Belfast Telegraph

Commonwealth role my duty, says Sinn Fein Speaker McLaughlin

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

The republican Speaker of the Assembly has said it is his "absolute duty" to lead a Commonwealth group at Stormont.

Mitchel McLaughlin said it had been an easy decision to accept a post as President of the Assembly's Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).

But, he did not tell all of his Sinn Fein party colleagues, the South Antrim MLA has revealed.

Mr McLaughlin said: "It was not difficult. It is how I see the Speaker should behave. I am not a Sinn Fein Speaker. I am a Speaker for every MLA in this house."

The 69-year-old from the Bogside in Londonderry was elected Speaker seven weeks ago after securing a cross-community vote. He took over from the DUP's William Hay who stood down last October due to ill health.

Although involvement with the Commonwealth committee is a departure from his natural politics, it is hoped the move will help promote respect among MLAs.

"In my case I am now entirely non party political," added Mr McLaughlin.

"Because this is an issue that is of some significance and importance to some of the MLAs here (at Stormont) and the communities they represent, then, as the Speaker of the Assembly I have an absolute duty to reflect that."

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