Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly[1] (Irish: Ceann Comhairle)[2] (originally having the title of Presiding Officer)[3] is the presiding officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly, elected on a cross-community vote by the Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. A Principal Deputy Speaker and two deputy speakers are elected to help fulfil the role. The office of Speaker is currently held (since January 2020) by the former MLA for Belfast West Alex Maskey of Sinn Féin.

Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly
Irish: Cainteoir Thionól Thuaisceart Éireann
Logo used to represent the Northern Ireland Assembly
Alex Maskey
since 11 January 2020
StyleMr. Speaker
(Within the house)
AppointerNorthern Ireland Assembly
(Elected by)
Term lengthNo limits imposed
Inaugural holderLord Alderdice
July 1, 1998
Salary£87,000 annually
WebsiteOffice of the Speaker

The Office of the Speaker is located in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast. The Speaker is also the Chairman of the Assembly Commission, the body corporate of the Assembly, and the Chairman of the Assembly Business Committee.


The first person to hold the position was Lord Alderdice, appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 1998. Prior to devolution in December 1999 the position was referred to as the Initial Presiding Officer. Alderdice left office in 2004.

Eileen Bell held the office of Speaker in the Assembly established under the Northern Ireland Act 2006 which met between May and October 2006 and in the Transitional Assembly established under the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006 which met between November 2006 and May 2007. Under the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006 she was appointed Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly on 8 May 2007.

One of the first items of business for the Northern Ireland Assembly on 8 May 2007 was to elect a new Speaker from the MLAs elected in March 2007. The only nominee was William Hay, DUP member for Foyle and he was elected unopposed.

In May 2011 the new position of Principal Deputy Speaker was created.[4] Sinn Féin deputy speaker Francie Molloy was subsequently elected to the new position in June 2011.


During the first meeting of a new Assembly a Speaker is elected. The oldest (by age) Member of the Assembly (see Father of the House) who is not seeking the appointment oversees the election as acting speaker. Nominees are then put forward, seconded and accepted by the nominee. A vote is then taken which must achieve the support of both sides of the house (cross-community support). A successful nominee is then deemed elected as Speaker and takes the chair. Upon election the Speaker must relinquish all party political affiliations. The newly or re-elected speaker then oversees the selection of three deputy speakers.


Name Entered office Left office Party Constituency
1. Lord Alderdice 1 July 1998 29 February 2004 Alliance Belfast East
2. Eileen Bell 8 May 2007 8 May 2007 Alliance North Down
3. William Hay 8 May 2007 13 October 2014 DUP Foyle
4. Mitchel McLaughlin 12 January 2015 12 May 2016 Sinn Féin South Antrim
5. Robin Newton 12 May 2016 11 January 2020 DUP Belfast East
6. Alex Maskey 11 January 2020 Incumbent Sinn Féin Belfast West

Deputy speakers

Deputy Speaker (until 28 June 2011)
Principal Deputy Speaker (since 28 June 2011)
Deputy Speaker Deputy Speaker
Name Party Constituency Name Party Constituency Name Party Constituency
Jane Morrice 31 January 2000 – 7 May 2007 NIWC North Down Sir John Gorman 31 January 2000 – 19 February 2002 UUP North Down Donovan McClelland
31 January 2000 – 7 May 2007
SDLP South Antrim
Jim Wilson 25 February 2002 – 7 May 2007 South Antrim
Francie Molloy 8 May 2007 – 15 April 2013 Sinn Féin Mid Ulster David McClarty 8 May 2007 – 11 May 2011 East Londonderry John Dallat
8 May 2007 – 12 May 2016
Roy Beggs Jr 12 May 2011 – 12 May 2016 East Antrim
Mitchel McLaughlin 15 April 2013 – 12 January 2015 South Antrim
Robin Newton 20 February 2015 – 12 May 2016 DUP Belfast East
Caitríona Ruane 12 May 2016 – 19 Oct 2017 Sinn Féin South Down Danny Kennedy 12 May 2016 – 29 Jun 2017 Newry and Armagh Patsy McGlone 12 May 2016 – Mid Ulster
Christopher Stalford 14 January 2020 – 20 February 2022 DUP Belfast South Roy Beggs Jr 11 January 2020 – 31 May 2022 East Antrim

Current Speaker and deputy speakers

Position Current holder Term started Political party Constituency
Speaker Alex Maskey 11 January 2020 Sinn Féin Belfast West
Principal Deputy Speaker Vacant 20 February 2022
Deputy Speaker Vacant 1 June 2022
Deputy Speaker Patsy McGlone MLA 12 May 2016 SDLP Mid Ulster

See also


  1. Northern Ireland Assembly standing orders make provision for a presiding officer who shall have the title Speaker 1. The Speaker Archived 4 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  2. "Seirbhís Oideachais Thionól Thuaisceart Éireann |". education.niassembly.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 30 June 2021.)
  3. S. 39 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (which provides for a "Presiding Officer")
  4. "Francie Molloy is assembly's principal deputy speaker". BBC News Online. 28 June 2011. Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
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