The Role of the Speaker
The Speaker is the Presiding Officer (Chairperson) of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Speaker’s most visible role is chairing plenary meetings in the Assembly Chamber. Outside the Chamber, the Speaker 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 and the decision requires cross-community support. In carrying out this important role, the Speaker must be politically neutral. The Speaker does not take part in, or vote in debates, or become involved in party politics.
The Speaker also has a representation role, almost like an ambassador. He will receive VIP visitors to Parliament Buildings, host events to encourage the public to visit and attend external events on behalf of the Assembly. Alex Maskey MLA is the current Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The Assembly and Executive must work together to ensure that the legislation required to implement the Executive's Programme for Government, which has been approved by the Assembly, can be properly considered by the Assembly. The Speaker must enable Ministers to get their business onto the Assembly's agenda, while also ensuring that there the Assembly has sufficient opportunity for debate and scrutiny, in order to hold Ministers to account.