Northern Ireland

MLAs fail to replace NI Assembly Speaker William Hay

William Hay Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption William Hay has retired from his post as Speaker for the Northern Ireland Assembly

Assembly members have failed to elect a new Speaker after all three candidates fell short of a cross-community majority.

Previous Speaker William Hay has retired because of ill health.

Sinn Féin said the DUP should honour an agreement to support its nominee Mitchel McLaughlin.

However, DUP leader Peter Robinson said the appointment of Speaker should be dealt with at the upcoming talks along with welfare reform.

In the absence of a replacement for Mr Hay, Mr McLaughlin will remain in the chair as principal deputy speaker, along with deputy speakers John Dallat of the SDLP and Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs.

The DUP promised Sinn Féin the post as a result of a deal that dates back to Ian Paisley's time as first minister.

Therefore, Sinn Féin expected Mitchel McLaughlin to be elected. However, some DUP MLAs are known to be strongly hostile to the notion of a Sinn Féin Speaker.

Sinn Féin's Caitriona Ruane criticised the DUP over the failure to elect Mr McLaughlin.

"The refusal today to honour that deal by refusing to back Mitchel McLaughlin raises serious questions about DUP sincerity in any negotiations process," she said.

Ulster Unionist chief whip Robin Swann described Monday's events as a "pantomime".

"When is a deal not a deal? When it is between the poisonous Sinn Féin/DUP coalition at the heart of our government," he said.

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Media captionThe DUP promised Sinn Féin the role after an agreement that that dates back to Ian Paisley's time as first minister

Alliance leader David Ford said the DUP should have backed Mr McLaughlin.

"The DUP should have honoured the deal that they made in 2011. They are attempting to politicise the office of the Speaker," he said.

However, the DUP's Arlene Foster blamed the failure to elect a Speaker on Sinn Fein's inability to "stand by their agreement" on welfare reform.

"If Caitriona Ruane is looking for anyone to blame for today's actions, then she should cast her eye southwards to those in Dublin currently controlling her party," she said.

Last week, the DUP tried to get the vote postponed, arguing that the appointment should be discussed during inter-party talks.

Mr McLaughlin took on the role of Speaker last month in a temporary capacity.

In Stormont on Monday, MLAs paid tribute to Mr Hay who was elevated to the House of Lords in August but then fell ill with heart problems.

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