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Stormont Estate

Part of Adjournment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 7:45 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin 7:45 pm, 19th January 2016

I thank my colleague Robin Newton for introducing the topic, and I asked Sinn Féin whether I could speak on it, because I believe very strongly that Parliament Buildings and the estate are a great asset of our community. They are a great treasure of the city of Belfast, and I echo the comments made by my friend and colleague Mr Douglas that we need to make maximum use of the estate.

Mr Speaker, I know that you do not follow Twitter, but, every morning when I come in, I take a picture of the estate. There was a fog rolling in this morning, but I was glad to see that disappear during the day. I like to see people in those pictures, and, for me, that is the test of whether this is a people's estate and a people's Building. If I take a picture in the morning and there are no people about, my heart sinks, because, really, the test of our ability to throw the Building and the estate open is that there should be people around and being seen running, walking, walking their dogs and admiring the place. As Mr Newton said, there should be tourists here. I think that all of us want to see that maximised in the time ahead. Sammy had to jump through a number of hoops to try to get a wedding picture at the castle.

I want to pay tribute to the generosity of the staff in this Building. Of course, there are the wonderful ground staff that we have, who make the estate look magnificent, but there is also the generosity of the ushers who are here, the cafe staff, the tour staff, the education staff. The grace and generosity with which they welcome people is truly tremendous, and they make it fun and enjoyable to visit the estate and the Building.

There are still a number of small restrictions. You may not know, Mr Speaker, that, when they come into the Chamber, visitors are not allowed to sit in the Speaker's Chair. Maybe in the time ahead someone will look at that. I do not know whether you know that that is a rule. At City Hall, that is the big thrill. It is the big money that you get to sit —