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Lord Hay denies expenses row link to his resignation

By Staff Reporter

Former Stormont Speaker Willie Hay - now ennobled as Baron Hay of Ballyore - has denied that his resignation from the Assembly was in any way connected with questions about expenses raised by a TV programme.

Lord Hay told BBC Radio Foyle that he stepped down as Speaker of the Stormont Assembly purely on health grounds.

He has been suffering from heart trouble for several months, and has been diagnosed with angina.

In September he was admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry suffering from chest pains.

Shortly after this incident he indicated that he intended to retire as Speaker.

In October, ill-health prevented him from attending Stormont to deliver his retirement statement to the Assembly.

Instead, a letter from him was read out to MLAs.

A BBC Spotlight programme highlighted concerns about expenses claims in connection with his constituency office.

His response was to report the matter to the PSNI - and to suspend a member of his staff while the police investigation was under way.

"There's an ongoing police investigation, but I made the first move here and I have no regrets on that whatsoever, absolutely none," he said.

The peer - who took up his seat in the House of Lords this week - said that he had neglected his health and that people in public life should be alert to how pressure can affect them.

"You get a scare and you learn from that scare," he said.

"I don't jump about and do 12 or 13 hours a day like I did when I was Speaker.

"The chest pains just wouldn't go away and my doctors have now put it down to angina.

"I'm on a couple of tablets a day, some further tests ahead but now it's just a case of looking after myself," he said.

"It's a warning for everybody, especially in public life, if the pressure gets so great, you get so much involved in the job that you think you can't be done without."

Lord Hay has been succeeded as Speaker in the Assembly by another Derryman - veteran Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin.

Background

Donegal-born Lord Hay played a key role in resolving parading tensions in Londonderry.

In 1993, he became the first DUP Mayor of the city, and was elected to the NI Assembly in 1998.

Mr Hay was elected Speaker of the Assembly in May 2007, and in August 2014 became a life peer.

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