13/03/2017 Stormont Today


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13/03/2017

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.


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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today, on the day

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in the recent Assembly election came up to the chamber

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But with the future of the devolved institutions right at the heart

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of the ongoing talks between the parties,

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the future of this place is, for now at least, far from clear.

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For some it was the first day of school, but old friends

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I extend a particular welcome to those who are present in the chamber

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for the first time. We would also like to put on the record our

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appreciation to those colleagues from all sides of the chamber who

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either decided not to run, return were not re-elected.

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But none of the 90 MLAs present can get back to work until the current

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None of this is easy, it is all very difficult, but what we are focused

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on is about bringing back devolution to Northern Ireland and that is

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where my focus is I hope it's for everybody else's is as well.

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And joining me to share his thoughts on today's developments

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is Professor Rick Wilford from Queen's University.

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They may have been successful at the ballot box ten days ago,

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but this afternoon it became official as 90 freshly elected

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politicians came to Stormont to formally sign in.

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won't see the inside of the Assembly chamber for another fortnight

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when the deadline to propose a First and Deputy First Minister runs out.

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But ceremony waits for no man, nor deadline.

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Please take your seats. Before we proceed with today's business, I

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would like to offer my congratulations to all of you

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following the election. As well as welcoming back former members, I

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extend a particular welcome to those who are present in the chamber for

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the first time. I would also like to put on a record our appreciation to

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those colleagues from all sides of the chamber who either decided not

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to run, return or I will not be elected. We thank them for their

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service. Item two on the order paper it is the signing of the undertaking

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and the rule of membership. Before we proceed, members, they might find

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it helpful if the undertaking is read into the record. Clark, please

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read the undertaking. The undertaking is as follows, to

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undertake to support the rule of law unequivocally in word and deed and

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to support our efforts to oppose it, to work collectively with the other

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members of the Assembly to achieve the society free of paramilitaries,

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to challenge all paramilitary activity and associated criminality,

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to call for and to work together with the other members of the

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Assembly to achieve the disbandment of all paramilitary organisations

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under structures, to challenge paramilitary attempts to control

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committee -- communities, to support those who are determined to make the

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transition away from paramilitaries, to accept no authority, direction or

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control or political activities other than the democratic mandate

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alongside my own personal and party judgment.

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45 minutes - that's all it took - and now the chamber sits silent

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There is a symbolic value to today's procedure but it doesn't remove the

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bigger issues forward at all, does it? Noel, it is a necessary

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procedure they have to go through. On the first day, normally would be

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electing the speaker. That has been put back by common consensus. Today,

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the Senate chamber, there was a session there. From all parties in

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the UK and elsewhere. Two minutes, half a minute each for them today.

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When they get through it we can go into gardening leave for a couple of

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weeks. Those who are not engage in their ongoing talks, of course. We

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have to tread water for the next couple of weeks until maybe there is

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a chink of light. Wright lives get your assessment of that talks

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process. Do you see any sign at all of significant progress -- progress

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at this stage? No, I don't. Wright do you have any hope there will be

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in the two weeks remaining, theoretically? We don't quite know

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what might happen beyond the 27th of March, ostensibly the deadline for

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this round of talks. There may be an extended round of talks. As far as

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broken Jaya can exercise. They started roundtable talks. -- James

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Brokenshire. I don't think there is any significant sign of forward

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movement at all. We don't know, for example, the extent to which there

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are red lines on which party are putting down which red lines. Not

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just Sinn Fein amid EU people. -- DUP. That has been postponed as an

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issue and less until we get some agreement on issues. One of the

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things Sinn Fein have been at some pains to stress is that this is

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about implementing agreements that were struck in the past. I vividly

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remember and he recounted in his member of the talks process, George

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Mitchell, it is one thing to reach an agreement but it is something

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completely different are actually implemented. That is where we are.

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Wright we are supposed to see nominations for the first and equity

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First Minister on the 27th. Wright I don't think anyone is holding a

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great deal of breath for that to happen. We should have the election

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speaker on that day. It is not clear who that would be. Probably not be

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current person? Most unlikely. He lost the confidence of the majority

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of the House before we went into election. Wright what are the

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options? There has been an agreement between Sinn Fein and the DBT retain

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his speakership. They are going to have to look else where. Maybe the

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SDLP, maybe Alliance. Wright B have pretty much ruled themselves out.

