What are the powers of the Northern Ireland Assembly

The Northern Ireland Assembly can pass laws on matters that are devolved to Northern Ireland.


The Northern Ireland Assembly is the result of a process known as “devolution”. Devolution allows decisions to be made at a local level.

In the UK there are several examples of devolution, including the: 

Under devolution, the Northern Ireland Assembly can make decisions on certain issues without needing approval from the UK Parliament. The UK Parliament in Westminster still makes decisions for the whole UK on certain issues. Learn more about the UK Parliament


Devolved and reserved powers

Under the 1998 Belfast Agreement or Good Friday Agreement, the UK Parliament transferred legislative and executive powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive Committee (also known as the Northern Ireland Executive). This is called devolution. The Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive make laws and decisions on most of the issues affecting everyday life in Northern Ireland. These are called 'transferred matters'. 

Issues on which the Northern Ireland Assembly has full legislativE (law making) powers:

  • health and social services
  • education
  • employment and skills
  • agriculture
  • social security
  • pensions and child support
  • housing
  • economic development
  • local government
  • environmental issues, including planning
  • transport
  • culture and sport
  • the Northern Ireland Civil Service
  • equal opportunities
  • justice and policing


The following are issues where the ability to make laws reamins with the UK Parliament, but where the Northern Ireland Assembly can legislate (make laws) with the consent of the Secretary of State. These are known as 'reserved matters' and include:

  • firearms and explosives
  • financial services and pensions regulation
  • broadcasting
  • import and export controls
  • navigation and civil aviation
  • international trade and financial markets
  • telecommunications and postage
  • the foreshore and seabed
  • disqualification from Assembly membership
  • consumer safety
  • intellectual property

Learn more about devolved and reserved powers


Legislative consent

The UK Parliament sometimes makes laws for Northern Ireland about things that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It usually does this only after the Assembly has given its agreement through a “legislative consent motion” (LCM).

MLAs can debate and vote on an LCM to give their views.

Who should I contact?

It is important to know whether the issue you’re interested in is devolved or reserved. If devolved contact your MLA, if reserved contact your MP.

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