1998 / 1999 / 2000 / 2001 / 2002 / 2003
25 June 1998 – elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Resulting party strengths were -
29 June 1998 – Secretary of State appoints Lord Alderdice as Initial Presiding Officer of the Assembly.
1 July 1998 - first meeting of the new Northern Ireland Assembly (in Castle Buildings, Belfast). David Trimble (UUP) and Seamus Mallon (SDLP) were elected as First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) respectively
14 September 1998 - First meeting of the new Northern Ireland Assembly in Parliament Buildings. The Initial Presiding Officer advised members that he had received from Mr Agnew, Mr Douglas and Mr Watson (Independent Unionists) a note saying that, following discussion, they had agreed to form a United Unionist Assembly Party, with Mr Watson as Leader. He advised members that the party would be formally recognised in seven days’ time, and any arrangements in respect of it would become substantive then.
The shadow Assembly Commission was established to assist in making preparations for the functioning of the Assembly. Membership – Initial Presiding Officer; Bob Coulter UUP; John Fee SDLP; Peter Robinson DUP; Francie Molloy SF; Eileen Bell Alliance.
18 December 1998 – statement by the First Minister designate and Deputy First Minister designate on progress towards implementing the Belfast Agreement. This set out proposals for ten Departments and their functions, the functions of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the 6 Implementation Bodies and their functions, and information about the 6 areas for co-operation.
18 January 1999 – At a sitting of the new Northern Ireland Assembly, the Initial Presiding Officer advised members that he had received an indication from four members of the United Kingdom Unionist Party (Paddy Roche, Cedric Wilson, Norman Boyd and Roger Hutchinson), that they had resigned from the UKUP and wished to form a new party, to be known as the Northern Ireland Unionist Party.
1 February 1999 – Motion that ‘This Assembly has no confidence in the Initial Presiding Officer’ was moved by Peter Robinson. This followed the debate on 18 January 1999 on the report prepared by the First Minister Designate and the Deputy First Minister Designate (the report on the proposed NI Departmental structures and responsibilities). The motion was defeated.
15 and 16 February 1999 - The new Northern Ireland Assembly debated a report from the First Minister Designate and Deputy First Minister Designate on the number of Ministerial offices to be held by NI Ministers and their functions and proposals in relation to establishing the North/South Ministerial Council; the British-Irish Council and the Civic Forum.
This Assembly approved the determination by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) of the number of Ministerial offices to be held by Northern Ireland Ministers and the functions to be exercised by Ministers.
The Assembly also approved the proposals in relation to establishing the consultative Civic Forum. The report, from the First Minister Designate and Deputy First Minister Designate, proposed that the Forum would be comprised of 60 members and a chairman. The allocation of places to the Civic Forum was as follows: business 7; agriculture/fisheries 3; trade unions 7; voluntary/community 18; churches 5; culture 4; arts and sport 4; victims 2; community relations 2; education 2; First Minister and Deputy First Minister 6.
15 July 1999 – The Assembly met to activate the d’Hondt procedure. The UUP did not attend the debate and the DUP, Alliance and UKUP refused to nominate.
The following were nominated to Ministerial posts –
Under Standing Order 22(15), determined that day, the persons appointed could only continue to hold ministerial office (designate) if they included at least three designated Nationalists and three designated Unionists. Under this Standing Order the appointments could not continue.
The Secretary of State instituted a review under the Belfast Agreement.
29 November 1999 – The d’Hondt procedure for Ministerial offices was run under the procedures set out in Initial Standing Orders. The following were appointed in the order set out below:
d’Hondt was also run for the allocation of Chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of shadow Statutory Committees. The following members were appointed in the order set out below:
30 November 1999 – The Secretary of State made the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Commencement Order No 5) resulting in the devolution of powers to the Assembly from 2 December 1999.
