“What was done jointly by the first and deputy first minister cannot be undone unilaterally”

The BBC has a report on the “detailed letter” the Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker, the DUP’s Robin Newton, has sent to all MLAs ahead of a no confidence motion on Monday.  It had been reported in December that he intended to send the letter to opposition MLAs.  From the BBC report

 

He wrote that, five days before Mrs Foster’s statement, the Speaker’s office received a “valid notice seeking the recall of the assembly” which bore the signatures of both the first and deputy first ministers.

However, on the night before the emergency sitting, his office received an “unsigned email in the name of the deputy first minister” which stated that Mrs Foster’s statement did not reflect the views of Mr McGuinness and that he was “withdrawing his agreement”.

The Speaker said he received advice that the initial recall of the assembly was valid as both the first and deputy first ministers had agreed to it, but that Mr McGuinness could not then act alone to prevent the recall.

“What was done jointly by the first and deputy first minister cannot be undone unilaterally,” Mr Newton wrote.

The Speaker insisted that he did not consult anyone from the DUP about the situation and had “acted solely on the basis of official advice”.

However, he acknowledged that it had been a “very difficult day” and that “business could have been managed better”.

“I admit that I was not prepared for the extent of the frustrations which were exhibited in the chamber from that point on the day.”

Mr Newton also added that he was “disappointed that no recognition has been given to the role of the Executive Office in creating this scenario”.

He said the first and deputy first ministers should not “lightly seek the recall of the assembly without ensuring that agreement is secured and maintained on the business to be transacted”.

A few points to note on this.  As Mick said, “That’s joint authority people.”

And, as I believe has also been mentioned on Slugger, the 14 December NI Executive Office statement on the joint authority recall of the Assembly noted that the recall was to “facilitate a full statement to be made by the First Minister”.

The [NI First and deputy First] Ministers said: “We have today asked the Speaker to convene a special sitting of the Assembly early next week to address issues surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive.

“This will facilitate a full statement to be made by the First Minister to Members on the matters of public concern relating to RHI.

“RHI was discussed by the Executive today and Ministers around the table underlined the seriousness of the issues involved and the importance of restoring public confidence.

“It was also emphasised that detailed plans are being finalised to significantly reduce the projected losses in the years ahead.”

Finally, as Mick mentioned briefly in this post, that “unsigned email in the name of the deputy first minister”, sent on the night before the emergency sitting, “withdrawing his agreement” for the recall of the NI Assembly, was sent after the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, TD, and others, met with the unwell deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, in Londonderry.

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