Belfast Telegraph

Willie Hay to retire: Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker and DUP MLA to step down

DUP MLA stepping down from post as of next Monday

By John Mulgrew and Lesley-Anne McKeown

Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker Willie Hay is to retire, it has been announced.

The DUP man will step down from his post a Speaker on October 12.

The 64-year-old had been suffering from ill-health.

First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson paid tribute to his colleague of more than 40 years.

"In that time his tireless devotion to his native Londonderry and the surrounding communities has always shone through," he said.

"His qualities of hard work and devotion to his constituents have been reflected in election after election: whether it be to Londonderry Council or the Northern Ireland Assembly, people in the Foyle constituency rewarded him with their votes.

"As he ends his career in electoral politics, William can take pride in the fact that he made the city and the surrounding area a better place by the work he undertook on behalf of his constituents."

SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey said Mr Hay had "made an immense contribution to civic life" in Londonderry and across Northern Ireland.

"I was always very happy to work alongside him and to later count him as a friend. His work, particularly toward achieving a resolution to parading, will long be remembered and respected," he said.

"As he steps down from his position in the Assembly, I’m sure he will remain actively involved in civic life.

"He was hugely proud to have been nominated for a position in the House of Lords recently. And again, while we may have differing attitudes on that, I have no doubt that he will continue to act as an advocate for Derry and Northern Ireland."

Mr Hay was recently nominated for position in the House of Lords. It was expected he would be leaving his role in the Assembly.

I a letter read out to the assembly, the DUP's William Hay said ill-health had prevented him from making the announcement in person.

Mr Hay, who was elected Speaker following the restoration of devolution in May 2007, has been absent from the chamber since last month when he stepped aside to receive treatment for a heart problem.

The Foyle MLA, who was born in Donegal, had been due to leave the post after being made a member of the House of Lords in August, deciding to sit on the crossbenches.

Sinn Fein's Mitchell McLaughlin, the Assembly's principal deputy speaker, described Mr Hay as a "remarkable servant" of the Stormont institutions.

Mr McLaughlin said he had "made arrangements and advised the whips to consider how best to pay tribute to a man who justly deserves that".

Politicians are expected to formally pay tribute to the Speaker next week.

Willie Hay was first elected as a councillor in Londonderry in 1981 and served as mayor in 1993. He played a key role in resolving parading tensions in his Derry constituency before stepping down from the council in 2010.

The veteran politician was first elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998.

DUP MLA Peter Weir wished him a full and swift recovery.

 

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