1 December 1999 – Roger Hutchinson was expelled from the NIUP for taking a place on a Statutory Committee contrary to the policy of the party. He took the designation of Independent Unionist (and the DUP whip)
2 December 1999 – Power was devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. NSMC, BIC, BIIGC and North/South Implementation Bodies came into operation.
2 December 1999 – First meeting of the Executive Committee took place in Parliament Buildings. DUP Ministers did not attend.
6 December 1999 – The following members were appointed to the Assembly Commission: The Speaker; Mrs Eileen Bell; Mr Gregory Campbell; Rev Robert Coulter; Mr John Fee; Dr Dara O’Hagan.
8 December 1999 – Assembly Committees began meeting
14 December 1999 – The Assembly agreed to the inclusion of a new Standing Order which made provision for a Committee of the Centre which would scrutinise certain functions carried out by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
15 December 1999 – Appointment of Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons of Standing Committees.
The following were appointed in the order set out below:
Mr Denis Haughey SDLP and Mr Dermot Nesbitt, UUP were appointed as junior Ministers, causing Mr Haughey to lose his chairmanship of the Committee for Regional Development.
24 January 2000 – d’Hondt was run for the appointment of a deputy chairperson to the Audit Committee. (Mr Alban Maginness, the Deputy Chairman of that Committee, had resigned as he has been appointed to the Chair of Regional Development).
Mr McGrady, as the nominating officer of the SDLP, advised the Assembly that under the d’Hondt mechanism the Social Democratic and Labour Party had the vice- chairmanship of the Audit Committee. However, the SDLP, in agreement with others, was prepared to leave this post vacant in order that a representative from the minor parties may participate in the Audit Committee. For that reason, he did not nominate for this position.
The following parties, in the order set out, did not nominate – UUP; DUP; Alliance; SF; UKUP. Billy Hutchinson (PUP) was nominated by the PUP and appointed Deputy Chairperson of the Audit Committee.
31 January 2000 – Donovan McClelland, Sir John Gorman and Jane Morrice were appointed as Deputy Speakers.
11 February 2000 – Following reports from the International Commission on Decommissioning that it had ‘received no information from the IRA as to when decommissioning will start’, the Secretary of State, under powers derived from the Northern Ireland Act 2000, suspended the Executive and Assembly and restored Direct Rule.
30 May 2000 – Devolution was restored with effect from midnight on 29 May.
27 July 2000 – Mr Gregory Campbell was appointed Minister for Regional Development on the resignation of Mr Peter Robinson MP, and Mr Maurice Morrow was appointed Minister for Social Development on the resignation of Mr Nigel Dodds MP.
4 December 2000 – The Speaker informed the Assembly that he had received a letter from Mr John Hume Member for Foyle, resigning his seat in the Assembly with effect from 1 December.
11 December 2000 – The Speaker informed the Assembly that he had been advised by the Chief Electoral Officer that the new Member for the Foyle constituency was Mrs Annie Courtney. She took her seat that day.
24 December 2000 – death of Tom Benson MLA.
22 January 2001 – The Speaker advised the Assembly that he had been informed by the Chief Electoral Officer that Mr Tom Hamilton had been returned as a Member of the Assembly for the Strangford constituency to fill the vacancy resulting from the death of Mr Tom Benson. Mr Tom Hamilton took his seat on 29 January 2001.
10 April 2001 – Assembly recalled from recess for emergency debate on the "display of Easter lilies".
8 May 2001 - The First Minister, David Trimble, advised the Assembly, in a personal statement that on that date he had signed and lodged with the Speaker a letter resigning as First Minister as from 1 July 2001, unless before that date the Republican movement kept the promise it had made on decommissioning.
25 June 2001 – Personal statement by Gregory Campbell to the Assembly advising that he and Maurice Morrow had that day tendered to the Speaker letters of resignation effective on the resignation of all the First Minister’s party colleagues from the Executive.
