Letter to Members on the Assembly Commission and Speaker’s Events and Initiatives in 2021

Dear Member,

Assembly Commission and Speaker’s Events and Initiatives in 2021

You may be aware that throughout the decade of centenaries, the Assembly Commission has used a process and a set of principles to agree how all of those historic anniversaries were officially marked by the Assembly. This approach ensured that they were marked with cross party support and without controversy.

2021 is a year of significant centenaries. While the different views amongst parties and Members have to be acknowledged and respected, there is no doubting that the events of 1921 shaped our politics and our society for the decades which followed. 2021 also marks one hundred years of local parliamentary and political institutions. The Commission has therefore agreed to mark the centenaries of the creation of Northern Ireland/ partition and the centenary of the first sitting of the old Northern Ireland parliament.

However, the Commission is mindful that 2021 should also allow us to look forward. The Assembly did not have the opportunity to fully resume engagement activities after the Assembly returned in January 2020, and before Parliament buildings had to close to the public in March 2020 due to the public health situation. We would all hope that we might be in a position later in 2021 to resume at least some physical public engagement activities. All parties would like to get to the point where those we represent can again visit the building. 2021 will also see the 1000th sitting of the Assembly, which should be taken as an opportunity to raise the awareness of the importance of local democratic institutions.

In this context, the Commission has agreed a range of initiatives and events for 2021 alongside those I also intend to host as Speaker. I attach an overview of those plans for Members including lectures, social media initiatives, an Open Day, exhibitions and outreach activities. You will understand that while activities have been planned for April, May and June in a format to ensure that they can happen in the current circumstances, plans for later in the year will have to take account of the position in relation to public health and restrictions at the time.

Of course, the initiatives listed are not an exhaustive list of all of the activities which are scheduled to take place at the Assembly in 2021 if conditions allow. I hope to be able to host a meeting of the quadrilateral of UK Speakers and Presiding Officers later in the year. The North/ South Inter-Parliamentary Association hopes to resume plenary sessions and the Assembly Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) hopes to be able to host the annual conference of the CPA British Mediterranean Region. The Assembly Commission has also agreed a strategic project to review the display of artefacts in Parliament Buildings to add to the visitor experience and officials will be working with Dr Eamon Phoenix on this detailed piece of work.

Given the differing views on these centenaries, and differing expectations amongst Members about the nature of events and initiatives which should be undertaken, I want to express my thanks to all of the Commission Members for their positive engagement in agreeing a programme of activities for throughout the year.

Details of each of these initiatives will be provided to Members nearer to the time but I thought that it was important to update you on what has been agreed at this stage. I hope you will be able to participate in some of these events.

Yours sincerely,