Belfast Telegraph

Eastwood claims Sinn Fein backtracked on pledge to elect SDLP man as Speaker

Colum Eastwood
Colum Eastwood
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has claimed Sinn Fein backtracked on an agreement for Patsy McGlone to be the new Assembly Speaker.

Sinn Fein, however, said there was no agreement of any kind.

The party's West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey was elected to the position on Saturday with the endorsement of the DUP.

Mr Eastwood said originally it had been intended the position would go to his party for the first time with Mr McGlone in the chair, but Sinn Fein changed its mind an hour before the election.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said that she understood Mr McGlone would be the new Speaker, but no agreement was made in the latest round of Stormont talks.

SDLP leader Mr Eastwood told BBC Radio Foyle: "The way that the Speaker role was divvied up wasn't the best start. We had never had the Speaker's position, we felt that it was right that someone from the SDLP had it this time and that was the understanding for the last couple of years."

The Foyle MP said it was "widely understood" Mr McGlone would get the post. "An hour out we were told that Sinn Fein would be putting someone forward and of course the DUP supported them.

"That's fine, but I just thought it was a missed opportunity."

Sinn Fein responded to Mr Eastwood's comments, saying there was no agreement in place.

"There was no 'loose' or any other agreement that Patsy McGlone would be Assembly Speaker," a spokesperson said.

The UUP nominated Roy Beggs for the position. He was appointed a deputy speaker alongside the DUP's Christopher Stalford and Mr McGlone.

Naomi Long said in previous rounds of talks it was understood the position of Speaker would be "rotated" by the main parties.

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