Former UUP MLA resigns as Stormont Assembly deputy speaker

A former UUP MLA has resigned as the Assembly’s deputy speaker amid the ongoing stalemate at Stormont.

Roy Beggs, who lost his seat in East Antrim in recent elections, confirmed he has tendered his resignation as deputy speaker “with immediate effect”.

Under Assembly rules, the outgoing speaker and deputy speakers can retain their roles until successors are appointed.

Read more:No agreement on Stormont Assembly offices plan three weeks after election

The speaker role attracts an annual salary of £89,500 while deputy speakers receive a wage of £57,500.

But the DUP has blocked the appointment of new speakers to allow the Assembly to start functioning again in protest over Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

A second attempt by MLAs to restore Stormont on Monday failed after the Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party again vetoed the election of a new speaker to chair meetings.

The sitting, which followed a recall petition brought by Sinn Féin, was then suspended as further Assembly business cannot be conducted without a new speaker.

In a statement Mr Beggs said: “Under the 2016 Determination, the outgoing speaker and deputy speakers remain in post until the election of new members after an election.

“Given the failure of the new Assembly to elect a new speaker and deputy speakers, I have tendered my resignation with immediate effect.”

Meanwhile the SDLP’s Dolores Kelly, who lost her MLA seat in Upper Bann, is still listed as a member of the Assembly Commission – a body which handles the running of Parliament Buildings.

Members of the commission earn an annual salary of £57,500. No new appointments can be made to the cross-party panel in the absence of a functioning Assembly, according to officials.

The SDLP has been asked whether Ms Kelly intends to retain her post.

There were heated exchanges as MLAs clashed in the chamber on Monday over the DUP refusing to elect a new speaker.

Sinn Féin accused the DUP of “punishing the public”, but the DUP dismissed the sitting as a “stunt” and reiterated its demand for action over the Protocol.

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MLAs in the Assembly chamber at Parliament Buildings, Stormont

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Outgoing speaker Alex Maskey, who did not seek re-election to Stormont in May, chaired the first attempt to appoint his successor earlier in the month.

The former Sinn Féin MLA was absent on Monday and proceedings were instead chaired by an acting speaker, which under the rules must be the oldest MLA – Alan Chambers of the UUP.

In 2017, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane faced criticism for remaining as deputy speaker for months after Stormont’s collapse in the wake of the RHI scandal.

The former Education Minister, who had not stood for re-election, said she never anticipated delays in appointing new speakers would be “so protracted”.

She also said her salary had been donated to charities and community groups.

In 2019, former SDLP MLA Alex Attwood quit the Assembly Commission more than two years after losing his Stormont seat.

The party said Mr Attwood had been continuing to attend commission meetings but had been paying back most of the wage.

Read more:No agreement on Stormont Assembly offices plan three weeks after election

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