Wednesday 13 December 2017

Stormont storm: Hardline unionist banned for jibes at Martin McGuinness’s run for President

Steven McCaffery

A HARDLINE unionist has been hit with a temporary ban from speaking at the Stormont Assembly after teasing his rivals over Martin McGuinness's bid to become Irish president.

The leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), Jim Allister, and its sole Assembly representative, has been involved in a running battle with Speaker Willie Hay.

So when he rose to ask a question of First Minister Peter Robinson, but slipped in a jibe over Mr McGuinness, the North Antrim representative was told he would not be called to speak again "for some time".

Mr Robinson was briefing Assembly members on a recent US trade mission he carried out with deputy First Minister McGuinness, where the pair courted movie executives and Silicon Valley chiefs to invest in Northern Ireland.

By the time Mr McGuinness returned from the US, however, he had been named as Sinn Fein's preferred choice for the presidential race.

Mr Allister was called to ask a question on the trade mission, but said: "I was tempted to ask the First Minister was it something he said or did in the United States that caused his partner the Deputy First Minister to look for alternative employment?"

Mr Allister, whose party opposes the DUP sharing power with Sinn Fein, was called to order by the Speaker.

Mr Hay said: "I really must say the Member, he really does push the barriers and I have said in this House for some time that questions sometimes grow legs."

He added: "The Member needs to learn a lesson that in this House there are protocols, standing orders and conventions in this House that relates to him as to any other member in this House."

After exchanges continued between Mr Hay and Mr Allister, the Speaker added: "I am now going to say to the Member directly, the Member will not be called in this House for some time, for any debate."

Mr Allister could be heard saying "this house is a disgrace", as the Speaker repeatedly asked him to remain silent.

As it appeared that the TUV leader may be expelled from the chamber, Mr Hay said: "I know what the Member is trying to do, he's trying almost to be a martyr here. I know exactly what the Member is trying to do. The Member should take his seat and be quiet."

Mr Robinson subsequently said to the Speaker: "I'd like you to look at the remarks made by the Member for North Antrim, who squeaked in on the eight or ninth count without reaching the quota.

"He claimed that you were doing your master's bidding and that your peerage was safe.

"Those contemptuous remarks do I think need a response and I'd ask you to look at them."

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News