Stormont Speaker announces retirement from politics

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly has announced his intention to retire from politics next year.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 12:06 pm

Alex Maskey, 69, said he will not seek re-election in the Assembly ballot scheduled to take place in May and therefore will not continue to hold the post of Speaker in the next mandate.

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In a statement on Thursday, Mr Maskey said it had been an honour over the last 23 years to serve as an MLA, initially for South Belfast and then for West Belfast.

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Assembly Speaker and Sinn Fein MLA, Alex Maskey.

“I am especially grateful for the opportunity the Assembly has given me to serve as Speaker,” he added.

“I have said many times that the Assembly has to prove itself and it is important to me that the Assembly is seen to work as an institution.

“Since January 2020, there have been many issues to deal with including assisting the resumption of Assembly business and ensuring the Assembly could continue to function during the pandemic.

“Despite these challenges, it has also been possible to introduce a number of positive new developments including the expansion of support for Private Members’ Bills and the establishment of our first Youth Assembly.

“I have appreciated the support of members, party leaders, party whips and Assembly Commission members throughout all of that work. In particular, I want to recognise that it has been a pleasure over the last 18 months to work closely with Assembly officials who have given me tremendous support.”

Mr Maskey added there is “a lot of work” to do when the Assembly returns from recess in September, including a record number of Private Members’ Bills.

“That is where my focus will be until then,” he added.

Mr Maskey is a former amateur boxer, and became the first member of Sinn Fein to be elected in Belfast City Council in 1983 and the first republican Lord Mayor of the city in 2002.