Older people's commissioner backed
A new commissioner for older people in Northern Ireland will not be a toothless tiger, the Assembly has been told.
Whoever takes up the position will have an extensive range of powers to investigate complaints and take legal action, Junior Minister Robin Newton pledged.
He hailed the anticipated establishment of the full-time role as MLAs passed the latest stage of the required legislation.
Pensioners from across Northern Ireland were in the public gallery as the appointment of a commissioner to represent their rights moved a step closer.
Mr Newton pointed out that only Wales had created a similar post.
"Establishing a commissioner here is a ground-breaking development," he said.
"And this is an example of the assembly working together along with the age sector and addressing issues that are important to those who make up the population of Northern Ireland."
It has been three years since the idea of establishing a commission was first looked at by the devolved administration.
Dame Joan Harbison was appointed as an interim Older Peoples Advocate but the legislative journey to formalise the role of permanent commissioner has taken longer than expected.
The DUP junior minister insisted the appointee would provide an effective service.