Poots village idiot remarks showed poor handling from the Speaker…

It’s not always easy to judge when something useful or interesting or important is going on in any parliamentary body. But given how glacial progress is through Stormont it is a hard station squeezing anything consequential. Last week the big controversary was the Minister for Health’s failure to apologise for calling his parliamentary colleague a ‘village idiot’.

However that story sort of died when Stephen Nolan brought in Matthew Parris in to talk about the matter, who was frankly surprised at the Speaker’s demand for an apology. He pointed out that in Westminster, the convention is rather more functional and to the point. The offending party is asked to withdraw the remark, leaving the Speaker free to take further action if they refuse.

Ken Reid notes, this was probably the only interesting thing all week. As for the Speaker, it may be the ideal moment of quiet now the heat has passed to review just how he handles such incivilities in future.

Whilst I don’t for a moment believe there was any evidence of old party loyalities kicking in here, in effect because of the Speaker’s weak handling of the issue the Minister has got away with unparliamentary language…


  • The door is open for McCarthy to retaliate as and when at a time of his own choosing with no intervention from the Speaker. May I suggest “global idiot” given Pootsie’s dogmatic principle that the earth is 4,000 years old.

  • dennis the menace

    Except of course he didnt call him a village idiot, more that McCarthy was “in the style” of a village idiot..

  • Mick Fealty
  • Pete Baker

    And Chairing the debate at the time was the principal Deputy Speaker Mr Francie Molloy (Sinn Féin).

  • Mick Fealty

    Aha. the plot thickens.

  • Lionel Hutz

    It was still biased. The response to the likes of Jim Allister and I recall one incident with Dominic Bradley – hardly a disruptive influence- for speaking Irish for too long.

    Matthew Paris was right as far as his observation went. But this issue was not how inconsequential the statement was. It was the different treatment handed out to different parties. We all know that if McCarthy had said that to Poots, the result would have been different.

    And why shy away from calling the party bias when’s its there for all to see

  • sbelfastunionist

    Not sure Hay did handle this weakly. He made clear the Minister was out of line and called a meeting in his office to ensure the Minister apologised and Members in the past have been given a chance to apologise before any other action is taken However, his other comments are interesting on how other Members dealt with the issue and it is clear that Alliance mishandled the issue by playing politics with it and demanding blood. I am sure Hay was highly impressed with McCarthy going on Nolan and giving a detailed account of his discussions with him. But overall, I think most people will join in despair that this schoolboy squabble was a big issue and it was right to move it on. I would like to see the Health Minister dealing with health issues funnily enough.

  • sbelfastunionist

    Just on the biased remark – who are the only two Members Hay has put out of the Assembly Chamber? Iris Robinson and Nelson McCausland. Biased of course

  • cynic2


    \Well, McCarthy’s interventions to date don’t mark him out as one of the great thinkers of Stormont

  • Cynic 2

    Would you like to share your list of great thinkers?

  • Mick Fealty


    By weakly I meant the onus should have been on a unilateral withdrawal of the remark. No question in my mind that Willie was being prejudiced, I’ve fiund generally to be straight as a dye. I only mean weak as in he let the situation get out of his control.

  • Damn, articles @ 8:36 pm got to it first!

    Isn’t there a disconnect between the two words “Stormont” and “thinker”, anyway?

  • Many of this island from previous generations received a one-way passage to Australia.

    Let us now take instruction from them on how the thing should be properly done. After all, it might just raise an uptick for those dreary, deadly longueurs when Stormont is on BBC Parliament.


    There’s even a webpage — http://australianinsult.wordpress.com/

  • sbelfastunionist

    Mick, that’s a fair enough point though the fact that the Assembly went into recess probably didn’t help.

  • sbelfastunionist. You deliberately avoided the real issue of hay’s mishandling, in that it was the acceptance of a PRIVATE apology by his party colleague for an insult made publicly. You wouldn’t accept such conditions if the roles were reversed I suppose?.

