Assembly Business

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:30 am on 15 May 2006.

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Photo of Eileen Bell Eileen Bell Speaker 10:30, 15 May 2006

Members, please take your seats.

In accordance with the Northern Ireland Act 2006, the Secretary of State has directed that the Assembly should sit on Monday 15 May 2006 at 10.30 am to consider business as it appears in the Order Paper.

Before we proceed, I wish to read into the record some letters of appointment.

First, in a letter to me dated 9 May 2006, the Secretary of State said:

“By virtue of my powers under Paragraph 3(1)(a) of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 2006, I hereby appoint you as Presiding Officer of the Assembly. Your appointment shall take effect from today’s date.”

Secondly, in a letter dated 11 May 2006, the Secretary of State said the following:

“I am writing to formally notify you that I have today appointed Jim Wells MLA of the Democratic Unionist Party and Francie Molloy MLA of Sinn Fein as Deputy Presiding Officers of the Assembly and have placed a Written Ministerial Statement before Parliament to this effect.”

I offer my congratulations to my two colleagues and look forward to working with them both.

Finally, Members, in a letter of intent to me dated 12 May 2006, the Secretary of State said the following:

“You will have received my letter of 11 May setting out the matters which I am referring for the first week of Assembly business.

I know from our discussions that you are fully aware of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and I have every hope that you will be able to oversee the rapid transition of the Assembly to full devolution. There will, of course, be obstacles to overcome and they must be overcome if MLAs are not to stand accused of perpetuating the democratic deficit which Northern Ireland has seen in recent years. But, given the bitter history of Northern Ireland, it is important that we recognise and understand the difficulties for all sides in what the Assembly is now being asked to do. No-one underestimates the challenges ahead and the divisions which remain.

If we are to heal those divisions then this must be a time to focus on what unites us. All the political parties, the British and Irish Governments and, most importantly, the people of Northern Ireland, are united in their belief that devolution and power-sharing are the only way to establish an enduring, stable future. That is why the Assembly has been recalled with the express purpose of electing a First and Deputy First Minister and forming an Executive, with the opportunity to consider issues of vital importance for their constituents. Now is the time for Northern Ireland’s politicians to shoulder this responsibility for their people’s future, as they have been elected to do; it is time to open a new chapter of stability, opportunity and restored devolution in Northern Ireland.

As I have said before, the decisions which will have to be taken are not easy ones, but history has presented us all with a decisive opportunity to move forward in the coming weeks. The tragic events of recent days have once again shown how desperately the people of Northern Ireland need a new vision for a truly shared society. I know that the promise of a better future for the young people of Northern Ireland will be uppermost in the minds of all MLAs as they approach the days ahead in a spirit of partnership and generosity.”

I have placed copies of these letters in the Assembly Library.