Monday 22 May 2006

The Assembly met at 2.00 pm (Madam Speaker in the Chair).

Members observed two minutes’ silence.

Assembly Business

Madam Speaker: In accordance with the Northern Ireland Act 2006, the Secretary of State has directed that the Assembly should sit on Monday 22 May 2006 at 2.00 pm to consider business as it appears on the Order Paper.

At the end of the sitting on Monday 15 May, in response to a point of order from Dr Paisley, I advised him that I had published a list, as required under Standing Order 3(g), before 9.30 am, in line with convention. For the sake of accuracy, I should have said that the list was published before 10.30 am, in accordance with Standing Orders.

In a related point of order, Mr Peter Robinson asked me to “clarify the situation” with regard to that list. I have taken advice and counsel on the matter. The list was prepared on the basis of the information that was available at the time, and I have been advised, and am content, that the decision that I took in publishing the list on Monday was proper and in order. Members will be aware that a fresh list must be prepared in advance of any sitting of the Assembly at which Ministers are to be nominated.

Counsel has also advised me that the Clerk to the Assembly should make further enquiries of interested persons with regard to the meaning of the phrase “political party” in the Assembly’s Standing Orders, and letters have been duly sent to party leaders.

The matter is therefore under consideration, and I intend to make a ruling as soon as those considerations have concluded.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In relation to today’s business and procedure, it has been rumoured and broadcast that proposals will be made for a First Minister and his deputy, and according to the bush telegraph, which was engineered by a lady from Canada — so she would know some­thing about that — I am to get the most honourable post of First Minister. I want you to tell us how we will proceed today. I believe that, according to Standing Orders, if a person —

Madam Speaker: Order, Dr Paisley. If you give me a moment, I am about to explain that.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley: Will you call me again then?

Madam Speaker: If necessary.

Election of First Minister
and of Deputy First Minister

Madam Speaker: Before we commence, I wish to explain how I propose to conduct proceedings. I will begin by asking for proposals. Members are reminded that, under Standing Order 15, a proposal must include candidates for both First Minister and Deputy First Minister. If a Member wishes to make a proposal, he or she should rise in his or her place. If a proposal is made, I will ask for the proposal to be seconded, as required by Standing Order 15(d). Each candidate will then be asked whether he or she accepts the nomination. There will be no debate at this stage.

I will then seek further proposals. If further nomi­nations are made, the process of seeking seconders and having nominations accepted will be repeated until there are no further proposals. At that point, if there are valid proposals, Members may, if they choose, commence debate.

I intend to conduct a single debate on all the proposals, and no Member will be permitted to speak more than once. At the end of the debate, or if there is no debate, I shall put the Question that the first pair of candidates be elected as First Minister and as Deputy First Minister on the restoration of devolved government.

Under Standing Order 15, two candidates standing jointly will not be elected to hold the two offices without the support of a majority of the Members voting in the election, a majority of the designated Nationalists voting and a majority of the designated Unionists voting. Should the proposal be carried, I will ask those Members elected to be First Minister and Deputy First Minister to affirm the terms of the Pledge of Office.

If the motion is carried, I will deem the other proposals to have fallen, even though they have not been put to the Assembly for decision. If the proposal is not carried, I shall put the Question in relation to the next pair of candidates, and so on as necessary, until a pair of candidates is elected or all proposals are exhausted. If that is clear, we shall proceed.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley: Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Can I take it that, when proposing a candidate, there is no debate, only the proposal?

Madam Speaker: That is correct. There is no debate until all proposals have been made. Do we have any proposals?

Mr Burnside: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will you give some guidance to the House? Are we electing a First Minister and a Deputy First Minister to the interim Hain Assembly, which will not receive any transfer of Executive power, or are we electing a First Minister and a Deputy First Minister to the Assembly that was elected in 2003?

Madam Speaker: We are electing persons to hold office on the first day of restoration. I hope that that is clear to you.

Do we have any proposals?

Mr Adams: Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Ar dtús, sula rachaidh mé ar aghaidh, ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le John O’Dowd, ár gceannaire anseo, nó fuair a mháthair bás ag an deireadh seachtaine. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Mr Adams: Molaim go gceaptar Ian Paisley ina Chéad-Aire agus go gceaptar Martin McGuinness ina LeasChéad-Aire ar athbhunú an rialtais seo.

First, may I extend condolences to John O’Dowd, whose mother, Bridie, died on Friday evening? John is Sinn Féin’s leader in this Assembly.

I move that Ian Paisley be returned as First Minister and Martin McGuinness be returned as Deputy First Minister on the restoration of the devolved Administration. Go raibh maith agat.

Madam Speaker: Is there a Member to second the motion?

Ms Gildernew: Cuidím leis an rún. I second the motion.

Madam Speaker: Dr Paisley, do you accept the nomination as First Minister on the restoration of devolved government? Order. If there is not order, I will stop the proceedings completely.

Order. I must say that you are really all terrific parliamentarians.

Dr Paisley — once again — do you accept the nomination to be First Minister on the restoration of devolved government?

Rev Dr Ian Paisley: Certainly not, Madam Speaker. It goes without saying that my reasons are well known across this Province, and they have been endorsed by the majority of unionist voters.

Madam Speaker: Thank you, Dr Paisley. I remind Members that Standing Order 15(d) requires that both candidates state that they accept nomination. That has not occurred. The nomination is, therefore, invalid, and falls.

Is there any further proposal?

The time for proposals has expired.

Mr Ford: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In accordance with the bizarre and sectarian voting rules that apply for this particular election, it is clear that the only proposal that could command what is laughingly described as a cross-community majority will not be achieved today. I presume that you will be informing the Secretary of State of the outcome. Will you also inform him of the need to convene immediate, inclusive and intensive all-party talks to deal with the outstanding issues?

Some Members: Hear, hear.

Madam Speaker: Thank you, Mr Ford. As did Dr Paisley, you have anticipated my next remarks. I will notify the Secretary of State that no persons have been elected to hold the offices of First Minister and of Deputy First Minister on the restoration of devolved government.

An Order Paper for tomorrow’s business will be issued as soon as the Secretary of State has made a referral under the 2006 Act. Copies will be placed in Members’ pigeonholes.

Mr Paisley Jnr: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it not ridiculous that Northern Ireland has been put through this charade today to satisfy the Secretary of State’s political machinations, which have failed, and failed miserably?

Madam Speaker: That is not really a point of order, Mr Paisley. Please sit down. We are working under the Secretary of State’s direction. Everybody knew what we were going to be doing today.

Adjourned at 2.15 pm.

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