Speaker Alex Maskey must stay at home due to Covid crisis

Speaker Alex Maskey must self isolate for 12 weeks.

Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has said he will not be able to chair any meetings of the assembly in person for at least 12 weeks after being advised to isolate due to a heart condition.

In a letter sent to all assembly members on Tuesday the speaker of the house said while the order to stay at home due to the coronavirus "does not prevent me from conducting the majority of my responsibilities" that he would not be able to chair any meetings that required him to be present.

Mr Maskey was elected speaker following the restoration of the Stormont assembly in January of this year.

In correspondence to colleagues he said: "I have received advice from my health trust to advise that, due to my cardiac history, I am in the group of those who should stay at home and avoid face to face contact for least twelve weeks".

Mr Maskey said he would be working from home in the time ahead adding, "plenary sittings and sessions of the Ad Hoc Committee cannot be chaired remotely and these meetings will be in good hands with the Deputy Speakers taking the chair in rotation in the usual way.

"There are also deputising arrangements for the Business Committee and the Assembly Commission but I will be exploring ways to participate in these meetings remotely.

"Apart from that, I intend to conduct as much as possible of the work that goes on behind the scenes and to take all of the decisions that I am normally required to take outside of the Chamber".

Mr Maskey, who is SinnFéin longest serving elected representative having been first elected to Belfast City Council in 1983, said he felt "conflicted" about isolating while fulfilling my duties as Speaker.

"I have concluded that it is important to follow the guidance provided by those who, under the wider authority of the Executive and the Assembly, are tasked with giving such advice to our community.”

Deputy Speakers Christopher Stalford of the DUP, Patsy McGlone of the SDLP, and Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs, will now step in on a rotational basis for all plenary sessions of the assembly for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

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