Speaker ‘humbled’ by House of Lords role

Throughout his political career, the veteran DUP politician – who was born in Co Donegal – has served as a Derry City councillor, a mayor and deputy mayor, and an MLA for Foyle.

Mr Hay was elected as Assembly Speaker following the restoration of devolution and, as such, has been charged with keeping order in the chamber during even the most heated of exchanges.

“It has been a great privilege for me to have been able to serve all the people of Londonderry for over 35 years – a city which I am very proud to call home – and to have been able to serve the Northern Ireland Assembly as Speaker since 2007,” Mr Hay said, following his elevation to the Lords.

“Both those roles have their challenges, and there certainly have been many times which have not been easy, but I am conscious that I could not have done them without the support of others – whether it be from family, friends, constituents, colleagues from my own party or indeed other parties, Assembly staff and many others.

“I take this appointment as a tribute to that support, for which I am extremely grateful, and I look forward to continuing to represent Londonderry and Northern Ireland in the House of Lords in the future.”

Mr Hay has elected to take a seat on the crossbenches.

When I first entered politics in Londonderry, I would never have imagined that I would have had the opportunities which have been presented to me.

William Hay, Speaker

First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson has congratulated his party colleague, following the announcement which was made on the Downing Street website on Friday morning.

“William was the first ever DUP councillor to serve as the Mayor of Londonderry. His leadership in the city is recognised right across the community,” he said.

“More recently, as Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, William has been able to command respect across the House, in what can often be a testing debating chamber.”

According to Mr Robinson, the new DUP peer will be an asset to the party’s parliamentary team.

“His presence will ensure the unionist voice from the City of Londonderry is amplified within the Houses of Parliament,” Mr Robinson added.

Back it 2011, when Mr Hay was re-elected as Speaker, it was agreed that he would be replaced in 2014 with a Sinn Féin MLA for the remainder of the Assembly mandate.

Currently, Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin serves as principal Deputy Speaker, while the SDLP’s John Dallat and UUP’s Roy Beggs are Deputy Speakers.

Mr Dallat said whoever succeeded Mr Hay as Speaker would face a “serious challenge” to keep what he called petty party politics out of the Office.

“Carrying out my duties as Deputy Speaker was easy and pleasurable while Willie Hay was Speaker,” he said.

“He was courteous, had no airs or graces, and was down to earth.”

He took no prisoners, but was always conciliatory towards members who were out of order and subsequently acknowledged their wrongdoing.

John Dallat, Deputy Speaker

According to Mr Dallat, the DUP Speaker had no problem with keeping members of his party in line.

“Willie, I feel sure, had more spats with individual members of the DUP whom he felt were discourteous and badly behaved while in the debating chamber,” he said.

“The Speaker was always supportive of the Deputy Speakers. I knew where I stood with him and, as a consequence, party politics didn’t spill over into the Speaker’s Department.

“I feel sure that having cut his political teeth in Donegal provided him with skills which allowed him to create space between his role as Speaker and the cut and thrust of local politics, which can unfortunately be very nasty at times.”

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