This afternoon, Speaker McLaughlin chaired proceedings, welcoming MLAs back the Assembly and led the new elected members through the process of signing the undertaking and the roll of membership.
After lunch, the MLAs returned to the chamber to elect a new Speaker and three deputy speakers. Arlene Foster nominated Robin Newton, saying that he was a “conciliator”. Martin McGuinness said he had “no difficulty whatsoever supporting” the nomination. An oral vote confirmed his election, and Speaker McLaughlin vacated the chair for his successor.
In a humorous moment, Speaker Newton thanked the Assembly for its “radical move of electing a speaker from outside Derry”!
There were only three nominations for deputy speaker: Caitríona Ruane, Patsy McGlone and Danny Kennedy. A long “Nooooo” from Jim Allister indicated his opposition to the Sinn Féin nomination. The lobbies were cleared, but since only one teller came forward for the Noes, the Ayes won without further vote. All three were elected and the piece of performance art concluded.
Martin McGuinness nominated Caitríona Ruane for the position of Principal Deputy Speaker and looked forward to the Assembly having a woman Speaker again later in the term. The process is to take one proposal and vote on it, and only if that fails to achieve cross community support seek further proposals.
Mike Nesbitt indicated that he would be proposing Danny Kennedy. Column Eastwood said that the position of Principal Deputy Speaker was “pointless” and he wouldn’t be nominating anyone.
Jim Allister welcomed Speaker Newton to his role and said he hoped this meant that the National Anthem would be restored to the annual remembrance service “and my staff member [Sammy Morrison] can cancel his singing lessons”. He went on to criticise Caitríona Ruane at length.
After walking through the lobbies, the motion was carried with cross community consent.
Immediately afterwards Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness were appointed (not ‘elected’ as Jim Allister later pointed out) as First and deputy First Ministers by their party’s nominating officers.