Points of Order

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:45 am on 15th December 1999.

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Photo of Mr Roger Hutchinson Mr Roger Hutchinson DUP 11:45 am, 15th December 1999

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you aware that the Sinn Féin/IRA Members are using the Irish version of "MLA", which is "TD"? Is this proper? If not, will you please ask them to desist. If it is in order, will you please inform the House what the Ulster-Scots version of "MLA" is.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

The only authorised designation is "MLA" — "Member of the Legislative Assembly". That, of course, does not mean that Members may not describe themselves in another way. Members often describe themselves — and even more frequently other Members — in all sorts of ways. [Laughter] These may be authoritative and even accurate, but they are not authorised by the Standing Orders.

I am, I regret to say, neither a student of nor in any way familiar with the Irish language or even Ulster-Scots. However, seeing that these matters were being raised in the press, I looked into them a little. I cannot offer an authorised version, as it were. However, my understanding is that were this a Parliament duly recognised and described as such, the term "Teachta Dála", abbreviated to "TD", would be appropriate.

However — and the Minister referred earlier to the negotiations and what went on there — all Members are aware that such matters were part of the negotiations. The decision was made that this would be described as an Assembly, not as a Parliament. Therefore, as I understand it, the term "Teachta Dála" would not be appropriate. This is a legislative assembly, and its Members are described as MLAs, as, in many cases, are the Members of the provincial Assemblies in Canada and the state Assemblies in Australia.

So far as any abbreviations are concerned, I understand that for "Member of the Legislative Assembly" the term "Teachta" would be quite appropriate. This has come to be the term used, I understand, for a political representative — a Member of an Assembly. The word that is used to describe this Assembly in the Irish version of the agreement is "Tionól", not "Dáil". Since this is a legislative Assembly, I understand, the word "Reachtach" would be appropriate to describe "legislative". It would be "Teachta den Tionól Reachtach" or "TTR". There is little doubt that there are other variations. I do not claim to speak with great authority. I understand, for example, that the word "Comhalta" rather than "Teachta" would be an appropriate translation of "Member".

With regard to Ulster-Scots, I understand that a reasonable translation of "Member of the Legislative Assembly " would be "Laa-makin Forgaitherer" — "LMF". If one regards "laa-makin" as a hyphenated term, "LF" would be appropriate.

These are my best endeavours. I trust that they will provide some guidance to Members. Having said that, perhaps I may proceed to the appointment of the Heid-yins and Deputy Heid-yins of the Committees. [Laughter]

Photo of Mr Roger Hutchinson Mr Roger Hutchinson DUP

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I simply asked whether this was right or wrong.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

As the Minister of Finance and Personnel advised earlier, one must be very careful what one asks for. One sometimes gets it. [Laughter]

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

Mr Speaker, it may have escaped your notice that, in the course of your eloquence, the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure left the Chamber.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

As a member of his party, you can say that. I could not possibly comment. We will proceed to the running of the d’Hondt procedure for the —

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

Reference has been made to the issue of having an independent Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. Indeed, the Minister of Finance and Personnel agreed with that point. Can you confirm, Mr Speaker, that if the nominating officers of the four larger parties so wished they could decline to nominate, even if that were the only post remaining? Are they obliged to make a nomination if they wish that post to be independent?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

They are not obliged to make a nomination. If they do make a nomination, it has to be a member of their own party. In the case of the Public Accounts Committee, unlike some of the others, that person cannot be a member of the party to which the Minister of Finance and Personnel belongs.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. If each nominating officer declined to nominate for a position, would it eventually come to the nominating officer of one of the totally oppositional parties? My party would be prepared to leave that position free if the other nominating officers were prepared to give an undertaking to do likewise.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

I can respond only on the point of procedure. If nominations had not been made when the 15-minute allowance expired, the eventuality that the Member describes would come to pass. However, it is not for me nor for Members to engage in debate on this matter. Procedurally, what the Member says is correct.

Photo of Gerry Adams Gerry Adams Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. What is a totally oppositional party?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

That is a very good question. There all sorts of ways in which the words "totally oppositional" might be applied in this context. I took it that the Member was referring to parties that were not in the Executive, though I may have been mistaken.

Photo of David Ervine David Ervine PUP

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps you could add "and not in receipt of any patronage from the Government or any of the four Government parties".

Photo of Gerry Adams Gerry Adams Sinn Féin

Further to the point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you agree that the DUP’s relationship is not so much totally oppositional as semi-detached?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

I am not sure how to address either of those two points of order. It would not be wise for me to comment on either of them, for they are not points of procedural order. They may be points of political order, but that is another matter.