Northern Ireland

Stormont Speaker Edwin Poots under fire for ‘clean his clock’ comments about Jim Allister

Mr Poots used a term during a BBC Radio Ulster interview that has often been linked with punching someone in the face

 DUP South Belfast MLA Edwin Poots. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
DUP South Belfast MLA Edwin Poots has been appointed Speaker of the Stormont Assembly. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON/PA

New Stormont Speaker Edwin Poots has been accused by Jim Allister of wanting to have “punched” the TUV leader in the face after using an antiquated term during an interview with the BBC .

Mr Poots was speaking on Good Morning Ulster on Monday when he was asked about Mr Allister’s criticism of the DUP returning to Stormont, which was made during Saturday’s sitting of the Assembly in which the speaker and new ministers were nominated.

Speaking of the impartiality required with his new role, Mr Poots said: “I couldn’t respond to Mr Allister, and he certainly would have had his clock cleaned if I could have.”

TUV leader Jim Allister and loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson pictured in Parliament Buildings at Stormont presenting a legal document about the return on the Northern Ireland Assembly.  The DUP decided to return to Stormont after anti year boycott in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol which was put in place as a result of BREXIT. 

The legal advice, which was from former Attorney General John Larkin, was commissioned by Ben Habib, Baroness Hoey, Jim Allister and Jamie Bryson.
TUV leader Jim Allister and loyalist Jamie Bryson. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

The saying to “clean” someone’s “clock” is often interpreted as meaning to punch someone in the face, and has been used as slang since the mid-20th century. Some suggest the interpretation is linked to blowing the dust off a clock face, and landing a punch, or a “blow” on someone.

However, it is also claimed the term has an earlier meaning of to beat an opponent in a contest.

In a post to the X social media platform following Mr Poots’ BBC Radio Ulster interview, North Antrim MLA Mr Allister said he interpreted the use of the saying as a desire to physically strike him.

“So Mr Speaker would have liked to have punched me in the face on Saturday!” he wrote.

“Quite a seismic departure from the supposed impartiality and objectivity of an office supposed to defend the rights of all MLAs. Mr Speaker seems to have a difficult relationship with my freedom of speech!”

Loyalist Jamie Bryson, who co-published a paper with Mr Allister opposing the DUP’s deal with the British government to restore the executive, said in an X post that, without an apology to the TUV leader for the comment, “it’s hard to see how Edwin Poots continues as speaker”.

In his interview, Mr Poots said he was a good fit for the role of speaker as he was the “most experienced person in the chamber aside from Gerry Kelly”, as he was first elected as an MLA in 1998.

“I never saw myself as speaker as I was always more of an advocate and enjoyed the cut and thrust of actually on the floor, and it was quite a pull to move away from that and into the task of impartially refereeing everything that’s going on, as opposed to partially taking a fight to other political parties.”

Mr Poots has previously been known for his confrontational language, and once famously challenged prominent loyalist Gary McMichael, of the now-defunct UDA-linked Ulster Democratic Party, during a meeting in Lisburn ahead of the Good Friday Agreement signing.

As Mr McMichael and colleagues attempted to disrupt the meeting, Mr Poots grabbed a microphone and shouted “Come on big fella, come on” before gesturing for the loyalist to approach him.

The DUP has been contacted.