SDLP’s Eastwood accuses Sinn Fein of breaking agreement over Assembly Speaker | MOOSE GAZETTE

The new Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey MLA (PA)

The new Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey MLA (PA)

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said that Sinn Fein went back on agreement that Patsy McGlone would be the new Assembly Speaker.

Sinn Fein’s West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey was elected Speaker on Saturday with the support of the DUP.

However, Mr Eastwood said the original agreement was that Mr McGlone would be Speaker until Sinn Fein changed their mind an hour before the election.

“The way that the Speaker role was divvied up on Monday wasn’t the best start,” the SDLP leader told BBC Radio Foyle.

“We had never had the Speaker’s position, we felt that it was right that someone from the SDLP had it this time and that was the understanding for the last couple of years.

The UUP nominated MLA Roy Beggs for the position.

The Foyle MLA said it was “widely understood” that Mr McGlone would be given the position.

“An hour out we were told that Sinn Fein would be putting someone forward and of course the DUP supported them.

“That’s fine, but I just thought it was a missed opportunity.”

Mr Eastwood said he had a “loose agreement” and that all parties were aware going back “a couple of years”.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone

“I don’t think it was a good start, but it’s a minor issue compared to what this Government has to do,” he said.

“Let’s see, we’ve gone in here with our eyes open, we have issues with this deal, we don’t think it goes far enough in some areas and maybe too far in others.”

He revealed the issue while discussing his party’s decision not to select the position of Health Minister.

Mr Eastwood said that his party did not want the role without also controlling the Finance Ministry as they felt the roles were closely linked.

He said that having Health without Finance could lead to another party denying health funding for political reasons.

The SDLP nominated North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon as Infrastructure Minister.

Sinn Fein has been contacted in relation to this story.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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