Ballymoney U3A June Meeting welcomed guest speaker Alex Elder who gave a very interesting insight into much of the last 50 years’ politics from the unusual angle of a Hansard Reporter.
Hansard is the official record of all happenings in the various British parliaments.
Originally a teacher in further education, in 1964 Alex got a job as trainee Hansard Reporter for the old Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont. He gained an immediate 20% rise in salary in comparison with the teaching.
The old Northern Ireland Parliament had a Senate and a House of Commons. The House of Commons consisted of 52 members; 48 from constituencies; four from Queens UB (two of latter were barristers and talked in riddles); reporters had to write speeches for them.
By the late 1980s Alex was a freelance reporter, between United Nations (1988-95) and the House of Commons in London. At the UN, Alex worked in the General Assembly or the Security Council.
The Main General Assembly was usually from late-September for three months. At the UN 50th anniversary in 1995, Alex looked down at the Special Session where ‘there were 140 kings, princes, emirs, and presidents’ etc in the same room at the same time.
When the UN went high-tech, which meant speeches were sent electronically to reporters at home, there were to be no more three-month sessions in New York. So Alex left. By that time, talks, which included Sin Fein, had got going here. The Forum met in the old Co-op building as Stormont had been destroyed by fire. The talks were chaired by US Senator George Mitchell. Then came the Assembly. Alex stayed until he retired in 2001.
After the talk, the U3A members were served with a very enjoyable lunch. The Photography Group had put on a small exhibition, which was appreciated. The next meeting will be after the summer in September.