Structure and operation of the Northern Ireland Assembly
Produced in partnership with Dr Kirsty Hood of Hastie Stables
Structure and operation of the Northern Ireland Assembly

The following Public Law guidance note Produced in partnership with Dr Kirsty Hood of Hastie Stables provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Structure and operation of the Northern Ireland Assembly
  • Brexit impact—devolution
  • Which voting system is used in Northern Ireland Assembly elections?
  • What are the functions and powers of the Northern Ireland Executive?
  • Who are other key players in the Northern Ireland Assembly?
  • How does the Northern Ireland Assembly make laws?

This Practice Note provides an introduction to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It considers how its members are elected and how it makes laws. The broader context of decision-making in Northern Ireland (with a focus upon certain specialities of the devolution arrangements necessitated by recent history in Northern Ireland) is discussed separately in Practice Note: The process of decision making in Northern Ireland.

Brexit impact—devolution

The UK devolution structures involve complex interaction with EU law and EU competences, and are therefore impacted by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. For general updates on the process and preparations for Brexit, see: Brexit timeline. For further reading on the impact of Brexit on devolution, see News Analysis: Examining the impact of Brexit and UK-wide common frameworks on devolution. For detail on the impact for Northern Ireland, see Practice Note: The process of decision making in Northern Ireland—Decision-making in relation to Brexit.

Which voting system is used in Northern Ireland Assembly elections?

Each parliamentary constituency in Northern Ireland currently elects five members to the Assembly (known as Members of the Legislative Assembly or MLAs), by way of Single Transferable Vote. Bearing in mind the population which it serves, the Northern Ireland Assembly is larger (in relative terms) than the devolved legislatures established in other parts of the United Kingdom.

It is not possible for