McLaughlin to replace Hay

Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin. AT9-306JC
Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin. AT9-306JC

Derry man and South Antrim MLA, Mitchel McLaughlin is in line to replace Willie Hay as the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mr. McLaughlin, who has been the Principal Deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland Executive since last year, could take over from Willie Hay as speaker in October.

Mr. Hay, who has held the position of Speaker since 2007, announced on Friday that he was to take up a seat in the House of Lords.

“I am delighted but humbled by today’s announcement. When I first entered politics in Londonderry, I would never have imagined that I would have had the opportunities which have been presented to me, particularly in recent years.

“It has been a great privilege for me to have been able to serve all the people of Londonderry for over 35 years, a city which I am very proud to call home, and to have been able to serve the Northern Ireland Assembly as Speaker since 2007.

“Both those roles have their challenges, and there certainly have been many times which have not been easy, but I am conscious that I could not have done them without the support of others, whether it be from family, friends, constituents, colleagues from my own party or indeed other parties, Assembly staff and many others. I take this appointment as a tribute to that support for which I am extremely grateful and I look forward to continuing to represent Londonderry and Northern Ireland in the House of Lords in the future,” said Mr. Hay.

Should Mitchel McLaughlin replace Mr. Hay as Speaker he would be the first politician to do so with a nationalist and republican background.

Mr. McLaughlin was Sinn Fein MLA for Foyle from 1998 to 2003 but has represented the South Antrim constituency since 2007 and was re-elected again in 2011.

Mr. McLaughlin is also a former General Secretary of Sinn Fein.