The impartial speaker

The DUP MLA for Foyle has commented on a Policing matter. Here is what the Assembly website says about the Speaker:

Members must be confident of the impartiality of the Speaker and this is achieved through the operation of a number of conventions. On appointment, the Speaker relinquishes all connections with his Party. He does not participate or vote in any debates in the Assembly, he does not become involved in party politics, nor does he comment on Northern Ireland political matters or on issues of Government policy. When speaking on behalf of the Assembly, the Speaker confines himself to matters relating to the operation of the Assembly. Similarly, he will only make statements to the press on factual or procedural matters relating to the Assembly.

I used to write and get paid, now I read and don’t.

Former UUP staffer, currently living in London. @mjshilliday

  • heck

    the assembly is too hung up on “the British way of doing things”. Do you expect Speaker Nancy Pelosi to “relinquishes all connections with his(sic) Party. He (sic) does not participate or vote in any debates in the Assembly, he (sic) does not become involved in party politics”

    the same goes for grammer schools

  • joeCanuck

    He’s still learning. This is hardly controversial. Give him a break.

  • Ahem

    It’s not even ‘not British’ (parliamentary procedure). Speakers of the Commons have *always* retained the right to speak on (their own) constituency issues. Which is all that Hay has done. For anyone who doesn’t think that the UUP is past the point of no return – I gave you their future [sic]: Shillers.

  • Michael Shilliday


    So the Assembly website is wrong then is it?

  • Ullans

    Heck, for one so good at using Latin, I am surprised at your spelling of grammer (sic)!

  • Hogan

    I remember when Oor Wullie said Nigel Hamilton had concerns about Margaret Ritchies refusal to fund the UDA and people pointed out that any A-level politics student could give Hay a lesson in the division of the 3 arms of government – plenty of people on this site told us to lay off him, ‘he’s new etc….just learning etc’#

    I could be new to Brain surgery?…. just learning it etc, doesn’t change the fact that if i’m a f*cking idiot that it will take me a hell of a long time and many people could die in the meantime.

    In fairness Hay is not to blame, the ignorant of the law seldom are… i’d sack the civil servants that are handsomely paid to advise this bumbling councillor.

    BTW did Durkan ever get an adequate response to his legitmate questions over the serious breaches of protocol.

  • And who will dispose of the Speaker and Chair of the Assembly Commission? Will it be the Butler with the rope in the long gallery?

  • He’s allowed to represent his constituents. Get over it.

    Willie is getting better and making a real effort to be impartial, and is even getting better at standing up to some of the DUP heavy hitters. Unlike some of his Deputies who spend their day interjecting snide comments between speeches and treating members of different parties in different ways. Not that I would ever say anything critical of Michael Shilliday’s party colleagues, of course…

  • fair_deal

    “The impartial speaker”

    Please highlight any partiality in the statment highlighted?

    “On appointment, the Speaker relinquishes all connections with his Party.”

    But not from his constituency. Hence why he continues to receive an office allowance and continues to deliver a constituency service.

    Michael Martin has been known to issue statements

    “he does not become involved in party politics, nor does he comment on Northern Ireland political matters or on issues of Government policy.”

    This isn’t party political or constitutional matter nor has he made it such in his statement. Its a constituency matter. Policing is not under the Assembly’s bailiewick. It depends whether you consider a resource allocation decision a policy or not.

    “When speaking on behalf of the Assembly, the Speaker confines himself to matters relating to the operation of the Assembly. Similarly, he will only make statements to the press on factual or procedural matters relating to the Assembly.”

    He wasn’t speaking on behalf of the Assembly so these don’t apply.

  • Ahem

    [edited by moderator – play the ball]

    What Hay did was consistent with how the Speaker of the Commons behaves; the barely standing orders at Stormont aren’t. [edited by moderator – play the ball]

    Still, keep on knocking another Unionist for objecting to police stations closing. And again, being so very old, I have to ask:[edited by moderator – play the ball]

  • barr140172

    Here is another one where Willie behaved oddly.

    During last year’s debate on personal care, the Alliance submitted an amendment. Iris Robinson vigously opposed it (though she was not speaking for the committee in that regard. Though perhaps she was mindful of her husband’s concerns regarding the cost).

    Anyway, the Alliance proposed an amendment in favour of free personal care. It went first to an “aye” or “nay”. Inexplicably, Willie in his wisdom declared that the “nays” (that is to say the DUP and others) had it.

    David Ford then stood up and questioned this and demanded a vote. It is very unusual not to call a vote if the matter seems in any way close.

    Willie then agreed to call a vote. When he did, it became clear that there was a majority for the amendment – not against it.

    It is extraordinary that Willie misjudged this so badly. While he seemed to hear the DUP “nays” quite clearly, he had difficulty picking up that there were in fact a greater number of “ayes” and did not appear to appreciate the need to call a vote.

    Whatever the reason for this, and I do not imply a bad one, he should not be speaker if he gets basic matters like this wrong.

  • Hogan


    “He’s allowed to represent his constituents. Get over it.”

    Well then just let his constituency staff fill in the DLA & Housing forms like everyone elses and get on with it.

    Some valid points are made above re: assembly’s remit not including policing etc.

    However would it be possible that the standards set out above are a bare minimum and it would be prudent for Wullie to strive to excell himself.

    When he took the job some people accused his detractors of intellectual snobbery saying that Wullie was an able politician.

    I don’t doubt he is an able politician, he can shake hands on the canvass as well anyone and due to his colloquial style probably better than most?

