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Irish-speaking MLA gagged after new Stormont spat

By Noel McAdam

A senior SDLP politician has been barred from speaking in the Assembly after challenging the authority of the Speaker’s chair in a row over the Irish language.

Dominic Bradley has been given the opportunity to apologise after what Speaker William Hay denounced as a “vicious assault” on one of his deputies, Roy Beggs.

It is the second time in a fortnight that Mr Hay has withdrawn speaking rights from an elected Member and happened as the last Assembly man to be silenced — independent unionist Jim Allister — returned to the Stormont benches to speak.

The spat with Mr Bradley came as he addressed acting Deputy First Minister John O’Dowd in Irish over the last cross-border meeting on education. Ulster Unionist Mr Beggs urged him to ask the question and translate it — as MLAs speaking in Irish or Ulster-Scots or any other language are required to.

Mr Bradley said: “I was in the process of asking a question when you interrupted me.” Mr Beggs asked him to sit down.

“No, I refuse to sit down,” Mr Bradley said, then repeated the remark and broke back into Irish when asked to sit down a third time.

Mr Beggs asked: “Is the Member challenging the Chair?”

Mr Bradley replied: “The Member is challenging the Chair”. He then agreed to resume his seat.

A few hours later Mr Hay took up the issue and wrote directly to Mr Bradley, informing him he will not be called on to speak again for the rest of this week unless he apologises.

Mr Bradley, however, indicated he would not be saying sorry and instead intended to ask Mr Hay to review how yesterday’s business in the Assembly had been conducted.

”I very much cherish the right to use Irish as often as I possibly can and fully expect that right to be respected on the floor of the Assembly. Unfortunately, that was not the case during today's proceedings and I felt I had to stand up for my right to press my view in Irish,” he said

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