Newton becomes principal deputy speaker

DUP Assembly member Robin Newton has been appointed, unopposed, as Stormont’s principal deputy speaker.

The decision follows the appointment last week of Sinn Fein’s Mitchel McLaughlin who became the Assembly’s first republican speaker.

Mr Newton was first elected to represent East Belfast at Stormont in 2003 before being returned at the 2007 and 2011 elections.

He also served on Belfast City Council for 29 years before standing down last year.

The former junior minister has welcomed his appointment.

“I am very pleased to accept the post. It was a unanimous decision of the chamber – none of the other parties put up candidates and this is doubly pleasing,” he said.

“I look forward to fulfilling my duties to the best of my ability.

“The [speaking] schedule still has to be worked out, but currently the deputy principal speaker and deputy speakers are called upon on a fairly regular basis – if the speaker has a motion put forward from his or her own party, or maybe there is a constituency matter – so it is a matter of the work being shared out.”

The deputy principal speaker post was created in 2011. It was first occupied by Sinn Fein’s Francie Molloy before Mitchel McLaughlin took up the post in April 2013. The decision to appoint Mr McLaughlin as speaker was delayed by the row over welfare reform.

It is understood Sinn Fein had been promised the position in a deal dating back to Ian Paisley’s time as first minister, but the DUP then decided to add the speaker nomination to a list of outstanding issues to be resolved at the recent Stormont House talks.

The current deputy speakers are SDLP MLA John Dallat and Roy Beggs of the UUP.

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