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Speaker grilled by Bangor Grammar students

Bangor Grammar school students Lewis and Jack had the very unusual opportunity to interview the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly last week. The Speaker, who is usually seen keeping order in the Chamber in Parliament Buildings, took time out of his very busy schedule to talk to the boys as part of BBC News School Report project.

In 1998 Mr. Hay was chosen to be part of the Northern Ireland Assembly and subsequently became a member of various boards including the Northern Ireland Housing Council and the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Following nine years at the Assembly, he was asked to consider the job of Speaker. He was mutually elected by both the Nationalist and the Unionist parties, becoming Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

As he has a very stressful job within the chamber, Bangor Grammar School asked if anyone has ever confronted him on his decisions, to which he replied, ‘Yes but in their own way. Members know they can discuss any issue with me and that my door is always open. Nobody has ever directly challenged me on my decisions...’ The Speaker does not have to give a reason for decisions he makes in the Chamber, but he tries to explain himself as best as he can.

When asked if he found it hard to stay neutral, he told the pupils that, ‘It is not easy to be impartial, however I have to treat all Members equally and remain separate from party politics. It is important that Members believe I am neutral and in fact, the first Members that I had removed from the Chamber were from my own party (DUP).’

Mr Hay enjoys the job of Speaker and is due to be in the job for another few years.