Eileen Bell MLA
Eileen Bell MLA was appointed Speaker of the Assembly by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in May 2006.
Born in Dromara, Co. Down, Eileen Bell spent her childhood in West Belfast. Having worked in both the public and private sectors from 1960 to 1982 she then returned to full time education, graduating with an Honours degree in History and Politics from the then Ulster Polytechnic, now the University of Ulster.
She then entered full-time politics, serving four years as General Secretary of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. From 1990 to 1994 she worked as a full-time peace activist, involved in welfare and community work on behalf of the Peace People and co-ordinating the Peace Train organisation. During this time she also attended the Brook-Mayhew Talks as an Alliance party delegate.
Returning again to full-time politics, Eileen attended the Dublin Forum for Peace and Reconciliation from 1994 to 1996. In 1996 she was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue, and from 1997 attended the talks leading up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998. In the ensuing elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly she was elected to represent North Down, where she had also been serving as an elected Councillor since 1993.
She stepped down from local government in 2001 to concentrate on her role as an Assembly Member. Her political portfolios included Human Rights, Equality, Community Relations and Social Development. In the same year she was appointed as Deputy Leader of the Alliance Party, a position from which she resigned in 2006.
She has served on a wide range of bodies in the community, voluntary and statutory sector and among her principal interests she lists Womens’ Issues, Victims’ Issues, Community Development, the Military in politics, Reading and music.
She and her husband Derek currently live in Bangor, Co. Down.