A SDLP MLA for Foyle has reacted after political representatives at Stormont failed to elect an new speaker to replace the outgoing one, William Hay, who has retired because of ill health.
All three candidates fell short because of a lack of cross party support.
Sinn Fein has said the DUP should have honoured assurances that it would support their nominee, Mitchel McLaughlin. It is understood that some amongst the unionist party are hostile to the election of a Sinn Fein Speaker. But, in the absence of a replacement for Mr Hay, Mr McLaughlin will remain in place as the principal deputy speaker, along with deputy speakers John Dallat of the SDLP and Roy Beggs of the ulster Unionist Party.
SDLP man , Pat Ramsey said however that Sinn Fein have missed the chance to elect a nationalist speaker for the first time in the history of the Stormont parliament.
“The election of a new Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly should have been a momentous moment.
It presented MLAs with the opportunity to select someone from the nationalist community to represent our Government for the very first time. This would have been a timely development as we enter into talks on our future.
“ It would have shown a spirit of equality and reconciliation that could have set a positive tone for the work ahead. The decision of Sinn Féin to vote against SDLP MLA John Dallat, a public servant of 37 years standing and a Deputy Speaker who served the Assembly and its members with professionalism and integrity over the past seven years just because they failed to get a member from their own benches elected is gravely disappointing.
“ The fact that Sinn Féin would rather have no Speaker than a nationalist who is not a member of their party shows a level of self-interest and narrow mindedness that is really discouraging and short-sighted.
“I have no doubt that John Dallat would have made an excellent Speaker and the Northern Ireland Assembly would have really benefited from his judgement and guidance. Sinn Féin have deprived the nationalist community of their first Speaker and all communities of an exceptional Speaker.”