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Speaker William Hay voices anger at chattering classes

By Noel McAdam

Stormont Speaker William Hay has severely rebuked Assembly Members for incessantly chatting during debates –and warned they will be punished.

Mr Hay warned MLAs who talked while others were addressing the chamber they will not be allowed to speak in debates.

His criticism came after Sinn Fein's Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin complained last week that she could not hear during question time because of the level of noise coming from DUP benches.

The minister said: "They are like oul' dolls at bingo." The DUP's Gregory Campbell then quipped: "Maybe a syringe is required."

Mr Hay said he was "increasingly concerned" about the number of conversations involving MLAs who shouldn't be talking.

"Members should not expect to be heard in complete silence, but a number of members constantly conduct their private chats to the point of making it impossible for the chair or anyone else to hear what the Member on their feet is saying.

"If Members continually do that, they will not be called to make a contribution on any debate in the chamber for some time," he added.

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