A Carrick woman has received a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the inner workings the Assembly after a post-graduate placement.
Laura Steele, 31, completed Northern Ireland Assembly’s Bursary programme, which leads to a Masters in Legislative Studies and Practice.
Organised in conjunction with Queen’s University, the scheme has provided 33 bursaries since its launch five years ago.
The programme benefits those wanting to play their part in future political life, whether as MLAs or public servants.
It also gives them an opportunity to gain experience in a working legislature.
A reception was held at Parliament Buildings recently to mark the programme’s anniversary.
“The placement lasted nine months and I was working in the Bill office; it’s a very well-run programme and it gives you a real insight into the background of the Assembly,” said Whitehead local Laura.
“I have a degree in Law and Politics, a Master in Corporate Law and a PHD in Business, so the placement was a real asset.
“I’ll probably go down the law path, but the bursary programme was a fantastic experience.
“It really gives you a sense of how hard-working our MLAs are.”
At the event, Laura gave a short, informal presentation on her case study carried out on the Welfare Reform Bill during her time at the Assembly.
Welcoming the former placement students to the reception, Assembly Speaker William Hay commented: “I am very pleased to celebrate five years of the Northern Ireland Assembly Bursary Programme and to recognise all of the students who have participated.
“During my time in office, this is a scheme in which I have taken keen personal interest as there is huge value in giving young people the opportunity first hand to understand how this legislature works, particularly in the context of a wider perception of young people being disinterested in politics.
“The programme has proved very successful, with past students progressing on to a range of posts such as an Internship in the European Parliament, working in the Scottish Youth Parliament and working with MLAs and political parties.
“I have greatly enjoyed my interactions with the Bursary students over the years and I am always struck by how much they take away from seeing directly the amount of work it takes behind the scenes to make the Assembly operate, something which does not come across in the media.”