Beattie defends remarks on Speaker veto

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie last night defended his remarks earlier yesterday when he suggested supporting legislation that would stop a party blocking the nomination of an Assembly Speaker.

Mr Beattie had said he would back any potential move by the UK Government to impose a law that would halt the DUP’s current veto on the election of a Speaker.

The UUP leader was pressed on BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Talkback’ programme if he might support a bill that by-passed the Assembly and introduced a law from London making it impossible for any party to block a Speaker.

In reply Mr Beattie said: “I think so, and I think so for the good of the people here in Northern Ireland. Because the people here in Northern Ireland are suffering because of this cost of living crisis.”

UUP leader Doug Beattie

He continued: “I certainly want to participate in government, I want to be working, I want to be up at Stormont, I want to be doing stuff that helps the people of Northern Ireland, so if we can do something, even on a limited basis, then I think I would be positive.”

Mr Beattie denied he was “targeting the DUP” by backing a law to remove their veto.

“Well, it’s not just about removing the DUP’s veto of a Speaker, it’s anybody’s veto...We did go through three years of Sinn Fein doing exactly the same thing, and we should have by-passed them at the same time.”

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said Mr Beattie’s suggestion whether planned or unplanned was “foolish and naive.”

Mr Campbell said: “If the Government are finally contemplating moving in a direction that would assist not just Unionists, but wider society as well why would he try and throw a massive ‘dead cat’ on the table to try and deflect attention from what our Government are going to produce, analyse it to see if it offers the beginnings of a resolution?”

The East Londonderry MP added: “After a bad election Doug now seems to want to keep on digging. There has been more potential progress in resolving the Protocol problem in the two weeks since the Unionist people voted the way they did, than in the two years since it was implemented. Rather than help resolve matters at the point where we are hopefully beginning to see some realism, he risks creating further problems.”

Mr Beattie defended his suggestion of legislation to curb the Speaker veto but insisted there was still a need to solve the Protocol problem first.

He added: “This is not solely about the DUP. We saw the effects of Sinn Fein refusing to form an Executive for three years. We must look at how we can prevent a scenario of one party holding back the rest of the Assembly.”