No-show MLAs 'should face penalty'
Five MLAs who did not show up to ask questions of Northern Ireland's First Minister should be penalised, Martin McGuinness has said.
Peter Robinson addressed a near-empty assembly chamber because other events at Stormont, including meetings on the ailing construction sector and welfare reform, drew members away from their seats. Two questions were withdrawn but another five were not dealt with as those putting them were not present.
The Deputy First Minister said civil servants spent time preparing answers and ministers made time in busy schedules to deliver responses.
"It is an absolute disgrace and it is time for the Speaker (William Hay) to consider very seriously penalising those members who did not turn up," he said.
He said ministers from his OFMDFM had visited China and Cardiff in recent days, yet managed to be present for question time.
Ukip MLA David McNarry apologised to the House, while SDLP member Patsy McGlone said he had been attending a meeting on the construction industry. The other three no-shows were Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney, Joe Byrne of the SDLP and former UUP leader Tom Elliott. Questions were withdrawn from UUP representative Robin Swann and Sinn Fein's Cathal Boylan.
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said two of his MLAs were serving on an ad hoc committee on welfare reform.
"The party took all reasonable steps to inform the business office that they would be absent," he said.