1 July 2001 – The Speaker informed the Assembly that on 8 May 2001 he received a sealed letter from the then First Minister and a covering note in which he asked the Speaker to open and implement the sealed letter by the end of 30 June, unless he received a letter of revocation. Having received no revoking letter, he opened the sealed letter as requested, and reported to the House that Mr Trimble resigned as First Minister in a letter dated 1 July 2001.
The Speaker advised members that under section 16(7)(a) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 the Deputy First Minister, Mr Séamus Mallon, also ceased to hold office but may continue to exercise the functions of his office until the election of a new First Minister and a new Deputy First Minister.
The Speaker also advised members that on 29 June he received a letter from the then First Minister, Mr Trimble, notifying him that under section 16(5)(b) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 he had designated Sir Reg Empey to exercise the functions of the office of First Minister during the period of the vacancy. Section 16(8) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 states that an election shall be held to fill the vacancies of First Minister and Deputy First Minister within a period of six weeks, that is, by 11 August.
11 August 2001 – The Secretary of State signed an Order suspending devolution from midnight on 10 August in light of the failure to elect a First Minister and Deputy First Minister. This suspension avoided the need for the Secretary of State to propose a date for the next Assembly elections under section 32 (3) of the NI Act 1998 and gave a further 6 weeks in which to elect a First Minister and Deputy First Minister. A further Order signed on 11 August restored devolved government from midnight that night.
22 September 2001 – The Secretary of State signed an Order suspending devolution from midnight on 21 September. This provided another 6 weeks in which to elect a First Minister and Deputy First Minister. Devolution was restored with effect from midnight on 22 September.
8 October 2001 – A motion of no confidence in Sinn Fein was moved by David Trimble. Rev Dr Ian Paisley also moved a motion to exclude Sinn Fein. Both motions were defeated.
18 October 2001 - The Speaker advised the Assembly at a sitting on 22 October, that on Thursday 18 October 2001 he received letters from the nominating officers of the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party notifying him that the Ministers from those parties had been dismissed with effect from midnight on that date. The dismissals affected only those Northern Ireland Ministers who belonged to the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party. Ministers from the other parties remained in their positions.
24 October 2001 – The UUP Ministers resumed their posts. Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds (both DUP) take up positions as Ministers for Regional Development and Social Development.
2 November 2001 – An amendment to Standing Orders was agreed relating to the designation of members and had the effect that a change in designation took effect immediately after notification in writing to the Speaker.
The Speaker then advised members that he had received two letters to be opened immediately if the motion to amend Standing Orders was passed by cross-community consent. As a result of the letters Jane Morrice, NIWC changed her designation from ‘Other’ to ‘Unionist’ and Monica McWilliams changed her designation ‘Other’ to ‘Nationalist’. These changes took effect immediately.
A motion ‘That the Rt Hon David Trimble, MP, MLA be First Minister and that Mr Mark Durkan, MLA be Deputy First Minister of the Assembly’ was proposed by Sir Reg Empey and seconded by Seamus Mallon, but defeated.
5 November 2001 – The Assembly debated motions to change Standing Orders in relation to designations and the appointment of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. However, Petitions of Concern were lodged in relation to both these motions and voting was deferred until 6 November.
6 November 2001 - 1. The Assembly agreed a motion to change Standing Order 3(8) to have effect as if it read:
"A Member may change his/her designation of identity. Any such change takes effect immediately after notification in writing is submitted to the Speaker. Any subsequent change shall take effect seven days after the day of such notification."
The Speaker then advised members that he had received letters to be opened immediately if the motion to amend Standing Orders was passed by cross-community consent. As a result of the letters, David Ford, Eileen Bell, and Sean Neeson (all Alliance) changed their designation from ‘Other’ to ‘Unionist’. These changes took effect immediately.
A motion proposed by Sir Reg Empey and Seamus Mallon ‘That the Rt Hon David Trimble MP, MLA be First Minister and Mr Mark Durkan MLA be Deputy First Minister’ was agreed.
