When he’s not facing direct challenges to the authority of the Chair, the Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker, the DUP’s William Hay, is having his opinion on points of order inaccurately presented to the NI Assembly before he has actually ruled on them. In this case by the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr. As the Belfast Telegraph reports.
“I wish to make it clear that those remarks were inaccurate. I take a very dim view of Mr Paisley Jnrs action,” [The Speaker] said. Mr Hay said he encouraged members to come and see him on points of order, and regarded such talks as confidential. Saying he would respond on the unparliamentary language issue in his own time, he said: “I will not allow any other member of the House to try to put words in my mouth.” The Speaker later told MLAs: “I have spoken to the member concerned in private and the member has apologised to me.”
From Hansard, here’s the initial exchange on Tuesday starting with a point of order from Ian Paisley Jnr
Mr Paisley Jnr: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I met with the Speaker this morning and have made him aware that I intend to raise this point of order. Yesterday, in the Chamber, one Member accused another of being, in effect, a liar when he used the unparliamentary term seriously misleading to the Assembly. [Official Report, Vol 42, No 5, p234, col 1 (Added Theyworkforyou link)]. I have asked the Speaker to examine the record, given his ruling of 19 November 2007 in which he ruled that the term misleading the Assembly or misleading the House is unparliamentary language, and I have asked that that language be withdrawn by Mr Declan OLoan, the Member who made the statement about me.
I have also asked the Speaker whether he can bring a ruling expeditiously to the House regarding the use of other unparliamentary language. I was accused yesterday of unparliamentary language in my use of the words cheapest, lowest, dirtiest, meanest, nastiest and cheapest possible. This morning, I received a verbal assurance from the Speaker that my use of that terminology about Mr OLoan was, in his words, perfectly correct and used in the proper context of parliamentary cut and thrust of debate. It is important that that is put on the record.
Mr Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Mr Paisley Jnr, for your point of order. The Speaker is, of course, considering your complaint and will report at a later date.
Mr OLoan: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Yesterday, I raised a point of order and brought matters to the Speakers attention. The Speaker said that he was considering those matters. He has yet to report back to the Assembly. Is it in order for another Member to report at second hand what he says is the view of the Speaker in relation to those matters? It does not seem to me to be in order.
Mr Deputy Speaker: Mr OLoan, I am in no position to comment on that. I am aware that the Speaker is considering the points that were made to him and will report at a later date.
Mr Attwood: Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The point that my colleague Mr OLoan made is a valid one. There is a fundamental issue about whether Members have the right to reflect to the Assembly what they say the Speaker has or has not said, based on private conversations with him outside the Chamber. That is a fundamental issue regarding the privacy of conversations that the Speaker has with Members; the accuracy of what Members then report as the Speakers views; and whether the House will end up being a gossip Chamber that relies on hearsay to give the Speakers views to the wider public.
Mr Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Mr Attwood, for that point of order. As I have said already, the Speaker is considering the issues at hand, and no doubt he will take a strong view on the points that you have raised. I am taking no more points of order on the issue.
And the Speaker, William Hay, in the Chair later in the session
Mr Speaker: Before we proceed to Question Time, I will address a few issues that were raised in the House this morning. A number of Members raised points of order at the start of todays sitting. In all but one case, I will consider them and respond appropriately in due course.
However, I wish to respond immediately to comments that were made by Ian Paisley Jnr in the House this morning. He said that he met me in my office this morning to discuss a point of order that was raised by Mr OLoan yesterday. In that regard, Mr Paisley Jnrs remarks were certainly accurate. However, he went on to make remarks that he attributed to me. I wish to make it clear that those remarks were inaccurate. I take a very dim view of Mr Paisley Jnrs action.
Mr McCartney: Will he go to jail?
Mr Speaker: Order. Members will know that I encourage them to meet me in order to discuss matters that are raised under points of order. I rightly consider such discussions private and confidential, and expect Members to do likewise. Members will know that I operate an open-door policy and that I do not stand on ceremony. If Members want to see me when I am in the office or in the Building, they can do so. I am always willing and able to meet Members to try to resolve any issues that they feel strongly about, whether they concern my rulings or any matter of business in the House. Nevertheless, it is unwise and discourteous of a Member to recount them in the Chamber after a private meeting with me as Speaker. No matter who comes through my door, a private conversation remains private between me and a Member, regardless of the subject of that conversation.
I will respond to the other points of order that were made, particularly that which was raised by Mr OLoan, in my own time and in my own nature. I will not allow any other Member of the House to try to put words in my mouth. I want to make that absolutely clear to the entire House, because it is all about protecting the procedures and business of the Assembly. I would like to think that a Member can come through my door and talk to me on any subject and know that the conversation between us will remain private.