23 May 2006

Stormont proves a cold house for newspaper reporters

Belfast Telegraph

By Marie Foy
23 May 2006

The Press have been barred for a second time from events in Parliament Buildings.

Reporters were not allowed to attend an address to the Assembly by Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell yesterday - even though the proceedings were televised.

Arrangements for the "private address" were made by the Speaker of the Assembly Eileen Bell's office and Mr McConnell's office.

A week ago Mrs Bell's office came under fire for refusing to allow press photographers into the debating chamber of the Assembly for its historic opening.

Newspapers from around the world were forced to lift images from TV footage in a decree which contradicted previous rulings by the former Speaker Lord Alderdice.

Yesterday's session was held in the Senate and was recorded by the permanently installed cameras.

A Stormont spokesman said: "This was a private address by the First Minister of Scotland to MLAs.

"Arrangements for the media were made between the Speaker's office and Mr McConnell's office.

"It does not mean that press will be excluded from any future meetings. Each event is dealt with separately."

The spokesman also pointed out that the Senate was a small room with limited space.

Mr McConnell told MLAs of the benefits he believes devolution has brought to Scotland.

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