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

The Northern Ireland Assembly advises that: “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.”

As we know, Willie Hay never did that, and his party never stopped claiming him (PDF).

Now we learn that he “will have to” be a DUP candidate in the forthcoming election.  This of course is simply not true, he has chosen to stand as a DUP candidate, when he could just as easily have stood as an independent or, as is precedent in Scotland, not stood at all (although to be scrupulously fair, it is precedent in Wales for the Speaker Presiding Officer to stand as a Party candidate, but that doesn’t make it right).

What gets me about this is that it continues to be the advice of his own office, according to it’s website, that it is the breaking of connections with his party that provides the cornerstone of his impartiality, yet he has chosen to continue periodically releasing statements claiming to be the DUP MLA for Foyle, and will spend the rest of this Assembly as a DUP candidate planning an election campaign in Londonderry in opposition to members he has to adjudicate between.

I look forward to reading the UUP manifesto.  I have no idea if there is anything on this in it, but I know that there should be.

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

Former UUP staffer, currently living in London. @mjshilliday

  • Drumlins Rock

    Michael, it is a tough one, espically in this case where Willie Hay is the only unionist represenative from our 2nd city, if completely neutral then those people are un represented, however playing party politicals in Foyle prevents him from being fully neutral in the assembly chair, a role that will increase if proper opposition develops, and we have no doubt the SinnDup coalition will exploit as usual to crush any descent.
    My suggestion would be that with our generous system of co-option the speaker resigns from his constituency and a replacement is co-opted, possibly a one seat made up constituency could be created for the speaker?

  • PaulT

    DR, interesting points, the Speakers in various Houses have always amused me as they offer the same representation as abstaining SFers do but its rarely touched upon,

    I find it even worse that it is impossible for locals to actually vote for active representation as the Speaker automatically re-elected,

    Considering the ire directed at SF, at least voters have an opportunity to vote for someone else.

    Why can’t the Speakers role be filled by a senior Civil Servant?

    And politicans get on with the job they were elected for

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

    Michael, I’ve looked at that statement. Can you produce a basis for it from the regulations?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Paul, the sytem generally works ok in the UK because of the large number of MPs, athough the Isle of Wight, Shetlands, Hebrides, Cornwall etc. might not be happy if thier MP was unable to fully represent them, however the same applies with government ministers so it works over their.
    I think it should still be “one of their own” but dont like the southern system as it distorts the vote in that constituency.

  • PaulT,

    In the case of Westminster, you are correct about voters being effectively disenfrachised by the automatic re-election of the Speaker. But in a multi-seat system such as NI, your vote still counts for the other five seats. In the case of Foyle, this means there is a good chance of electing a second unionist in the seat, although the odds are longer due to the larger quota in a five-seater.

    Also remember that although the Speaker may not engage in party politics, he can still represent his constituents in local matters.

  • Drumlins Rock

    PS, to add to my “makey up constituency” I think it should be central in the country, for example the islands in lough Neagh, so he/she would be MLA for the Isles of Neagh, 🙂

    ( get it Ayes & Neahs ? )

  • Michael Shilliday

    There are no black letter rules about the impartiality, the only precedent is contained in Erskine May, which Hay trots out for discipline, and general Westminster conventions.

  • *sigh* the ability to delete comments would be greatly appreciated right about now…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Drumlins Rock!!
    Ayes and Neaghs!…..Youve erned my respect with that one. Id never foyle an attempt at humour.

  • joeCanuck

    Regardless, I think Hay has done a reasonable job of being impartial in his rulings.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    joe canuck….I think youre right. I think Mr Shillidays point is more about “convention” and flummery on the Commons or Dáil module.
    The Speaker of the House of Representatives is a partisan politician. And the Speaker of the Senate is the Vice President.
    So essentially its no big deal…..the present controversy over John Bercow (and indeed Sally Bercow) is as much because of the convention breaking….shining a light on the whole non-existent mystique of Parliament.
    Indeed a lot of the narrative about “Gorbals Mick” Martin was about how he didnt look or sound the part.

    I dont see how Mr Hay (who is discharging his duties very well and is an absolute credit in rebuking “party colleagues Bell and Wilson” for lack of respect to Conall McDevitt & Pól Callaghan.
    How could he more neutral by being unelected and giving the Assembly a bogus mystique.
    Id be more convinced by Mr Shillidays point if he called for Mr Hay to resign from the “loyal orders”. But presumably thats different.
    Total non issue.

  • Cynic2

    And just when has The Speaker not fairly and impartially discharged his duties?

  • Joe, Willie Hay seems to have done a decent job. One of his deputies, David McClarty UUP, was deselected!

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Mr Hay should resign.
    Mr McClarty the Deputy take over.
    Mr McClarty should be elected unopposed for the Assembly in May.
    This would make just five seats to be elected in May (hmmm rather unfortunately the UUP might lose out) but on principle, who could possibly object? 🙂

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nevin, some would say David McClarity by taking the neutrality of the office serious paid the price, it would be interesting to see if it had an effect on Francy Molloy’s profile too, but having 3 “neutrals” and protected seats in a future smaller assembly would be excessive, so the deputies are caught betweeen a rock and a hard place.

  • Drumlins Rock

    * bit hard to be unopposed in a 6 seat constituency !

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    “Unopposed=automatically returned in a multi seat constituency.

  • DR, I don’t know for sure why David got dumped. I doubt if his role as deputy speaker would have been a factor.

  • Drumlins Rock

    was being pedantic FJH, 🙂

    and not directly Nevin I’m sure, but generally as a role deputy speaker is a role that dosnt increases you profile sufficiently enough to make up for the restaints, real or percieved, of the job.

  • DR, John Dallat, the SDLP deputy speaker, maintains quite a high profile.

  • Drumlins Rock

    true Nevin, its a funny one even at Westminster, the Speakers role is virtually sacrosanct, but deputies are jut like the rest, even though carry out much the same roles, without the best flat in London as a perk.

  • pauluk

    I’m not sure what the fuss is about.

    Hay is obviously a man of integrity, otherwise he wouldn’t have such widespread cross-community support.

    Just let the man get on with his job and stop splitting hairs!

  • dodrade

    Willie Hay will almost certainly go back to being an ordinary DUP MLA after the Assembly election. To quote Paisley from Hansard at the time of Hay’s appointment, “I acknowledge that at the next Assembly election, we will support a candidate drawn from the other side of the House.”

  • cushyglenn

    correct- next speaker will be Molloy