Slugger O'Toole

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Speaker of the NI Assembly [threatens to go] out on protest…

Wed 12 December 2012, 10:48am

Apparently the Speaker of the Assembly is now talking about going out on the streets…

Update: Ah, not just yet

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Comments (17)

  1. Garibaldy (profile) says:

    Disappointed Mick you didn’t go for the obvious joke in the headline here

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  2. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Argh, go on… [Admits privately that he still can't see it!]

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  3. Garibaldy (profile) says:

    Willie’s Out in Protest was surely the appropriate headline

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  4. Garibaldy (profile) says:

    Or DUP Willie’s Out in Protest (Not the Finance Minister) – that sort of thing

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  5. RegisterForThisSite (profile) says:

    in this weather Garibaldy…..it would be a small protest

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  6. tacapall (profile) says:

    Willie should resign how can he be impartial and defend the rights of those members who support the opposite of what he disagrees with.

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  7. Alone and Easy Target (profile) says:

    Tacapall,

    Mr Hay has been pretty objective as a speaker although he has had one or two blips.

    Although he is speaker I believe he is still allowed to be politically active on certain issues?

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  8. RegisterForThisSite (profile) says:

    tac, he’s only got a year and a bit until SF take up the role. Any odds available on that that getting a few protesters out and about in 2014.

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  9. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Willie Hay has been a very good Speaker / Ceann Comhairle throughout his fairly long tenure, the occasional blip aside. He does tend to act the goalkeeper for his own party, but I don’t know of a Speaker / Ceann Comhairle that isn’t guilty of that. (Even the famously independent Mr Bercow is recognisably Tory.)

    But a Speaker / CC isn’t just there to referee debates. The role also involves being the strongest and most robust defender of the integrity of the Assembly.

    It’s hard to see how a Speaker participating in a partisan protest, even a peaceful one*, does not bring the Assembly itself into disrepute.

    And that is perhaps the gravest sin any Speaker / CC can commit.

    (*Talk of ‘peaceful protest’ is ridiculous at this stage. These ‘peaceful protests’ are making citizens afraid to leave their homes. Intimidation is a form of violence against the citizenry, just as surely as is throwing a petrol bomb into a police car, or ramming the gates of the City Hall. There has been a great deal of violence this past week, flowing from the protests. As long as the protests continue, further violence is entirely predictable, and those who call for further protests, or participate in them, share responsibility for the violence which will, entirely predictably, continue to flow from them.)

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  10. GavBelfast (profile) says:

    In my view, he has been a terrible speaker in just about every way I can think of.

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  11. son of sam (profile) says:

    Presumably the first rule for any politician is to get re-elected and Willie is taking no chances with his perceived electorate.By the time of the next Assembly elections,he will no longer be Speaker.All the same it’s hard to imagine Willie lining up with the “hoi polloi” blocking the roads as they were doing in Derry last night.We’ll believe it when we see it.

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  12. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Garibaldy
    “Willie’s Out in Protest was surely the appropriate headline”
    Seems like a bit of a straw man to me.

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  13. GavBelfast (profile) says:

    It’s at times like this that once appreciates the appropriate use – and importance to the intended meaning – of apostrophes, eh?

    ;-)

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  14. simtrib (profile) says:

    Whatever the decision it’s good to see an immigrant from a foreign land rallying behind the union flag, just like Mo Farah.

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  15. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    I thought Willie Hay was a good Speaker on the whole. I can’t think of any decisions where there would be grounds for complaint. Over the years I did keep an eye out for party bias but I never found it. As I recall following last year’s election he was unanimously re-elected and received warm endorsements from all parties.

    That perspective changed on Monday for me as clearly he had received instructions from Robinson given the way he enforced the parameters of the debate with an unusually iron fist. Monday’s debate was a sham orchestrated by the DUP to prevent Alliance representatives who had been in direct receipt of attacks, threats and arson to be heard in the assembly. Then I see today that together with a handful of other DUP representatives he is defying his party leader who asked for the protests to be suspended.

    For me this is not an issue of the Speaker’s neutrality. The Assembly is not the House of Commons and the Speaker has rather more latitude when it comes to issues of local representation. No, the real issue is the participation of DUP MLAs in protests – protests which we have seen in a number of circumstances have incorporated illegal roadblocks in many cases, and in some cases have resulted in arson, riots, and attempted murder.

    Robinson called for the protests to be suspended, and I presume both he and Nesbitt instructed their members not to attend the protests – for a damn good reason, as MLAs or MPs being seen in public associating with protests which turn violent is politically explosive.

    Aside from the whole issue of the violence, disorder and attacks on the police, from a dispassionate approach attending these protests is very bad strategy. A political strategist is a person who asks “which action will win me the most votes” ? Backing the protests – small groups of typically 50-100 people who probably never voted and most likely never will – must be balanced against the votes that will be lost due to people suffering from blocked roads, people not getting home from work (which in turn keeps them away from their families and hampers their efforts to manage the Christmas rush), and damage to trade in Belfast City Centre which is going to ruin businesses and put people out of work. There are no votes in any of that and Robinson knows it.

    Secondly, it’s worth exploring the scale of the protests. Unionist speakers, both politicians and the folks calling in on the radio, keep talking about the anger in the unionist community. I have no doubt the anger is there and is real, but it is an anger that prefers the warmth of the fire and the comfy sofa in front of the TV to being outside registering opposition to the BCC decision – or worse, to being associated with something that could turn violent. Politicians stepping up to include the protests may have the effect of adding an air of legitimacy to an issue that people aren’t bothered enough to do much more other than make a mental note what way they’re going to vote at the next election. But most seriously, they increase the feeling among those blocking roads and using violence that they have the right to continue doing what they are doing.

    The decisions of Willie Hay, Michael Copeland and Sammy Douglas are a stark case of putting self before party before country. They are a sign that the Assembly and our regional government is very rapidly losing the capacity to exist as a credible institution. If it collapses, and I fervently hope it does not, I hope unionists are happy that their fit of pique led to a quasi joint-authority situation where the Alliance politicians they tried to destroy find themselves appointed to various cushy quango jobs to help the British administer the country in a fair and even handed way.

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  16. Garibaldy (profile) says:

    The apostrophe was indeed an important aspect of the putative headline. Disappointed that Mick changed the headline but not to that.

    Hay annoyed me when he banned the use of the words Provisional Sinn Féin in the chamber. I thought that was naughty, and no better illustration of the stitch-up between the big two.

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  17. aquifer (profile) says:

    Local public representatives have been physically attacked and their homes ransacked. Armed gangsters have tried to overturn the result of a democratic vote by a campaign of violence intimidation and attempted murder. These attacks are directed at a party the leader of which is in charge of local law and order and the suppression of criminal gangs.

    This is more than a political campaign to regain the East Belfast Parliamentary seat for one person, this is subversion, a matter for the UK state security services.

    Mr Hay should stay well clear of it.

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