Belfast Telegraph

Number of women in Assembly 'still nowhere near good enough', says Speaker

Northern Ireland's Assembly has failed dismally to elect enough women, Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin said.

He said the legislature fell far short of the 51% which would be proportionate.

The outgoing Assembly has 23 women.

The Speaker said: "M ost people would recognise that as a record of dismal failure, so it is still nowhere near good enough.

"If we were to truly represent the community that we are elected by, then we should have 51% of women in this Assembly."

Since the last election on May 2011, 337 plenary sessions have been held. A total of 67 bills have been passed, 30 since last September. The Speaker said 72,000 questions were tabled.

A total of 16 members are not seeking re-election, seven of whom have been there since 1998. More than 30% of the members elected in May 2011 will not be at Stormont in May 2016.

The election will be the first during which those born post the 1998 Good Friday Agreement will be coming on to the electoral register.

Mr McLaughlin said: "At one time many of us here today would never have imagined that we would be together in this chamber and in these circumstances."

He added: "This Assembly is, of course, imperfect and the issues it deals with are very challenging and difficult.

"We have a tragic past to deal with.

"The next weeks will be largely about party politics but let me just give a gentle reminder that it is for every member from every party to play a part in moving society forward."

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