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Progress on Stormont legislation but additional sittings may be needed – Speaker

Additional plenaries have been sitting in the Northern Ireland Assembly to allow MLAs to debate Bills close to becoming law.

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Stormont Speaker Alex Maskey said an additional sitting will take place to help MLAs process remaining legislation before the Assembly is dissolved for fresh elections (Peter Morrison/PA)

Stormont Speaker Alex Maskey said an additional sitting will take place to help MLAs process remaining legislation before the Assembly is dissolved for fresh elections (Peter Morrison/PA)

Stormont Speaker Alex Maskey said an additional sitting will take place to help MLAs process remaining legislation before the Assembly is dissolved for fresh elections (Peter Morrison/PA)

Good progress has been made on a backlog of legislation but more additional sittings may be needed before the end of the Assembly term, the Stormont Speaker has said.

With just weeks to go until the Assembly is dissolved for fresh elections, a number of Bills have made it to the final stages of the legislative process.

These include proposed legislation on climate change, defamation laws, to bolster the integrated education sector as well as a Bill to create safe spaces around abortion clinics.

In a letter to MLAs, Speaker Alex Maskey said there will be another additional sitting on Wednesday March 9.

He said this will ensure consideration stages for all the Bills which have completed their committee scrutiny.

“This will enable the Further Consideration Stages and Final Stages of all those remaining bills to be taken in the last two weeks before the dissolution of the Assembly at 00:01 on 28 March 2022,” he said.

“This creates the potential for all of the bills which emerged from their Committee Stage to complete their passage, subject to the decisions of the Assembly.”

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The final months of this Assembly term saw the resignation of first minister Paul Givan in a DUP protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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General view of Parliament Buildings at Stormont, Belfast (Paul Faith/PA)

General view of Parliament Buildings at Stormont, Belfast (Paul Faith/PA)

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General view of Parliament Buildings at Stormont, Belfast (Paul Faith/PA)

His resignation also saw deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill removed from the joint office.

Mr Maskey said it will be an “achievement” if the Assembly processes all of the legislation which it realistically could have done.

“I am also pleased that we will have done so without abandoning all of our normal procedures and therefore maintaining scrutiny,” he said.

“However, getting to this position has required significant coordination and planning and we cannot be complacent.

“Time is still incredibly tight to deal with the remaining business and it is still very possible that an additional sitting may be required in the final week.

“I want to recognise that the progress so far has been made possible by the cooperation amongst parties and whips, the discipline of Members to ensure that most debates in recent weeks have been of a reasonable length, and the significant efforts and additional hours of staff.

“That cooperation, discipline and work needs to continue for the next three weeks but I think the focus that there has been on completing legislation over the last weeks and months speaks very well of the purpose of this Assembly to deal with issues of interest to our community.”


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