Belfast Telegraph

Assembly Speaker Maskey says he won't tolerate insults after spat with SDLP's McGrath

Speaker Alex Maskey
Speaker Alex Maskey
Gareth Cross

Gareth Cross

Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey accused SDLP MLA Colin McGrath of "insulting him" during a debate at Stormont.

MLAs gathered in the chamber to appoint chairs and deputy chairs to the Assembly's standing and statutory committees on Tuesday.

Mr Maskey said he was taking the "unusual step" of intervening because he could not allow Mr McGrath's behaviour to continue.

The West Belfast MLA told the chamber that the SDLP chairperson had come up behind him at the Speaker's podium and insulted him. He said it was the second time it had happened.

"I won't tolerate Colin McGrath insulting the Speaker in the middle of a plenary debate," Mr Maskey said.

"In future I will take action, I want people to take note of that."

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SDLP MLA Colin McGrath

Parties also expressed concern over the position of Principal Deputy Speaker.

The DUP nominated Deputy Speaker Christopher Stalford to the role. The other deputies are SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone and UUP MLA Roy Beggs.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said her party would not be putting forward Mr McGlone for the role as there was "no purpose or point" to it.

She said that it simply elevated one deputy over the others and was not in the spirit of inclusive power sharing as outlined in the New Decade, New Approach agreement.

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong told the Assembly her party was also opposing the position as it was an "honorary title with no bearing on the speakers".

"There is no money attached and no other privilege other than prestige," she said.

TUV leader Jim Allister said that the position "emphasized the carve up" in the Assembly between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

He claimed the position was created in 2011 to appease Sinn Fein and dubbed it a "preposterous post" with "no powers, no rights, no authority and no standing above any other speaker".

Mr Allister speculated that Mr Stalford had been hoping for a position as Junior Minister in the Executive Office and said that while he may think "the crumbs are better than nothing, nothing is a very good place to be in respect of this house".

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TUV leader Jim Allister speaking in the Assembly. Stephen Hamilton /Presseye

DUP MLA Gordon Lyons defended the role, saying that there was a similar position at Westminster and expressed in his confidence in Mr Stalford.

During Tuesday's sitting Speaker Alex Maskey, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong, UUP MLA Robbie Butler, DUP MLA Pam Cameron, SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly and Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd were appointed to the Assembly Commission.

The commission is responsible for ensuring that the Assembly has the property, staff and services required to carry out its work.

Chair's and Vice-Chairs of Stormont's statutory and standing committees were also appointed.

Mr Maskey said the composition of the committees was currently under consideration by the Assembly's Business Committee.

Committees currently have eleven members with statutory committees working to advise, assist and scrutinise Ministers and their departments.

Standing committees are mainly concerned with the business of running the Assembly.

The chairs and vice-chairs of the committees are as follows:

Statutory Committees:

Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs

Chair: Declan McAleer, Sinn Fein
Vice-chair: Phillip McGuigan, Sinn Fein

Committee for Communities

Chair: Paula Bradley, DUP
Vice-chair: Kellie Armstrong, Alliance

Committee for the Economy

Chair: Caoimhe Archibald, Sinn Fein
Vice-chair: Sinead McLaughlin, SDLP

Committee for Education

Chair: Chris Lyttle, Alliance
Vice-chair: Karen Mullan, Sinn Fein

Committee for the Executive Office

Chair: Colin McGrath, SDLP
Vice-chair: Mike Nesbitt UUP

Committee for Finance

Chair: Steve Aiken, UUP
Vice-chair: Paul Frew, DUP

Committee for Health

Chair: Colm Gildernew, Sinn Fein
Vice-chair: Gary Middleton, DUP

Committee for Infrastructure

Chair: Michelle McIllveen, DUP
Vice-chair: David Hilditch, DUP

Committee for Justice

Chair: Paul Givan, DUP
Vice-chair: Linda Dillon, Sinn Fein


Standing Committees:

Public Accounts Committee

Chair: William Humphrey, DUP
Vice-chair: Roy Beggs, UUP

Standards and Privileges Committee

Chair: Sinead Ennis, Sinn Fein
Vice-chair: William Irwin, DUP

Assembly and Executive Review Committee

Chair: Mervyn Storey, DUP
Vice-chair: Maoliosa McHugh, Sinn Fein

Audit Committee

Chair: Daniel McCrossan, SDLP
Vice-chair: Andrew Muir, Alliance

Procedures Committee

Chair: Caral Ni Chuilin, Sinn Fein
Vice-chair: Tom Buchanan, DUP

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