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'My family and my job are my priority. I can manage to do both': MLAs Diane Forsythe and Patricia O’Lynn clash over who works harder


DUP MLA Diane Forsythe and Alliance MLA Patricia O'Lynn

DUP MLA Diane Forsythe and Alliance MLA Patricia O'Lynn

DUP MLA Diane Forsythe and Alliance MLA Patricia O'Lynn

Two newly elected MLAs became embroiled in an on-air spat over who works harder as they discussed pay issues while the Executive is inactive.

The DUP’s Diane Forsythe, who replaced Jim Wells in South Down, was a guest on BBC Radio Ulster alongside North Antrim Alliance MLA Dr Patricia O’Lynn on Tuesday morning.

They were asked by the Good Morning Ulster presenter Jennifer O’Leary if the two months in the role feels longer.

“No actually, it doesn’t feel longer,” Dr O’Lynn responded.

“For me this has been a dream come true, my days fly by.

“I feel like I get up in the morning, around 7am, and I blink and it’s 7 in the evening.”

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However the newly elected MLA eventually admitted to blushing on pay day, but blamed the DUP.

“The Alliance Party is here and ready to do the full extent of our job,” she explained.

“It’s incredibly embarrassing that colleagues in the DUP are preventing all MLAs from doing their job by refusing to elect a speaker.

“No elected representative can sit in the Assembly and say we are proud of the situation we are in.

“All parties bar one want to get to work and deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.

“What other job would you be in where one group of people isn’t performing yet the entire workforce is penalised – it’s not going to motivate the DUP to get back to work.”

However Ms Forsythe claimed the situation is due to Alliance, along with nationalist parties, ignoring unionists.

“I want to be back in a fully functioning Executive as do my DUP colleagues – the reality is we were in the Executive for two-and-a-half years raising concerns about the [Northern Ireland] protocol,” she said.

“I have a mandate coming through from this election to deal with the protocol.

“The views of my voters are no less valid… and must be respected.”

Both women revealed how they spend their free time, leading to a war of words about who works hardest.

Ms Forsythe told the programme she has her hands full keeping her three children busy and dealing with constituency issues.

“I live in the Mournes, I’m outside all the time that I can [be],” she explained.

“Out in the mountains I am always bumping into someone with a constituency issue.

“I just love to have my family time.”

However Dr O’Lynn claimed she doesn’t have the luxury of down time.

“I think that’s lovely - I’m delighted that Diane is able to get that family time,” she said.

“But I am on all the time as is my team because we are always waiting for the possibility of a speaker being elected, the Assembly being recalled, planning in case we are going to go to another election.

“Doing everything that we can to be ready to get this place up and running.

“At the minute my work is my social life.”

Ms Forsythe was keen to reply.

“My family and my job are my priority. I can manage to do both,” she retorted.

The tense exchange led to the presenter asking if they have ever sat down and had a cup of coffee since being elected to Stormont “given the tone” of the exchange.

“I don’t think we have ever had a coffee,” Dr O’Lynn said as she gave some examples of the pair working together.

An interruption by the stand in presenter who insisted she meant away from politics was followed by a unbearable radio silence, eventually broken by Ms Forsythe.

“I don’t think we have ever had the chance to do so,” she said.

When asked if they would ever consider doing so, it was difficult to gauge any clarity over whether they actually will sit down together.

“It would be good to be able to work with all our MLA colleagues to learn a little bit about what other people are bringing to the table,” Ms Forsythe said.

Dr O’Lynn insisted: “I am delighted to meet with anybody to chat through their perspectives.”

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