Speaker should resign immediately, says Ford

Assembly Speaker Robin Newton should resign from the role with immediate effect, Alliance MLA David Ford has said.

Mr Ford was speaking after a BBC Spotlight programme, which showed documents alleging Mr Newton misled the Assembly over his role with Charter NI, acting as adviser to the SIF-funded group, despite stating to the Chamber he held no such position.

Mr Newton, who blocked an Assembly question into the activities of Charter NI last year, will continue receiving the Speakers’ wage until the Assembly sits again and he is replaced.

“If these allegations are true, and judging by the documents unveiled on tonight’s programme, they are, then the Speaker has no option but to resign his role with immediate effect,” said Mr Ford.

“Alliance would not support his re-election as Speaker, not only due to this but how he mishandled several debates in the Chamber, including about RHI and an Alliance motion calling for an investigation into SIF, which was subsequently blocked by the DUP and Sinn Féin. We would also seek to refer Mr Newton to the Commissioner for Standards, once there is a new person elected to that role.

“Alliance recognises people with a paramilitary past can play a positive and constructive role in society. But when people with a paramilitary present are doing so, there is a problem. That is the situation with some individuals in Charter NI.

“We have serious concerns about the lack of fairness and effective use of resources being directed towards certain groups, which is why we wrote in the summer to ask for an Audit Office investigation into SIF.

“There also needs to be a revised paramilitary strategy which is backed by all parties and which has clearly defined goals and targets. Only by doing so can we finally remove the poison of paramilitarism from society.”

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