Hain appoints NI Assembly Speaker

Former Alliance party deputy leader Eileen Bell has today been announced as the new speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, when it resumes on May 15.

She will be the first female speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and will succeed former Alliance Party leader Lord Alderdice, who retired from the post in February 2004 stating that his role on the Independent Monitoring Commission was too demanding to enable him to continue the role.

Mrs Bell became deputy leader of the cross community Alliance Party in June 2001 and only recently gave up the position to make way for East Belfast MLA Naomi Long.

She was a member of the last Assembly and has represented North Down at Stormont since 1998.

The MLA announced in December 2005 that she would not stand in the next assembly.

Speaking earlier, Mrs Bell said that she was looking forward to her new position.

She said: "I was delighted to be asked by the Secretary of State to take up the post of presiding officer of the assembly.

"I am honoured to accept this post and I look forward to the challenges when the assembly meets on 15 May."

The announcement on Mrs Bell's appointment was made today by Secretary of State Peter Hain who is currently undertaking a trade mission in India.

Speaking earlier, the Secretary of State said: “I am delighted that Eileen has agreed to take up the post.

“Eileen is hugely respected across the political and community divide in Northern Ireland. She gets on with everyone and brings a wealth of experience to the post."

Mr Hain added: “I am very pleased that she has agreed to take up this important post of Presiding Officer and I am sure that she will do a great job.

“Today is the eighth anniversary of the Agreement and this is a crucial period for Northern Ireland’s politicians.

“They must decide if they want to work in a democratically elected and accountable Assembly, or do they want to remain outside, unable to make decisions on behalf of those people who they represent.”

The local assembly was suspended in October 2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring at the Northern Ireland Office.


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

16 March 2020
Covid-19: Seven Further Cases Confirmed
Seven further cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Northern Ireland, bringing totals to 52. It comes amid continued controversy over whether schools should follow suit with the Republic of Ireland and close their doors. Several local schools have taken the option to close along with bars and restaurants across the region.
02 December 2002
£20m cash boost for rural post offices announced
Rural post offices in Northern Ireland are set to receive more than £6.9 million-a-year for the next three years, in the largest ever government support package for this vital community service. The money is part of a £450 million national fund to safeguard the future of thousands of rural post offices, which was unveiled by the government today.
12 March 2020
Budget: Extra £210m For NI Public Services
Business and political leaders have been giving their reactions to the Budget, with an extra £210 million allocated for public services in Northern Ireland. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, yesterday pledged a £12 billion package of measures aimed at tackling the spread of coronavirus across the UK.
03 June 2008
Four NI Post Offices Spared As 38 Axed
The 'listening' post office has announced it is to heed at least some of the matters raised in its recent public consultation on proposed NI branch closures - and is going to spare a total of four outlets originally earmarked to shut or change status.
19 March 2020
Head Teachers Union Welcomes School Closures
The National Association of Head Teachers has welcomed the news that all schools in Northern Ireland will close from Friday.