  • sbelfastunionist


    I would actually, an apology is an apology no matter where it is delivered. If McCarthy had have attended, I’m not sure how he could have lost out by announcing that the Minister was summoned to apologise personally to him rather than a performance in the chamber. As I indicated earlier my view on this is that Poots was foolish to make the remark and he should have apologised himself at the time but unless it is something particularly obscene or offensive MLAs should be big boys and girls and not drag things out.

  • Shibboleth

    This sort of chatter comes from the son of the First Minister and MLA Spratt too. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen ad hom language in official amendments before as this example demonstrates:-http://www.castlereagh.gov.uk/Documents/minutes/2011/march/Council110324.pdf (see pages 15-16).

    The following amendment was proposed by Councillor Robinson and seconded by Councillor Spratt.
    “This Council resolves that its Management Team will continue to provide leadership and direction to the Council; recognises that the existing arrangements have contributed to making Castlereagh “the Premier Borough”; welcomes the structure that brings policy makers and decision takers together with expert managers and administrators to benefit the community we all serve; accepts that these arrangements do not prevent the non-elected Members of the Management Team meeting separately when appropriate; notes that the system of bringing elected leaders together at Management level with departmental officials is now being advocated and undertaken in the UK as best practice; believes, particularly in the context of a Council that has a single party majority, that it makes common sense for the agenda to be driven by those who are elected by the ratepayers to represent their interests; repudiates the dim-witted thinking of the Alliance Party who contend that Castlereagh should automatically apply the same processes and practices followed by every other Council in Northern Ireland and asserts that it is because Castlereagh has consistently refused to follow the crowd that the Borough has the lowest Rates, the best facilities, unsurpassed services and is recognised to be the brand leader in local government”

  • sbu Fair enough on criticism of Poots but there is still a distinction between a member who has been insulted ‘telling the chamber that an apology was given’, and the chamber hearing it for themselves. Poots colleague Sammy is handy enough with the insults at party conferences. I’m surprised at Hay letting this go. He’s generally scrupulously impartial.

  • cynic2

    “Would you like to share your list of great thinkers?”

    ….now you mention it …….

  • “Many of this island from previous generations received a one-way passage to Australia.”

    Malcolm, is there a connection between this sentence and the rest of your post, never mine the theme of the thread? Are you referring to people of the rose, the leek and the thistle or to those of the shamrock?

  • Nevin @ 9:39 am:

    Sorry: the intention was “these islands”. This iPoddery lark beat me. Again.

    For the record, I have an ancestor’s brother “on the boat” in 1793, somehow failing to be recorded on arrival, and dying back home near-half-a-century later.

    My sympathies are with the girls and guys without the option of the trip, irrespective of the flora involved.

    As for those “great thinkers” of Stormont, an Australian might pronounce: “Had they dynamite for brains, they still couldn’t blow their own snouts.” So, here’s hoping the great eejit/idiot bust might (dis)improve standards of rhetoric around BT4 3XX. For entertainment value, more of the XX, if you please.

  • Would you like to share your list of great thinkers?”

    ….now you mention it …….

    Perhaps I can help, there’s Wilson Green, Head of the Policy Planning Unit ; he’s always raising his eyes to the heaven and ion so doing scanning the horizon, and on occasion he even climbs onto the roof of Parliament Buildings, I suspect, to look beyond the horizon.

    He forgets where he is sometimes and has to be talked down but I admire a man who can publicly say out loud “Give me strength” and call upon Jesus Christ
    to provide direction.

  • Shibboleth

    In the same speech by Poots he used the word “stupid” with reference Jim Allister.

    Village Idiots to the left of me,
    Stupid to the right,
    Here I am stuck in the middle with you
    (C) The Health Minister 2012

  • MR. I don’t expect there’ll be a swap arrangement with the Danish govt to have the staue in Copenhagen up at Stormont, and for Carson to be sent to them, somehow.