Northern Ireland

Assembly Speaker William Hay says three MLAs 'used offensive remarks'

William Hay
Image caption Speaker William Hay said the standard of assembly debates had fallen

The Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker has named three MLAs he claims used offensive remarks during a debate on the Police Ombudsman's Office.

William Hay said he would closely monitor the former Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott, the TUV leader Jim Allister and Sinn Féin's Pat Sheehan.

Mr Hay said they would not be called to speak if this behaviour continued.

The Speaker claimed the standard of assembly debates had "very much fallen".

He said some assembly members felt the only way they could make a contribution was by being offensive to other MLAs.

Mr Hay said he had reached his conclusion about the offensive remarks after reading a Hansard transcript of Monday's debate.

The BBC understands Mr Hay is planning to stand down at the end of June, both as speaker and as DUP assembly member for Foyle. He has been the speaker at Stormont since the restoration of devolution six years ago.

While the Speaker did not specify what remarks he had found offensive, the debate featured the following angry exchanges.

Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan: "Will the member give way?"

Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott: "I am happy to give way to the member."

Mr Sheehan: "I am glad to hear the Member ask that because our position is quite clear: if there is an independent truth recovery process, republicans will cooperate with it. While the member is on his feet, I would just like to ask him about the organisation to which he belonged and many of his colleagues who had dual membership. Was he some sort of Colonel Blimp who did not realise that they were out killing Catholics while he was doing his duty?"

TUV MLA Jim Allister: "That is absolutely shameful, shameful, from a killer."

Mr Deputy Speaker: "Order. I ask members to have good temper and regard for what they are saying. Mr Elliott, you have an extra minute."

Mr Elliott: "Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. For someone who is a convicted terrorist to make such scurrilous remarks against the people who uphold law and order in this province is shameful. Why does he not go to Mr McGuinness and tell him to come and give the evidence that he should..."

Mr Sheehan: "How many of your friends and colleagues were in the UDA and the UVF?"

Mr Deputy Speaker: "Order."

Mr Elliott: "If I am going to be shouted down, Mr Deputy Speaker, it shows that he does not have the courage. Just like the way he sneaked behind ditches when he was in the Provisional IRA. Is that what he wants to continue to do? This is a democratic process, Mr Sheehan. Something you might not be overly au fait with, but it is what we have here.

"I did not go out and murder people in the streets of Northern Ireland like he and his colleagues did. If he wants Mr McGuinness to come and give information and evidence, he should do so. Mr Kelly refused to give information about the murdered prison officer. Shameful. It is shameful from those people who now declare themselves to be democrats."

Mr Sheehan: "What about the Miami Showband?"

Mr Deputy Speaker: "Order."

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