Northern Ireland news

Gerry Kelly and Jim Wells to serve as temporary assembly speakers

Gerry Kelly and Jim Wells will serve as temporary assembly speakers
Rebecca Black, Press Association

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly and DUP MLA Jim Wells are set to serve as temporary Deputy Speakers at the Stormont Assembly.

The pair were selected as the oldest, long serving members of the Assembly following a number in the existing Speaker team becoming unavailable.

Speaker Alex Maskey is shielding at home for health reasons during the coronavirus pandemic, while Deputy Speaker Patsy McGlone is shielding for his wife's health.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: No further deaths and one new case in Northern Ireland

Meanwhile this week, the Assembly was informed that Principal Deputy Speaker Christopher Stalford had recently been admitted to hospital and is now recovering.

In a letter, Mr Maskey said with the remaining Deputy Speaker Roy Beggs as the only one of the team now available to chair sittings, temporary additions to the team have been arranged.

Under standing orders, the oldest and longest serving MLAs are eligible to act as temporary Deputy Speakers.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly

As serving ministers are unable to fulfil the role, Mr Kelly and Mr Wells have been selected.

Mr Maskey said the pair will be asked to chair short items of business as required.

"As we have managed over the last few weeks with two Deputy Speakers, and as Deputy Speaker Beggs will still preside over the bulk of business, it is unlikely that a temporary Speaker would be required frequently," he wrote in a letter to MLAs.

"I have therefore approached Mr Kelly and Mr Wells and confirmed that they are willing to assist the Assembly if required over the next few weeks.

DUP MLA Jim Wells 

"This means that if Deputy Speaker Beggs is unable to chair a sitting of the Assembly, the sitting shall be chaired by Mr Kelly, if present. If Mr Kelly is not present, then the sitting shall be chaired by Mr Wells, if present."

The Speaker added: "I am grateful for the co-operation of Deputy Speaker Beggs, Mr Kelly and Mr Wells to help the Assembly get through the next few weeks."

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