A few weeks ago, Mitchel McLaughlin became Speaker of the Norn Iron Assembly. For the best part of two decades, he has been the “acceptable face of Sinn Féin”, the kinda SF member that doesnt scare the unionists. He is MLA for South Antrim, and really for five years he has largely been off our screens. He was serving as Deputy Speaker and it is deemed inappropriate for a Speaker or Deputy Speaker to be seen as partisan.
His predecessor, William Hay of the DUP, had been a success in the Chair.
Surprisingly perhaps, McLaughlin has accepted a role as Chair of the “Norn Iron Commonwealth Parliamentary Association”. I am not a big fan of the “Commonwealth”, which is successor to the damnable “British Empire” but I have a certain sympathy for Mitchel, who seemingly feels that it is a load of shyte but it is something which comes with the territory of being Speaker. I dont really have a lot of sympathy for him looking for a fellow member of the group to do the day to day running of the group. As no Sinn Féin members are on it, I hope he is not looking to SDLP members, who include (I think) Dolores Kelly, John Dallat, Alban Magennis and Sean Rogers.
Mitchel seems to be saying “I believe in Diversity….but not too much Diversity”.
There is an echo of a similar Sinn Féin inspired farce a few years ago. Readers might recall that Niall Ó Donnghaile, Mayor of Belfast was due to hand out “Duke of Edinburgh Awards” to the city’s young people but had an attack of Republican vapours at the sight of a 14 year old girl in a British Army cadet uniform. Niall, got a lot of deserved criticism for handing over the ceremony to a DUP Deputy. I suppose Niall would have been okay about handing over an Award to a 14 year old girl wearing a Polish Army cadet uniform. It would have been a great photo opportunity to show off the City’s alleged committment to Diversity.
For several years after 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin sniped at SDLP for conceding too much to unionists. Eventually they overtook the SDLP as the guardian of nationalist conscience. Yet Martin McGuinness toasts Mrs Windsor and Mitchel McLaughlin is Chair of the Assembly’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Still best wishes to retired Speaker…William Hay. Now he is “Lord Hay” and in the British “House of Lords”….where the lover of precedent Mitchel McLaughlin will surely go, when he steps down.