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Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy likely to be Stormont Speaker in 2014

By Noel McAdam

In a history-making move, Stormont is set to have its first nationalist Speaker in three years, it was confirmed yesterday.

The DUP’s William Hay will hand over the office in 2014 to a Sinn Fein MLA, probably Francie Molloy.

Mr Hay was nominated to return to the position yesterday by Martin McGuinness, who said that Mr Hay “did an excellent job” in the last Assembly.

It is understood Mr Molloy, who was returned as a Deputy Speaker yesterday, will be given a special position as ‘principal’ Deputy Speaker in the interim. The issue is to be debated in the procedures committee later this month.

“It will not be dissimilar to the way it works between the First and Deputy First Minister,” a senior Sinn Fein source said. “There are many issues which Mr Hay and Mr Molloy can work on together.”

Following negotiations between Sinn Fein and the DUP since last week’s election, Mr McGuinness said it had been agreed the position of Speaker should be shared within the present Assembly term.

He referred to a promise by the former First Minister Ian Paisley who in May 2007, as the new power-sharing regime took up office, said: “I acknowledge that at the next Assembly election we will support a candidate drawn from the other side of the House.

“Of course, that will rest with the people because we will go back to the people for new mandates. However, all things considered, if we do well we will support someone from the other side of the House.”

The compromise reached is that it will take place within the span of the new term — in 2014, Mr McGuinness said yesterday.

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