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On The Hill: Peerless Speaker William Hay set to bow out before taking seat in Lords

By Noel McAdam

Speaker William Hay is to return to the Assembly in the near future - for the purposes of standing down.

And ironically, if the much-respected Hay wasn't laid up with illness, he would already have told us he is going.

Now destined for a seat in the House of Lords, the DUP's Mr Hay had been due to announce his departure on the weekend he suffered a heart complaint.

And so Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin, who now has full authority of Speaker in Mr Hay's absence, would have already been officially in position.

In fact, as On the Hill revealed, Mr Hay should have given way just before the summer recess but the succession became caught up in the war of attrition between the two parties.

It all comes down to standing orders which, sources say, have still not been agreed although the DUP leadership has signalled their expectation that Mr McLaughlin will indeed come into his own.

Meanwhile the parties have already been displaying their intentions to road test the new Speaker.

First Minister Peter Robinson pointed out the authority of the chair was being called into question when Alliance's Kieran McCarthy said on Monday that public disillusionment with Stormont was being fuelled by the misuse of 'petitions of concern'.

"If anybody is misusing the procedures of the House, it is the job of the Chair to call them to order," Mr Robinson advised the incumbent.

In a letter to Mr McLaughlin last week, Mr Hay conferred the power to "exercise all procedural functions" including decisions on urgent questions in the Assembly and 'matters of the day' which can arise at short notice.

Star MLA: John McCallister, Independent

Unlike most politicians John McCallister doesn't just hug babies, he blames them.

The former Ulster Unionist and former NI21 deputy leader 'named and shamed' his own children when he was late for the Finance Committee meeting, at which the minister Simon Hamilton was appearing.

Which gave now-independent John the chance to say that at least his youngsters aren't as badly behaved as the Executive.

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