Operations of the Assembly

Part of Assembly Standing Orders – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 8th March 1999.

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Photo of Robert McCartney Robert McCartney UKUP 4:00 pm, 8th March 1999

The First Minister (Designate) asks where that is. I got the impression that he had consigned responsibility for the care of his children to the lady of the house. Many people, in the modern world, would consider that to be sexist and to have overtones of male chauvinism.

However, I have some sympathy for what the First Minister (Designate) has said. Anyone who is involved in public life, in Government, or in the work of the Assembly, is involved in a public duty. Such public duty, from time to time, calls for sacrifices in our domestic lives. Members of the Assembly who are also Members of the House of Commons will know that. Members, such as Mr Hume and Mr Paisley, who are also Members of the European Parliament have sacrificed a great deal of their domestic lives to public service.

The First Minister (Designate) has a point when he says that there is much business to be conducted in addition to attendance in the Chamber. I think that we should have a trial period for the times given in the proposed Standing Orders, whether they be family-friendly or not, to see if they are suitable. The First Minister (Designate) has agreed not to pursue this issue at this stage. Many Members may well have grave reservations as to whether these times will be suitable in practice.

Those who have spoken about the long distances travelled by some Members should bear in mind that many Members of Parliament have to be away from their families from Monday to Friday.