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Thursday 26 May 2016

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Assembly Speaker William Hay to probe DUP 'insults'

Minister urged to 'syringe her ears' during boisterous spat at Stormont

By Noel McAdam

Published 01/05/2014

Assembly Speaker William Hay is examining a complaint that DUP MLAs barracked the Culture and Arts Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.

The Sinn Fein minister said she could not hear because of the level of noise coming from DUP benches during Question Time.

Her colleague Caitriona Ruane then alleged that the DUP's Gregory Campbell had shouted the minister should "syringe her ears".

And the culture minister hit back, saying the DUP benches were "like oul dolls at bingo".

Mr Campbell denied making the remark but said he would stand over whatever the Assembly's official account of proceedings, Hansard, recorded him as saying. Principal Deputy Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin said the behaviour among DUP MLAs had not been acceptable and now Mr Hay is expected to give a ruling next week.

The spat came as the arts and leisure minister was trying to outline talks between her department and Northern Ireland Water over Portavoe reservoir near Groomsport in north Down.

Ms Ni Chuilin complained: "I am sorry, I cannot hear," and Mr McLaughlin said: "There is far too much noise from my right."

Ms Ruane later complained that after her Sinn Fein colleague had said she could not hear, Mr Campbell "very audibly" said she should syringe her ears and asked for an examination.

Mr Campbell insisted what he had said was not what Ms Ruane had quoted but if the matter came back, "I will stand over every word said, seated or standing".

"Methinks he doth protest too much," Ms Ruane went on. "I heard, and I have no doubt that Hansard heard, 'syringe her ears'. It was very, very rude, and not what is becoming of the (Assembly)."

Mr McLaughlin said he thought the behaviour of members, particularly from the DUP, was unacceptable and he would refer the issue to the speaker.

Earlier, Speaker Hay again accused some MLAs of treating the Assembly with "total contempt" by not being in their seats when they had been due to put questions to ministers.

During this term, Speaker William Hay has repeatedly warned MLAs against intemperate language – and chastised members who are absent when they are due to put questions to ministers. He has also warned some remarks had been made which would not be allowed in any other parliamentary democracy.

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