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]
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.