9 November 2001 – Peter Weir was expelled from the UUP. Pauline Armitage was suspended from the UUP as a result of voting against the party whip on 2 November 2001.
12 November 2001 – The Speaker advised members that he had received letters dated 6 November from David Ford, Eileen Bell and Sean Neeson (all Alliance) changing their designation from ‘Unionist’ back to ‘Other’, to take effect seven days from the date of the letters.
19 November 2001 – The Speaker advised members that at the sitting on Tuesday 6 November 2001, the Assembly agreed an amendment to Standing Order 3(8), which refers to Members’ designation; it was to take effect until the commencement of a review under strand one of the Belfast Agreement. The Speaker informed the Assembly that he had been advised in writing by the Secretary of State that that review commenced on 19 November. Therefore, with effect from that day, Standing Order 3(8) reverted to the previous version, which was agreed by the Assembly on Friday 2 November 2001.
11 December 2001 – The Northern Ireland (Date of Next Assembly Poll) Order 2001 was made on 11 December 2001. It provided that the date of the poll for the election of the next Assembly shall, instead of being determined in accordance with section 31 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, be the date proposed by the Secretary of State under section 32(3) of that Act, namely 1st May 2003 and that the Assembly would be dissolved on 21st March 2003.
14 December 2001 – The Speaker wrote to members advising them of changes to the SDLP ministerial team with effect from 14 December. These were that Mr Durkan had ceased to hold office as Minister of Finance and Personnel, and that Dr Farren was no longer Minister for Employment and Learning. Dr Farren had been appointed as Minister of Finance and Personnel and Ms Carmel Hanna as Minister for Employment and Learning.
20 February 2002 – Dermot Nesbitt UUP replaced Sam Foster UUP as Minister for the Environment following the latter’s resignation from the ministerial post.
20 February 2002 – James Leslie (UUP) was appointed as a junior Minister.
25 February 2002 – Mr Jim Wilson (UUP) was appointed as a Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, following a motion and cross-community vote, to replace Sir John Gorman who had resigned.
6 March 2002 – A motion on the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the Assembly was moved by Rev Dr Ian Paisley, but defeated.
1 April 2002 – Roger Hutchinson (formerly Independent Unionist) became a member of the DUP.
30 April 2002 – Peter Weir (formerly UUP) became a member of the DUP.
14 May 2002 – Her Majesty The Queen met members of the Assembly in Parliament Buildings and made a short speech to Members in the Great Hall.
9 September 2002 – The Speaker informed Assembly that he had been advised by the Chief Electoral Officer that Mr Michael Coyle, SDLP, had been returned as a Member of the Assembly for the East Londonderry constituency to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Mr Arthur Doherty, SDLP during the summer recess. Mr Coyle took his seat.
The Speaker also advised members that on 4 September 2002 he received correspondence from Ms Monica McWilliams, NIWC, and Ms Jane Morrice NIWC advising that, in accordance with Standing Order 3(8), they wished to change their respective designations to "Other". The changes in designation notified took effect immediately.
8 October 2002 – The Speaker advised Members that he had received from Rev Dr Ian Paisley, in his role as nominating officer for the Democratic Unionist Party, a letter informing him of the dismissal of Mr Peter Robinson as Minister for the Department for Regional Development and Mr Nigel Dodds as Minister for the Department for Social Development, from Ministerial Office, effective from 12 noon on Friday 11th October 2002.
14 October 2002 – The Speaker informed the Assembly that he had received a letter from the Secretary of State advising that he had made an Order that morning suspending the devolved institutions.
11 November 2002 – Gardner Kane ceased to be a member of the DUP.
19 March 2003 – The NI Assembly Elections Act 2003 received Royal Assent. This postponed the Assembly election from 1 May 2003 to 29 May 2003.
1 April 2003 – Annie Courtney ceased to be a member of the SDLP.
28 April 2003 – Assembly dissolved.