Tieless PBP men make a mark on first day at Assembly

Eamonn McCann and Gerry Carroll on their first day in the Assembly
Eamonn McCann and Gerry Carroll on their first day in the Assembly

The two People Before Profit MLAs, Eamonn McCann and Gerry Carroll, were among a number of MLAs who took advantage of Stormont’s new relaxed dress code by going tie-less during the first sitting of the Assembly.

The two MLAs have taken up their seats on the portion of the opposition bench which in the last Assembly was John McCallister’s place.

And although the proceedings ended up being dominated by Mike Nesbitt’s dramatic decision to take the UUP into Opposition, the two PBP MLAs made their own mark in more substantive ways than their choice of attire.

Both members chose to sign the roll – the formal aspect of joining the Assembly – as ‘socialists’ rather than the prescribed ‘unionist’, ‘nationalist’ or ‘other’.

Despite that small protest against the Stormont system, they will be regarded by the Assembly authorities as being ‘other’ during cross-community votes.

Then, later in proceedings, Mr McCann got the opportunity to speak in the Stormont chamber for the first time.

The veteran civil rights campaigner, journalist and socialist spoke freely and with typically forthright diction rather than reading a pre-prepared speech, as is common among many backbench MLAs in the main parties.

Mr McCann told Martin McGuinness that the Executive had not done enough to oppose austerity.

However, the Speaker had to admonish him for standing in the aisle while speaking, something which meant that the Hansard staff could not hear some of his comments because he was not beside a microphone.

Mr McCann immediately replied: “Do you want me to say it all again? I am quite happy to.”