Belfast Telegraph

Speaker allows tweets from Chamber

Politicians can now tweet and email from the Assembly Chamber after the Speaker granted permission for MLAs to go online during debates.

Willie Hay said members could use discreet hand-held devices on the benches, but stressed that laptops are still banned.

MLAs will also not be allowed to make any calls, as phones can be used only in so-called flight mode to ensure there is no interference with Assembly broadcasting. Members can instead go online using the wireless internet network in Parliament Buildings.

Mr Hay said he sought the views of the Committee on Procedures before making his ruling.

"With effect from today, members may use small electronic devices, such as a BlackBerry or a tablet computer, in the chamber," he said. "That includes their use in place of written speaking notes in debates in the chamber.

"I am content that such devices can be used discreetly without distracting other members or without distracting from the business of the house. They must be kept on silent at all times and used in a mode that does not interfere with the audio scheme or the proceedings of the chamber.

"However, in line with the committee's view, laptops may not be used in the chamber. I want to emphasise very strongly that laptops will not be brought into the chamber to be used. I expect members to use permitted devices in a responsible manner and to bear in mind the integrity of the house at all times."

Mr Hay said some members were keen to have the flexibility to keep in touch with "pressing issues in their constituencies and elsewhere in and around Parliament Buildings".

But he said he expected them to show the same flexibility and abide with other Assembly conventions, such as remaining in the chamber for a certain period of time after they have contributed to a debate.

He said IT staff would be available outside the chamber for the the next few weeks to help members who are unsure how to switch their phones to the correct mode.

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