House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has “abused his position” by voicing his opposition to allowing President Trump to address parliament during his state visit, a DUP MP has claimed.
In an unprecedented move, the Speaker told MPs he was “strongly opposed” to inviting the US president to speak at Westminster, branding Mr Trump “racist and to sexist”.
Mr Bercow said the opportunity for a foreign leader to speak in Westminster Hall during a state visit “is not an automatic right, it is an earned honour”.
The comments garnered applause from many MPs in the chamber, who have been heavily critical of the migrant ban imposed by the President Trump on seven Muslim-majority countries.
But there has been a backlash from politicians who feel Mr Bercow should have maintained the Speaker’s traditional neutrality rather than weighing in on the issue.
MPs from Northern Ireland had mixed reactions to Mr Bercow’s comments.
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said he regarded the Speaker’s intervention as “a disgrace” and described it as “an outrageous abuse of his position”.
He told the News Letter: “The Speaker is meant to be impartial, but he has entered into the political fray on an issue which has deeply divided the house.
“He his undermined his own authority by being seen to take sides on this issue. He has been foolish and I think it is actually damaging to the interests of the UK.”
Mr Wilson said it is “vital” that the UK maintains a close relationship with the United States, adding: “Some of previous foreign leaders who have had the opportunity go speak in Westminster are from countries where people are being tortured and having their humans rights abused, and the speaker was quite happy to invite them. President Trump has done nothing more than live up to his manifesto.”
UUP MP Tom Elliot also criticised Mr Bercow’s actions and said: “The Speaker should remain neutral on UK parliamentary issues. This is a borderline case, as it is a much wider issue and a bit of a grey area. But my advice to him would have been that he should have stayed out of it.
“My views on the matter are clear; I do not agree with Donald Trump’s policies, but he is the president of the biggest democracy in the western world and he should be welcomed to the UK.”
However, SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie outlined her party’s support for Mr Bercow’s stance against Mr Trump.
The South Down representative said: “While I believe the relationship that the people of Northern Ireland have with the people of the United States is unshakeable, the relationship we have with American political leaders must always be based on shared values and common interests. The sexism, racism, Islamophobia and homophobia that President Trump has displayed both in office and his election campaign shows he does not share our values.
“Donald Trump is not a populist or a fool, but a bigot, and his xenophobia cannot be swept under the carpet.”