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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 11:02 GMT
Speaking through the Chair
Robin Sheeran
Robin Sheeran
The Politics Show Northern Ireland

William Hay
William Hay: The Speaker has a difficult job

Who would be the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly? With ancient enmities swirling around the chamber, and the usual politicians' egos, the chair can prove a very hot seat.

The current Speaker, William Hay, has had reason to admonish members on numerous occasions and even suspended one particularly rancorous session.

The old Stormont Parliament, that sat from 1921 to 1972, saw some spectacularly bad behaviour.

Hansard for 30 September 1932 reports the following:

"The hon. Member again seized the Mace, proceeded towards the Speaker's Chair, and threw the Mace upon the floor. The Sergeant-at-Arms took the Mace, and replaced it upon the Table".

Rock star habit

It was the political equivalent of the rock star habit of throwing the TV out of the hotel window, or a baby throwing its rattle out of the pram.

On Sunday 13 January 2008, the Politics Show from Northern Ireland takes a fly-on-the-wall look at the work of Mr Speaker.

William Hay, who was born in Donegal, first came to prominence as a DUP councillor on Derry City council and spokesman for the Apprentice Boys.

He was involved in a long-running dispute with the Bogside Residents Group over Apprentice Boys' parades.

William Hay
And the post of Speaker can be lonely...

In 1999, he and fellow DUP Assemblyman, Gregory Campbell, were each fined £1,000 for taking part in an illegal parade in support of the Orange Order standoff at Drumcree.

Spirit of co-operation

It is a sign of the new spirit of co-operation at Stormont that William Hay was unanimously elected to the post of Speaker in 2007.

Our reporter, Rosy Billingham, spent several days with Speaker Hay and the result is a fascinating uncovering of the workings of the Assembly.

He is proud to be the first Speaker directly elected from the floor of the Assembly but it was not a job he took on lightly.

Being Speaker can be a lonely position.

Mr Hay's primary job may be based in Belfast but his heart is clearly never far from his home in Londonderry. "I'm a home bird," he tells Rosy.

And his role as an MLA is at the top of his agenda.

He says: "I often say no matter what position you hold in life, whether the Speaker's job or a ministerial job, at the end of the day never, ever forget the people that put you here."

Jim Fitzpatrick
Jim Fitzpatrick presents Politics Show in Northern Ireland

The Politics Show for the Northern Ireland, with Jon Sopel and Jim Fitzpatrick on Sunday 13 January 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

You get a second chance to see the programme again that night, at 22:55 BST on BBC One.

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Northern Ireland
11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show

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