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DUP's Pengelly warned to keep answers brief

Published 23/11/2015

Emma Pengelly was making her debut in the Assembly
Emma Pengelly was making her debut in the Assembly

The DUP's newest Assembly recruit has been warned to keep her answers brief during her first ever question time.

Emma Pengelly, who was appointed to the post a month after taking her South Belfast seat, was reminded to stay within the two-minute time frame following her debut appearance at the Stormont Assembly.

Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin said: "Thank you for that detailed answer, but there is a two-minute rule which I will remind you about now."

Ms Pengelly replaced retiring colleague Jimmy Spratt, who stepped down as an MLA on health grounds.

She was a former special adviser to First Minister Peter Robinson, earning a salary in excess of £90,000 a year.

The appointment sparked criticism from long-standing South Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson, who said she felt overlooked. Ms Patterson has since been expelled from the party.

In her first public question and answer session, Ms Pengelly, a qualified barrister, was probed on a court judgment over the failure to agree an anti-poverty strategy.

She said the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister had committed more than £100 million to reduce poverty and the consequences of living in areas of deprivation.

Ms Pengelly said: "We have currently spent over £27 million on our Delivering Social Change projects, including contributing significantly to the projects jointly funded with Atlantic Philanthropies i n total worth almost £60 million over this and the next three years.

"In all this work we have focused strategically on improving outcomes across a range of deprivation measures including health, education and developing the economy to help improve the lives of those in poverty."

Later, Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane raised a "point of order" to complain that Ms Pengelly had referred to the department as the "Office of First Minister".

Although the Speaker told MLAs he felt a reprimand was unnecessary, he noted Ms Ruane's point had been made on the record.

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