In the Chamber
In his/her role as chair of plenary sessions, the Speaker:
- calls Members to speak in debates;
- ensures that the right procedures are followed;
- maintains order in the Chamber; and
- has the final say on disputes regarding the rules of the Assembly, called Standing Orders.
In debates, all speeches are addressed to the Speaker and the Speaker's choice of Members to speak is not open to challenge. No Member may stand while the Speaker is standing.
In making a ruling (on whether or not a rule has been broken) the Speaker must be heard in silence. The Speaker’s ruling on all questions of procedure and order, as specified in Standing Orders (the Assembly's rule book), is final. The Speaker cannot be criticised by Members in debates, except by the tabling of a formal motion.
MLAs must have confidence in the Speaker’s impartiality. Therefore, the Speaker does not take part in or vote in any debates, or comment on Northern Ireland political matters or the policies of the Executive, inside or outside the Chamber.
One of three Deputy Speakers may also take the chair in the Chamber. They cannot speak or vote in any debate which they are chairing, but may do so in other debates. The Deputy Speakers have the same authority in the Chair as the Speaker.