In May 2013, Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced the next NI assembly election would be postponed to May 2016, and would be held at fixed intervals of 5 years thereafter. Section 7 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 specifies that elections will be held on the first Thursday in May on the fifth (rather than fourth, as previously) calendar year following that in which its predecessor was elected.
Under section 32 of the 1998 Act, the Assembly can be dissolved if a resolution to such an effect is passed by the Assembly, with support of 72 or more members.
Failure to elect the First or Deputy First Ministers
The Act provides that if the Assembly fails to elect either the First Minister or deputy First Minister within six weeks, an election is called. Since the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006 this has involved the nomination to the posts by the largest party overall and the largest party in the designation which the largest party overall is not a member respectively.[clarification needed]