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There are two former Deputy speakers in the elderly group may. It could

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be one of them. We will hopefully see in the next fortnight. -- here.

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Rick, thank-you very much, we'll hear more from

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Among the 90 MLAs signing in today were several new faces,

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including Ulster Unionist John Stewart.

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I spoke to him shortly after he'd signed the register and I asked

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if he felt he was perhaps arriving at Stormont just as

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There is a sense of an pension, nobody knows what's going on. There

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is frustration for myself and many of my colleagues he want to get down

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and get work done. At the moment that is not possible. What is your

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personal delight at being successful in East Antrim offset by the party's

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overall poor performance? Bittersweet, when I gave my

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acceptance speech he was standing down and it was sad to see. We are

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any results -based game of which seats are seen as points and we

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dropped seats and in that respect it wasn't a great election for the

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Ulster Unionist Party. You say you lost to seats and a leader. How

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significant is that the party at such a critical time? It is not

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ideal. I think the party is in a position where it has to get

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together and look forward and see what we have to do for ourselves. Do

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you think that was right to stand down? He just advised his decision

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rightly. He felt was the result was me performance he had been looking

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for. Who are you backing for the leadership? There is a process

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going. The AGM will be held on the eighth. The process is open to

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anybody. I am not sure who else is put their name and forehead. At the

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moment, I have signalled to Robinson on that I be giving my support. Does

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he look like a very strong contender? He does indeed. He is

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very strong in his policy. He resonates with the public and I

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think you do a great job for the Ulster Unionist Party. Did you come

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a school trip if you use a good because you were so inspired what

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you start that he wanted to pursue a career in politics and maybe come

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back Sunday as an NLE? I with your instrument Stormont was in the

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special as well. We came up and handy for oil tour of the building.

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We met with some of the politicians. I said to my teacher was something I

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really wanted to do. I wasn't involved in politics than 16 years

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later here we are. How did the day feel for you, the realisation of

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that? It was nice, the first time I had sat in the gene and is 2000 when

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I was last year. To go from that to being an actual MLE it was a

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frightening moment. If there is another election, your seat could be

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vulnerable. Is that a scenario that keeps you awake at night? Not at

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all. Nothing keeps me awake but what I am thinking about is getting on

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the ground in addressing the issues that constituents have brought to

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me. I am not thinking about another election. I am not worried about it.

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Every seat is up for grabs and will be fighting to hold onto what have.

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Are you optimistic that the ongoing talks process will be successful and

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the institutions will be up and running again sooner rather than

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later? We have two. The public overwhelmingly gave politicians a

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mandate to go out. There is an expectation from the public we have

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to get things up and running again. I am optimistic and I think people

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have to be. We have to get around the negotiating table.

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And I'm now joined by another first-time Member,

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Thanks for joining us. Congratulations on your success in a

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Lagan Valley. You try to win a seat number of times before, your third

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attempt at the Assembly. Did you really believe you can do it this

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time? We went from a very loyal and increased early vote. We felt there

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was always going to be belief and we felt it was possible. It was a case

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of trying to engage people, show them we can do it and it was OK. You

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backed yourself, that's the important thing. I did indeed. You

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benefit from the cancer. His comment paid dividends? That is something

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that has been going on. -- you benefited from the Ulster Unionist

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Party ends. It worked the other way as well. A lot of constituents's

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roads were gone to elect other members of the Assembly who are here

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at the moment. It worked out fairly evenly. It was helpful to me in the

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Lagan Valley that I got that cross community support. I remember on

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Friday night, it just sort of happened when you interviewed me

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just after the result has come in and I genuinely don't see... I want

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to be representative of all of that one community I don't see too. That

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is all this together trying to do better. Is that what you believe

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your mandate as for Lagan Valley, to represent everybody in that

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constituency, not just the SDLP? Absolutely everyone. I had an old

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life, a life in bars. I didn't ask who came through the doors whenever

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the Cayman in order to be served are looking for something to eat. We

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have to be representative of everyone and take everyone's

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concerns, worries and fears and bring them up here, thrash it out

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and begin to deliberate. I look for are you this is an Assembly that can

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get up and running and make a difference if it does get up and

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running? There is a lot of fear in politics another Mallard isn't

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really going anywhere at the moment. We're just treading water.

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There is a fear there but I am ready to engage. I am more than ready to

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go out there and do the hard work. To make Northern Ireland work. Every

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door that a knock-on, I promise to do that I would go out to make

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Northern Ireland work. It's my home and wants to be represented above.

