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Sinn Féin: Robin Newton's position "untenable"

Assembly speaker Robin Newton has faced calls from Sinn Féin to stand down

ROBIN Newton's position as assembly speaker has become "untenable" following "shambolic and partisan" proceedings at Stormont on Monday, Sinn Féin has said.

The DUP's partners in government, who yesterday stopped short of saying the speaker should go, has now called on the East Belfast MLA to step down following harsh criticism of how he chaired recent assembly debates.

Mr Newton - whose position is supposed to transcend party affiliations - allowed his party leader First Minister Arlene Foster to make a statement on the cash for ash scandal without the approval of deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Opposition politicians staged a walk-out as Mrs Foster began reading her statement on the disastrous Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme which could cost taxpayers £400 million.

Both the Ulster Unionists and SDLP have already asked Mr Newton to stand down.

Sinn Féin met the Alliance Party yesterday to seek their support for an assembly motion which will call on Mrs Foster to stand aside while the RHI scheme is investigated.

After the meeting Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan said Mr Newton should resign following "the partisan and shambolic proceedings in the assembly on Monday".

"We believe the conduct of the speaker Robin Newton has undermined the integrity and impartiality of the speaker's office and Sinn Féin believes his position is now untenable," he said.

Sinn Féin chief whip Carál Ní Chuilín said Mrs Foster must step aside while matters relating to the botched RHI scheme are investigated.

"The DUP are in complete denial about the public mood, she needs to step aside for an independent investigation which should be time bound and it should (have) a cost ceiling and that needs to report independently," she said.

"Public confidence in the institutions, more importantly in the assembly, has been hammered as a result of the RHI scandal. Hundreds of millions of pounds of public money, taxpayers' money, threaten(s) to be wasted. When we are all campaigning and fighting for much needed public services, this is completely unacceptable."

DEFIANT: Arlene Foster made her RHI statement to fellow DUP MLAs and justice minister Claire Sugden

Earlier this week, Mr Newton released a letter he had sent to MLAs acknowledging what he said were genuine frustrations and concerns over the nature of Monday's proceedings.

In response to calls for him to resign, Mr Newton said he would write to opposition MLAs next month.

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