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Ard fheis: New Deputy Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin eases concerns

By Liam Clarke

It was during an Assembly vote on replacing the Deputy Speaker's post with a new Sinn Fein face that First Minister Peter Robinson took the opportunity to raise concerns about his partners in Government.

MLAs were on Monday gathered to vote in Mitchel McLaughlin as a replacement for Francie Molloy when the First Minister addressed tensions in the wake of the Sinn Fein ard fheis.

"I would not have raised this matter had it not been for certain responses to a Belfast Telegraph poll of members who were present at Sinn Fein's weekend conference," Mr Robinson said.

"I think that it would be irresponsible of us if we did not provide the likely candidate with the opportunity to indicate his position on some key issues," he added.

He then listed "support for policing and giving information to the police; support for prosecutions against those found guilty of various activities; and, of course, support for the rule of law and opposition to an armed campaign".

Mr McLaughlin was ready for the DUP questions. He said: "I was part of the negotiations that brought it about, and also those that brought about the new beginning to policing and the establishment of a new justice system. I see all of that as part of my personal legacy, and I stand 100% behind it. It was one of the proudest experiences of my life."

He said his home was petrol- bombed, and was again attacked by dissidents a fortnight ago.

He was asked if he backed Martin Mr Guinness's "traitor" comments and replied: "Every comment that the Deputy First Minister has made".

He was elected Deputy Speaker, but the point was made.

Belfast Telegraph


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