Assembly fails to elect new Speaker

The vote was held at Stormont on Monday after veteran DUP politician Willie Hay retired from the role for health reasons.

There had been an informal agreement, made in 2007, that principal Deputy Speaker Mr McLaughlin would replace Mr Hay halfway through the Assembly term.

However the DUP abstained from voting after deciding it would not support Mr McLaughlin, who has been filling in for Mr Hay over the past few weeks, as the new Assembly Speaker.

First Minister Peter Robinson has said the matter must be dealt with in the forthcoming talks.

Meanwhile the UUP’s Roy Beggs and the SDLP’s John Dallet, who are both Deputy Speakers, were also nominated by their parties but did not receive enough votes to be elected.

Father of the House Sam Gardiner, the oldest Stormont representative, said: “As a speaker has not been elected it will be necessary to return to this matter at a further sitting.”

Willie Hay, who was first elected as Assembly Speaker following the restoration of devolution in 2007, was elevated to the House of Lords in August.

Earlier on Monday, MLAs paid tribute to the outgoing Speaker.

DUP leader Peter Robinson said: “He was the first speaker elected by the Assembly, I think all the others who sat in that chair were appointed by the Government but William steered the Assembly the through what has been a new era of politics in Northern Ireland.

“He did so with skill, with good humour and at times when it was necessary with firmness.”

Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin said: “William Hay and I were friends for years before we both came to this house.

“All who know him would say that he brought the same natural pragmatic approach to seek agreement and avoid confrontation which he used to great effect in Derry particularly to his essential role in the discussion which delivered the highly successful parades agreement in our native city.”

Alliance Leader David Ford MLA said: “He commanded respect from every party and his presence in the Speaker’s chair will be missed by all.

“Outside of the Assembly, he played a key role in resolving parading issues in Londonderry.

“I would like to wish him a full and speedy recovery following his illness, and look forward to seeing him take his seat in the Lords.”

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