Jim Allister last night wrote to Assembly Speaker Willie Hay asking for the opportunity to make a personal statement in the Assembly about Mr Robinson’s allegations against him.
Yesterday Mr Hay — who is a long-standing DUP member but as Speaker is bound to be impartial — said he and Mr Allister had a “very amicable” meeting after Monday’s clash but said he was “slightly disappointed” that Mr Allister had spoken to journalists about the issue rather than leaving it with him.
Mr Hay told the Assembly that the clash had fallen short of the standards he expected of MLAs but added: “However, it is clear to me that no allegations were made of unlawful behaviour; they were political points.
“I also note that Mr Allister clearly refuted the allegations...If members want to debate the allegations elsewhere, that is an issue for them, but I allowed the issue to carry on for far too long yesterday.”
He added: As far as I am concerned, the issue is closed.” Mr Hay refused to allow Mr Allister to speak on the issue.
Then, in an apparent allusion to the DUP, SDLP MLA Alex Attwood raised another point of order, saying that his party would be seeking a meeting with the Speaker “to discuss the conduct of that party, which is using the chamber repeatedly to impugn the character of other members”.
Then, after DUP minister Edwin Poots had asked whether MLAs had to declare property owned by family members, Mr Allister hit back, saying that his wife did not own property in Fermanagh and adding: “This is but another attempt to continue the scurrilous attack on me and my family, and I really do resent it.
“I am fair game as a politician in the rough and tumble of politics, but my wife is not in politics”.
Mr Poots then said: “Sold and all, then”, at which point Mr Hay said that business should “move on”.
But Mr Allister asked about Mr Poots’ “sedentary comment” — something Mr Hay had just moments earlier been warning MLAs against. The Speaker said that he did not hear Mr Poots’ comment, although it was audible to the staff who compile Hansard, the official report.
Last night Mr Allister said that Mr Hay’s refusal to even allow him to raise a point of order on his ruling or respond to Mr Robinson’s second set of claims on Monday “underscores how far the operation of Stormont falls below established standards.
“If such scurrilous allegations had been made in Westminster the affected member would have been permitted to make a personal statement. But not here, at least not for me.”
An Assembly spokeswoman said that the chamber’s standing orders are clear that the Speaker’s ruling “is final and cannot be challenged” and added: “It is not therefore uncommon for the Speaker not to take Points of Order particularly when he is giving a ruling on a matter or has said that he will consider Hansard and come back to the House.”
She pointed out that Mr Hay had taken another point of order from Mr Allister.
Alliance chief whip Stewart Dickson said that irrespective of the veracity of Mr Robinson’s claims “we are quite clear that any business transaction should be made on the merits of the individual cases without any political or religious connotations being taken into account”.