MLAs and Ministers

Government in Northern Ireland has two parts: the Assembly and the Executive. 

The 90 elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (sometimes called MLAs or just Members) make the laws. 

The Executive is made up of Ministers, who are a group of MLAs chosen to lead the nine departments in the Northern Ireland Government:

  • The Executive Office (which includes the First Minister and the deputy First Minister who lead the Executive)
  • Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
  • Department for Communities (sport, housing, benefits, libraries and museums)
  • Department for the Economy (energy, tourism, job training programmes, colleges and universities)
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Finance
  • Department of Health
  • Department for Infrastructure (roads, public transport and waterways)
  • Department of Justice (policing, prisons and courts).

MLAs and Ministers work together to make sure that Northern Ireland has good laws and public services such as hospitals, schools, and support for businesses. Watch our animation on The Work of an MLA to find out more. 

What do you think the Education Minister might do?             
What decisions would an Education Minister have to make? 

Graphic depicting the 9 departments of NI Assembly

Activity – Balancing the Budget 

It costs a lot of money to run Northern Ireland, and the money needs to be spent wisely. The spending plan is called ‘the budget’. The Department of Health gets the biggest amount of money to spend every year – over £7 billion. If a department does not spend all of its share of the budget, it will give some money back to the Finance Minister. Another department might ask the Finance Minister for extra money. 

Do this activity to help you understand how spending decisions might be made.