Brexit and the Northern Ireland backstop have renewed public interest in parliamentary processes and the role of MPs, the House of Commons Speaker told students at Queen’s University.
Just one day before Theresa May officially stepped down as Conservative leader - and a contest to replace her began - John Bercow told the 400-strong gathering that public engagement is higher than ever.
During a lecture entitled “How Parliament Works: A view from the Chair”, the Speaker said arguments over Brexit, the October 31 deadline for leaving the EU, and the Northern Ireland backstop had brought Parliament back into sharp focus.
He also took questions on reforms to make Parliament more gender diverse, the use of parliamentary privilege, whether the UK should adopt a written constitution, the power of Urgent Questions - and his admiration for tennis legend Roger Federer.
The university, whose alumni include poet Seamus Heaney, former Irish president Mary McAleese, comedian Patrick Kielty, former Northern Ireland First Minister Lord Trimble and ex-Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross, is known as an international centre of research and education. It is also one of the largest employers in Belfast.
With a roll call of almost 19,000 undergraduates and nearly 5,000 postgraduates, Queen’s contributes more than £700m to the Northern Ireland economy.
Queen’s Professor Alister Miskimmon, Head of the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, said Mr Bercow presented a compelling case for the centrality of parliament in our democracy.