Fascinating short exchange this morning between Declan O’Loan (SDLP North Antrim), the Speaker and latterly Mervyn Storey (DUP North Antrim). O’Loan interjects a point of order asking the Speaker for a ruling on whether Mitchel McLoughlin (SF South Antrim) is permitted to make party political points whilst speaking as Chair of the Finance Committee. He had referenced the superior nature of Peter Robinson’s funding from Whitehall to the monies secured by ‘David Trimble and Mark Durkan’. This was followed by a point of order from Storey who accused the SDLP of hypocrisy when Patsy McGlone (SDLP Mid Ulster) had referenced the travails of Ian Paisley Junior in an earlier feedback to the Assembly plenary. The Speaker ruled since the MLA had flagged up he was going to be making remarks both in a formal and party political capacity he would sustain him. He also indicated that there was a problem of elision on this point. That MLAs have a tendency to over run the latitude he allowed them. It’s an interesting point, to which I cannot find a ready answer in Standing Orders. Should a Chair of a legislative committee stick strictly to feeding back the opinions of his/her committee, or is some latitude desirable? If the latter, how much?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty