MLAs will be allowed to email and tweet direct from the Assembly chamber. Speaker William Hay announced devices like BlackBerries and computer tablets can now be switched on during debates and ministers’ questions, but he ruled out laptops.
As the Belfast Telegraph revealed earlier this year, Members have complained they had to leave their seats to send or receive e-messages or turn on their iPads.
It was given as a key reason why benches have often appeared half-empty, even during key sessions.
After several MLAs defied the current convention the issue was sent to the Assembly Commission where it was debated behind closed doors before yesterday’s announcement.
The move brings the Stormont legislature into line with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.
Mr Hay said: “I am content that such devices can be used discreetly.
“They must be kept on silent at all times and used in a mode that does not interfere with the audio scheme or the proceedings of the Chamber.”
But he also rapped Assembly Members on the knuckles over their lack of manners during debates.
From now on, MLAs will not be able to slip in during a debate they haven’t listened to, make their own speech and then leave again. Mr Hay has ruled they must remain in their seats for at least two addresses after their own.