to be changed – by a cross-community vote in the Chamber. 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. Until that happens, it is the arrangements agreed between parties at the Fresh Start talks in November 2015 which apply.