What is the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly?

When organisations hold formal meetings where decisions are made on behalf of the entire membership of the group, one person is usually appointed to moderate and supervise the discussion.  In non-governmental organisations this person is usually called a Chairperson; in a legislature this person is usually called a Speaker.

In Cayman we use the term ‘Speaker’ to describe the position of the person who moderates our Legislative Assembly (“the LA”).  The Speaker’s job is to preside over, or be in charge of, the LA and its proceedings (further information on the role of the Speaker in general is available at the  Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s website).

The Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009 (“the Constitution”) outlines the process for electing a Speaker and Deputy Speaker in section 65.  Section 65 of the Constitution requires that the Speaker be chosen by majority vote from among the elected members of the LA, or persons who are qualified to be elected as members of the LA, other than Ministers.  Other major functions of the Speaker can be found in sections 72, 75, 76, 79 and 80 of the Constitution.

In Cayman the responsibilities of Speaker include:

  • casting a tie-breaking vote in a vote of the LA where results are an even split, 
  • ensuring that the proceedings of the LA (known in Cayman as Standing Orders, or more generally as Parliamentary Procedures) are followed, and
  • communicating the return of bills or disallowance of laws by the United Kingdom (or its representative) to the LA.

The ability for the Speaker to break a tied vote allows this position a degree of power and responsibility not afforded to other Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).


Who is Sybil McLaughlin?

Mrs Sybil McLaughlin (b. 1928) was the Cayman Islands’ first ever Speaker when she was elected to the post in 1991, after MLAs voted in 1990 to create the position of Speaker to replace the Governor as president of the LA.  Mrs McLaughlin remained in the post of Speaker until 1996.  Cayman can also be proud that Mrs McLaughlin was among some of the first female Speakers in the world, ahead of countries such as the UK and the US.  Mrs McLaughlin’s position as Speaker was preceded by her career as Clerk of the LA from 1959-1984, where she was perhaps the first woman in the Commonwealth to hold this post (Craton, 2003, p. 311).  As Clerk of the LA, she was responsible for the following, amongst other, duties:

  • the overall administrative and financial management of the LA;
  •  providing procedural advice to the Speaker and MLAs;
  •  maintaining records of votes, bills and other documents laid before the House; 
  • signing (along with the President of the LA/Speaker) all legislation passed by the House; and
  • manging the production of Hansard Reports.

As Clerk of the LA Mrs McLaughlin had the opportunity to travel and work in the parliaments of other Commonwealth jurisdictions, such as the UK, Northern Ireland, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago, which allowed her to build her expertise for her role here in Cayman.  Mrs McLaughlin’s tenure as Speaker from 1991 to 1996 meant that she oversaw the passage of constitutional developments in 1993 which enabled Cayman’s first ministerial system.  These changes took place during a period when there were four amendments to the constitution in less than a decade (1984-1993).

By all accounts Mrs McLaughlin attained numerous achievements throughout her life, and she was recognised for her contribution to the development of parliament in the Cayman Islands by being designated a National Hero in 1996.  Now in her late 80s, details of the extraordinary events of Mrs McLaughlin’s life have been documented in a biography written by her daughter-in-law Heather McLaughlin titled From Island Girl to National Hero (2015).

Following on from Mrs McLaughlin’s tenure as Speaker were:

  •  Mabry Kirkconnell (1996-2001)
  • Julianna O’Connor-Connolly (2002-October 2003)
  • Linford Pierson (October 2003-2005)
  • Edna Moyle (2005-2009)
  •  Mary Lawrence (2009-2013)
  •  Julianna O’Connor-Connolly (2013-2017)
  • W. McKeeva Bush (2017-present)

Details of the current and previous Speakers and their biographies can be found on the LA website.


Learn More about the Speaker and Legislative Infrastructures

Reading more about Mrs McLaughlin’s life provides an excellent opportunity to learn what it is like to be a Speaker.  Recommended reading materials include From Island Girl to National Hero (McLaughlin, 2015), and Founded Upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and their People (Craton, 2003), as well as other historical news media, oral history transcripts and publications available through the Cayman Islands National Archive (view the CINA website for information to make an appointment). 

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s website CPA Publications and Resources page provides extensive information on legislative infrastructure in Commonwealth jurisdictions, as well as specific capacity-building informational documents specific to legislative administration and management which falls under the remit of the Speaker.

Information on current and historical practices and events of legislatures around the world can be found at:



The UK Parliament website's Education page  offers numerous educational resources on government and politics, some of which may be helpful or informative to classrooms in Cayman.


Example Activity:  Make a Pizza “Parli Pro” Style*

Purpose:     to practice making and voting on motions.

Materials:    a basic pizza with crust and sauce toppings, such as pepperoni, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, cheese, etc.

Process:    The chairperson announces that the group will vote to finish making a pizza. Participants will vote on additional ingredients by making motions and amendments.

After each motion is passed, the person introducing the motion performs the task of adding the ingredient and then takes over the chairmanship.  Continue the process until the pizza is complete.

Hints for success:  

  • The chairperson will hold up the items being considered to enhance the visual effect of the activity.
  •  In the beginning, keep the activity simple by voting to add one item at a time.

Discussion questions:

  •  Did our group reach consensus?
  •  How did parliamentary procedure help us achieve our goal of making a pizza?
  •  How did parliamentary procedure hamper our efforts?
  •  How does parliamentary procedure help a group making other types of decisions?

*Activity Source:  c/o University of Illinois Extension. Amy Davis Derby, Dana Martin, and Robin VanWinkle, Oregon State University Extension, 4-H Youth Development. Original source unknown - presented at a workshop “Gaveling Your Way to Better Meetings - 2005 NAE4HA Annual Conference, Seattle, WA.