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Assembly:  Presiding Officer and Deputy

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 1st July 1998.

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Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer 2:15 pm, 1st July 1998

The next item on the Order Paper is the election of a Presiding Officer. Are there any proposals?

There being no proposals, and the time for proposals having expired, I shall remain in office in accordance with Standing Order 13(5).

The next item on the Order Paper is the election of a Deputy Initial Presiding Officer.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I mentioned to you, Sir, that I wanted to raise a matter, and you said that I could not do so until that item of business had been disposed of. There is a shadow hanging over the province with regard to the Drumcree parade, and the Assembly should have an opportunity to discuss the matter. May I take it that each party Leader will have 10 minutes on the Adjournment? And will the Independents have an opportunity to take part?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer

In the Adjournment debate Members will be free to raise any issue that they choose, though I imagine that many may wish to talk about the matter to which you refer. I have decided that each of the parties will have 10 minutes during which one person may speak. That may be the Leader or the nominee of the Leader.

I have received other requests that one of the three independent Unionist Members be allowed to speak. Since Mr Watson comes from the area where this matter is at its height, it seems to me not unreasonable that he be given a chance to address the Assembly. He, like other Members, would have 10 minutes.

Of course, no pressure will be put on anyone.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. Can you explain the basis on which you will allow one of the individual Members to speak? You may have a great interest in what he has to say, but he does not constitute a party, and there are other Members from Upper Bann. How do you propose to cater for them?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Initial Presiding Officer

That is a difficult issue. The Standing Orders were intended to deal only with the first meeting and largely with formal business. This obviously goes beyond formal business. If I call only people nominated by parties, three elected representatives here will have no opportunity to speak, no matter how relevant their ideas. Of course, other representatives from the vicinity will have an opportunity to speak as the nominees of their party Leaders.

This is not an entirely satisfactory ruling, but it is the best I can do for the moment. Perhaps a Standing Orders Committee could draw up more detailed rules to cover such an eventuality.

I want to make it clear that my giving a representative of the three independent Members this opportunity to speak does not mean that I am recognising them as a party or as an official group. To do so would confer upon them other privileges and possibly responsibilities or disadvantages. No precedent is being set; I am simply responding to a difficult situation, using the limited guidance in the Initial Standing Orders.

Returning to the matter of the election of a Deputy Initial Presiding Officer, may I ask if there are any proposals?

There are no proposals, and the time has expired.