Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Speaker title 'is important symbol'

Martin McGuinness said taking the speaker's position at the Assembly for Sinn Fein would be symbolically significant

Taking the speaker's position at the Northern Ireland Assembly for Sinn Fein would be "symbolically significant", Martin McGuinness has said.

The party's Mid-Ulster MLA praised incumbent William Hay's record in chairing Stormont debates fairly but said he wanted to hold talks with the DUP about the post.

Sinn Fein has promised it will know which ministerial offices it wants before a first Assembly session on Thursday or Monday.

Mr McGuinness was asked about the speaker's position during a press conference in Belfast.

He said: "The electorate have made their decision. They have charged Sinn Fein and the DUP with the responsibility of leadership going forward. Symbolically I think it (the speaker's position) would be significant. I think we will work out how we intend to take this forward."

DUP East Londonderry MLA Mr Hay was elected speaker in May 2007. He chairs plenary sessions of the Assembly but the role is politically impartial and he does not participate in debates. He also heads the body which runs the Assembly building, as well as the committee which determines business to be discussed in plenary sessions.

Mr McGuinness said: "As a speaker he was very fair. There will be some discussions with the DUP about that."

The first session of the Assembly is expected by Thursday or Monday.

There has been speculation Sinn Fein would like to take the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. The deputy First Minister refused to comment.

Sinn Fein is still awaiting the decision of independent David McClarty who is considering whether to rejoin the UUP. If he does, the UUP would be given a second Executive seat at the expense of Alliance, under the system of allocating ministries.

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