11 May 2006

New deputy speakers for assembly

BBC


The Stormont government has been suspended since October 2002

Sinn Fein and DUP assembly members have been appointed as deputy assembly presiding officers, NI Secretary Peter Hain has said.

Those appointed on Thursday were Jim Wells, DUP, South Down, and Francie Molloy, Sinn Fein, Mid-Ulster.

Mr Hain also formally confirmed the appointment of former Alliance party deputy leader Eileen Bell as the presiding officer.

Mr Hain said everything was "in place for the assembly's recall on Monday".

He also published the standing orders under which the assembly would operate.

"This is an important step in the process of building towards the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I know that all the parties in the assembly will want to do all they can to ensure that we can once again hand over the reins of power to locally-elected politicians, directly accountable to the people of Northern Ireland."

Executive

Mr Wells said he was "honoured" to be appointed.

"While I count it as a great personal privilege, it is also an honour for the DUP in terms of the tremendous strides forward we have made in representing the people of Northern Ireland as the largest political party," he said.

Mr Molloy said that he would not "chair or take part in debates on issues over which the assembly has no power".

"I will play a full role in trying to get an executive elected and through that allowing the assembly to begin to do its job," he said.

An attempt will be made on 23 May to elect a first and a deputy first minister.

If the parties fail to elect an executive, the 108 members get a further 12 weeks to try to form a multi-party devolved government. If that attempt fails, salaries will stop.

The British and Irish governments would then work on partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement.

Devolved government at Stormont was suspended in October 2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring.

A court case arising from the allegations later collapsed.

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