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Understanding the Legislative Process in the Northern Ireland Assembly


This article will guide you through the path of a bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly to help you understand the legislative process in Northern Ireland.

Illustration of the legislative process in the Northern Ireland Assembly

The Law-Making Steps in the Northern Ireland Assembly

A new law proposal, or a bill, can be introduced by Ministers, Committees, or individual Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). For a bill to become law, it must pass through up to six stages of debate, discussion, and review:

First Stage: The First Stage is a short announcement in the Assembly Chamber by the bill's sponsor. The sponsor could be a Minister, in which case it's an Executive bill, or an MLA, making it a Private Members’ bill.

Second Stage: During the Second Stage, all MLAs debate the bill’s main principles. The sponsor starts the debate, with all Members following with their comments. At the end of the debate, MLAs vote on whether they support the main principles. If they do, the bill moves to the relevant committee for a detailed examination.

Committee Stage: This stage involves a committee gathering feedback on the bill from the public and others interested in the bill's subject matter. The committee can also gather information from groups and individuals with expertise in the bill's areas. At the end of the Committee Stage, the committee members, who are MLAs from various parties, review each part of the bill, prepare a report for the Assembly, and may suggest changes to the bill, known as amendments.

Consideration Stage: During the Consideration Stage, individual MLAs can suggest amendments to the bill. They debate and vote in the Assembly Chamber on each amendment to decide whether it should be included in the final bill. They then have another chance to suggest amendments during the Further Consideration Stage.

Final Stage: At the Final Stage, the entire bill, with any amendments, is discussed one last time, and MLAs vote on whether it should become law. If the majority of MLAs vote in favour, the bill is passed.

Royal Assent: Once passed, the bill is sent to the Secretary of State who presents it for Royal Assent. Once granted, the bill becomes a law in Northern Ireland.


Each stage of the law-making process ensures that proposed laws are thoroughly examined, debated, and refined before they become laws. This rigorous process is a reflection of the democratic principles that form the foundation of Northern Ireland's governance. View all the legislation considered and passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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