ORDER! ORDER! ORDER!…Calls for DUP Speaker Robin Newton to quit over links to Charter NI

DUP Speaker Robin Newton is facing calls to quit after a BBC Spotlight investigation said he misled the Assembly over his links to Charter NI.

The East Belfast MLA denies Spotlight’s findings but said he will not seek re-election to the position.

He says he will stay in the role until the next Assembly sitting to preside over the election of the new Speaker.

It comes as Alliance MLA David Ford called for Stormont Speaker Robin Newton to resign immediately.

Spotlight reporter Stephen Dempster said the DUP East Belfast MLA misled the Assembly on the exact nature of his role within ex-prisoners organisation Charter NI.

Among Charter NI’s senior members is UDA north Down commander Dee Stitt who has been photographed in the past beside DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Mr Ford this morning called for Mr Newton to resign as speaker immediately and for an investigation to be conducted into the matter once a Assembly Commissioner for Standards was in place.

“If these allegations are true, and judging by the documents unveiled on Spotlight, they are, then the Speaker has no option but to resign his role with immediate effect,” said Mr Ford.

Alliance, the South Antrim MLA said, would not support Mr Newton’s re-election for speaker based not only on latest revelation, but on how the Speaker had “mishandled” debates on RHI and his party’s call for an investigation on the Social Investment Fund (SIF).

Mr Ford said there was “even more reason” now for a probe into the running of the SIF scheme.

“Alliance recognises people with a paramilitary past can play a positive and constructive role in society,” he continued.

UDA north Down commander Dee Stitt pictured with DUP leader Arlene Foster. Stitt is a senior member of Charter NI

“But when people with a paramilitary present are doing so, there is a problem. That is the situation with some individuals in Charter NI.

“We have serious concerns about the lack of fairness and effective use of resources being directed towards certain groups, which is why we wrote in the summer to ask for an Audit Office investigation into SIF.

“There also needs to be a revised paramilitary strategy which is backed by all parties and which has clearly defined goals and targets. Only by doing so can we finally remove the poison of paramilitarism from society.”

In a statement Mr Newton – who earsns £87,500 a year as Speaker – rejected Spotlight’s findings.

He said: “I reject the allegations in the Spotlight programme. I did not mislead the NI Assembly.

“I have never been appointed to any position with Charter NI.

“I am not responsible for how others refer to me in their correspondence.

“I will not be a candidate for Speaker in any new Assembly. At the next NI Assembly sitting, I will chair the election of a new Speaker as the first matter of business.

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