The Northern Ireland Assembly

The Good Friday Agreement established a power sharing government in Northern Ireland in 1998. This was a landmark occasion and marked a watershed in the Northern Irish Peace process following The Troubles.

Since then the Assembly has had high and low points including substantial periods of Suspension and the devolution of Policing and Justice powers.

The Northern Ireland Assembly consists of 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly, MLAs, from 18 constituencies. Despite the power-sharing set up of the Assembly the two dominant ideologies remain as nationalism (Those who seek a United Ireland) and unionism (Those who seek to maintain Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom).

How NI elections work

Single transferable vote, STV is a form of Proportional representation Candidates don’t need a majority of votes to be elected, just a known ‘quota’, or share of the votes, determined by the size of the electorate and the number of positions to be filled.

Each voter gets one vote, which can transfer from their first-preference to their second-preference, so if your preferred candidate has no chance of being elected or has enough votes already, your vote is transferred to another candidate in accordance with your instructions. STV thus ensures that very few votes are wasted, unlike other systems, especially First Past the Post, where only a small number of votes actually contribute to the result. – From the Electoral reform society website. 

Devolved Powers

(Issues on which the Northern Ireland Assembly has full legislative powers.)

Health and social services
Education, Employment and skills
Social security
Pensions and child support
Economic development
Local government
Environmental issues, including Planning
Culture and sport
The Northern Ireland Civil Service
Equal opportunities
Justice and policing

Reserved Powers

(These are issues where legislative authority generally rests with Westminster, but where the Northern Ireland Assembly can legislate with the consent of the Secretary of State.)
Firearms and explosives
Financial services and pensions regulation
Import and export controls
Navigation and civil aviation
International trade and financial markets
Telecommunications and postage
The foreshore and seabed
Disqualification from Assembly membership
Consumer safety
Intellectual property

Retained Powers

(The government in Westminster retains responsibility for matters of ‘national importance’.)
The constitution
Royal succession
International relations
Defence and armed forces
Nationality, immigration and asylum
National security
Nuclear energy
UK-wide taxation
Conferring of honours
International treaties

Political Parties in Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein

“Sinn Féin is committed to achieving an Ireland of equals, a united Ireland which will be a new democracy.  Republicans and Unionists have democratic rights, no more or less than any other section of the people of Ireland. ”   


“The vision of  the DUP is to maintain and enhance Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom, achieving long-term political stability to deliver a peaceful and prosperous future for our people.”


“The primary purpose of the Ulster Unionist Party is to maintain the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We are satisfied that the future of the Union is now firmly in the hands of the people of Northern Ireland.”


“The Social Democratic and Labour Party’s vision is a reconciled people living in a united, just and prosperous new Ireland. The SDLP believes in a United Ireland. We are the only party with the vision, the standing and the strategy to deliver unity.”    

(Source: This page was created with the help of Thomas Chambers, follow him on twitter!)


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