    However as an able Parliamentarian which the role of speaker requires? [edited by moderator – play the ball]

  • However as an able Parliamentarian which the role of speaker requires? well as least he’ll never be as bad as one of the DUPes other offerings to western Democracy!

    I take it he’s one of your locals?


  • Who is sammy morse?!

    Sammy I’ve noticed you and your distinctive waistcoat have received quite a bit of media attention lately, Methinks you would make a good candidate in West Belfast…

    Or is it just a case of spending too much time in the great hall, and always funnily enough around a camera? Should you not be working instead of trying to see yourself on the news!

  • Hogan


    “I take it he’s one of your locals?


    Did you have the misfortune to catch the debate on the St Lucia barracks etc? It was like watching a P2 pupil trying to muddle through ‘Peter and Jane go to the seaside’

    To answer your question? No he is not one of my locals and for that i get down on my knees every night and thank Our Blessed Virgin, Mary, Queen of the Gael for that small mercy. 😉

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Play the ball not the man

  • GavBelfast

    Very poor, Michael, even by the very modest standards we’ve become used to.

  • FYI

    [edited by moderator – play the ball]

    I remeber on the first day Alderdice was Speaker he “on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland” congratulated Trimble and Mallon on being appointed FM and DFM Designate. What Hay has said doesn’t even come close to that.

    [edited by moderator – play the ball]

  • Michael Shilliday

    I’m glad the DUP press office aren’t asleep.

    First, take a look at the report:

    A DUP assembly member has said he fears the PSNI are preparing to close a station in the north west.

    The DUP don’t have an MLA in Foyle. Maybe the BBC’s mistake then. Except it isn’t. Here is the press release on Londonderry DUP’s website

    Along with one other this year

    Is this cutting all ties with his party?

  • Mike


    Your version of the free personal care vote isn’t quite accurate.

    The ‘nays’ clearly won the oral vote – check Hansard, David Ford did not dispute this. he said that the convention was that when an oral vote was close, a division was called.

    The ‘ayes’ then won a close vote as they were able to get some more members out to vote.

  • Rory

    By convention the Speaker of the House of Commons is not opposed (at least by the mainstream parties) at a parliamentary election. Thus effectively he is the sole parliamentary representative of his constituents and so there would seem clearly to be a case for his raising matters that effect them.

    The problem arises however that any issue which affects one (or more) of his constituents is likely to have wider political connotations which may well be the subject of inter-party dispute and so he keeps silent. But that silence applies only within the House in session and in public or via the media. To compensate of course the Speaker may be thought to have immense influence on other MP’s when it comes to having matters which affect his constituents raised in the House and no doubt has the ear of any Minister he needs to approach.

    All in all a bit silly, a bit secret and more than a bit unfair, but nobody seems to eager to complain.

    I should have thought that it would be best if upon election to the Speaker’s chair the incumbent be obliged to resign his parliamentary seat. That way his constituents have equal representation by a member on the floor of the House and the Speaker is freed from the burden (and potential conflict) of representation.

    But of course the best solution, in my opinion, would be just to blow the whole bloody place to hell. Still, a man can’t have everything.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    No more warnings. Next contravention of the ball not man rule gets carded.

  • David Ford

    Barr (no 11) and Mike (no 20)

    If you check Hansard,
    you will see that the person occupying the chair when I challenged his ruling was not Mr Speaker Hay, but Mr Deputy Speaker McClarty.

    Unusually, Hansard records:
    Mr Deputy Speaker: The Question is that amendment No 1 standing on the Marshalled List be made [ie the Alliance amendment]. All those in favour say “Aye”.

    Some Members: Aye.

    Mr Deputy Speaker: Contrary, if any, “No”.

    Some Members: No.

    Some Members: Aye.

    Some Members: No.

    Mr Deputy Speaker: The Noes have it.

    The Question is that amendment No 2 standing on the —

    Mr Ford: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It has been a precedent in this Assembly that, when a significant number of voices are raised, there has always been a recorded Division. On what grounds have you refused to grant a Division on amendment No 1?

    Mr Deputy Speaker: One has to find out what the definition of “significant number” is, Mr Ford. The very clear indication of the House was that the Noes had it. [Interruption.] Order.

    Mr Ford: Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I was not querying your interpretation of the sounds made in the Chamber; I was making the point that there was a precedent in cases in which a significant number of voices were raised. Indeed, after a similar vote five years ago, the voices of only five Members were accepted and a Division granted. Clearly more than five Members shouted “Aye” today.

    Some Members: Hear, hear.

    Mr Deputy Speaker: It is my intention, therefore, to put the Question again.

    Normal practice for Hansard would be to record that the question was put and the result. I assume the full record was included because of Mr McClarty’s dubious decision.

    So your points about disputing an opinion on a Division are valid, but this episode was not Willie Hay’s fault.

  • Bigger Picture

    I love the way you get so jumped up over the smallest little thing the DUP does Michael. It may actually be something important some day, but then again probably not

  • Queen’s YU

    “The DUP don’t have an MLA in Foyle”

    Michael could you really get any more anal?

    One thing is for sure though – the UUP will NEVER have an MLA in Foyle.

  • barr

    Fair point Mr Ford. I stand corrected. Apologies to Willie Hay. It’s Mr McClarty who needs his earwax cleaned!

    Another odd thing about that debate was the tabling of two contradictory amendments on the one issue. Normally, I would have thought that if one passed, other contradictory ones would fall.