Sign of The Times at the Northern Ireland Assembly

Speaker Alex Maskey (left) pictured in Parliament Buildings with ISL signer Amanda Coogan (centre) and BSL signer Kristina Laverty (right)
Speaker Alex Maskey (left) pictured in Parliament Buildings with ISL signer Amanda Coogan (centre) and BSL signer Kristina Laverty (right)

Monday, 13 December 2021, was a red letter day for the local deaf and hard of hearing community when for the first time in the Assembly’s history, the Executive Office Question Time was live signed in both British (BSL) and Irish (ISL) sign language.


This new pilot project, which has been a priority for the Assembly Speaker, Alex Maskey MLA, will continue to run until the end of this Assembly Mandate, expected to be at the end of March 2022.


The signing of Executive Office Question Time underlines the Assembly’s long standing commitment to making its work as accessible as possible to everyone. It is also hoped that it will give all those in the deaf and hard of hearing community, the opportunity to participate more fully in the democratic process and to stay informed on the issues that affect them as local citizens.


Executive Office Question Time takes place every second Monday and rotates between the First Minister and the deputy First Minister. First up this week was the deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill MLA, who began by signing a special welcome to the deaf and hard of hearing community, many of whom were tuning in for the first time. 



Watch this week’s full Executive Office Question Time:



As well as live signing of Executive Office Question Time, the pilot also includes manual subtitling that will be available on playback rather than in real time. Subtitling will usually be available within 3 working days. You can watch this week’s subtitled Executive Office Question Time below. 


If you can't see the subtitles click on the subtitle / caption button on the video.



The next signed Executive Office Question Time is scheduled for 2pm on 24 January 2022, and you can find all of the upcoming scheduled dates for Executive Office Question Time on the Assembly website by looking at the Question Time Rota. You can also catch it live or watch a recording on the Assembly TV site niassembly.tv


Each Minister’s slot is a maximum of 45 minutes: the first 30 minutes are allocated for scheduled oral questions, followed by 15 minutes of topical, or unscheduled, questions from Assembly Members (MLAs) to that Minister.


A maximum of 15 questions are selected for oral answer and these will be published 10 days before the Question Time on the Questions section of the Assembly website. It is common for time to run out before all the submitted questions are answered. The written answers to oral questions are in the Official Report (Hansard) for each sitting.


During this pilot period, the Assembly will hold regular meetings with representatives from the deaf and hard of hearing community to review how the project is working. In addition, the representatives will assist with a formal evaluation of the pilot at the end of this Assembly mandate. 

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