Strand I – Democratic Institutions in Northern Ireland
The Agreement provides for a Northern Ireland Assembly to exercise devolved legislative powers over broad areas of social and economic policy. The Assembly comprises 108 members, representing Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies and elected by proportional representation on the basis of the single transferable vote.
Executive authority is discharged by Ministers in an Executive Committee, comprising up to ten Ministers with Departmental responsibilities and presided over jointly by a First and Deputy First Minister. Appointments to the Ministerial positions in the Executive are made via the d’Hondt system, a formula which allocates seats in proportion to party strength.
The Agreement formally provides for safeguards to ensure that all sections of the community can participate and work together successfully in the operation of the Assembly and Executive, including arrangements to ensure key decisions are taken with cross-community support.
The first elections to the Assembly took place in June 1998 and power was devolved from Westminster to the Assembly and Executive on 2 December 1999. Devolved power-sharing government continued, (albeit with further suspensions between February and May 2000 and again very briefly in August and September 2001) until October 2002, when the Assembly was again suspended. The Assembly was formally dissolved on 28 April 2003 and direct rule from Westminster resumed, with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland assuming responsibility for the direction of Northern Ireland Departments. In the years following suspension of the institutions of the Agreement, the two Governments continued to work together and with the parties to restore devolved government to Northern Ireland on an inclusive power-sharing basis.
The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive were restored once again on 8 May 2007.