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I'm sure that the people that footage for me, I want to know is a

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costly demand. -- I want to be known as the cost community man. I'm going

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to run it like the business. That is what I promise was. It would be a

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huge disappointment for you if this doesn't work. If it doesn't work, is

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doesn't work. But it would be a huge is a bond for everyone. I wanted to

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work. I genuinely want the PR image in Ireland today better. We deserve

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better. The two largest things I believe are coming down is we have

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Brexit and the health service. I would see that we are against. That

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was the main concern on the doors. There are other parts of. There are

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business people that need certainty. They need to see that they are

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represented. Business itself is a volatile market out there. The world

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is not waiting for us. It's outside. We've issue of the best. You very

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much indeed. So, talks to restore

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devolution are underway. It's been a week since the first

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meetings between parties took place. James Brokenshire and Charlie

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Flanagan have been on hand One of the issues that has dogged

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every Assembly and agreement has been the past and how

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to deal with it. Today is European Victims' Day

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and earlier the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, took a break

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from talks to meet with We'll continue with those talks are

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today. Dealing with the past and with the legacy is only part of what

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we have to deal with. It's a very aborted part and one which I

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personally take a great interest and for obvious reasons. -- it's a very

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important part. Some people take a very different opinion of things.

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How do you square between giving people what they want and satisfying

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Sinn Fein's demands. Is that about opinion, it's about fact. That's the

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difficulty. Different narratives have arisen in relation to what

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actually happened. I think we have to get back to the situation. That

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is that 90% of those that were injured or murdered was by

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terrorists from Ida Royalists Republicans. That has to be

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recognised. -- from either royalists or Republicans. There can be no

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rewriting of the past. One of the issues that we really need to deal

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with is the definition of a victim. That still continues to cause a

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great deal of pain and hurt to those people who are innocent victims

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because on the current definition of a victim, that includes the

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perpetrator, that is simply wrong. It should not be allowed to stand.

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On the second week of these talks, what are the chances of a deal being

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done? We still as a party remain committed to writing the return of

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devolution because he believes it's the best thing for all of Northern

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Ireland. We hope that everybody else enters the top with those -- the

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talks with that focus. Does that in any way make life easier in terms of

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what you are trying to do? None of easy. What we're focused on is being

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backed devolution to Northern Ireland. I hope everybody else is

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focused there as well. Arlene Foster telling Gareth Gordon

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she's focused on the task ahead. However, when Sinn Fein spoke

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to reporters earlier the talk wasn't The British Tories are on the verge

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of triggering Article 50. That is going to take the north out of the

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EU against the express wishes of the majority of people here. That is

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also against the express wishes of the more majority of parties across

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as Ireland. They are continuing to refuse to listen to the majority of

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use and they are refusing to honour their commitments and agreements.

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Brexit, as you stated on many occasions, will be a disaster for

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the economy. For eyes, that increases the urgency for a

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referendum. The people of Scotland... Brexit has increased the

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urgency for a unity referendum. We believe that should happen sooner

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than possible. It's very clear that a lot of conversation has moved on.

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The wider population is discussing the future constitutional position

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of the silent as a result of Brexit. -- of this island as a result of

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Brexit. And away from Stormont

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the big political story was Scotland's First Minister saying

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she would ask for permission to hold a second referendum

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on Scottish independence. You heard Michelle O'Neill say

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there that Nicola Sturgeon's move had no bearing on Sinn Fein's

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renewed call for a United Ireland. Over in the grounds

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of Stormont Castle, the Irish Foreign Minister,

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Charlie Flanagan, was here again for talks and he was asked

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for his perspective on the issue. It's not something to which the

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Irish Government will make a comment either way. On the basis that this

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is entirely a matter for the people of Scotland and entirely an issue

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for the British Government and the Scottish administration. However,

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while I'm silent on the matter of Scotland, that does not pertain to

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Northern Ireland, where of course I have a stakeholding. Irish

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Government is cool, two of the Good Friday agreement. As far as a

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consideration of border controls, these are longer term issues. It's

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more potent to do with the urgent things. For instance, the

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administration up and running here and the need to agree a budget. They

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need to put together a programme for the Government for the people here

:21:19.:21:23.

are not around. Also, the imminent withdrawal of the UK from the

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European Union. Anything else is premature and for the longer term.

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Charlie Flanagan talking to reporters this afternoon.

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And Rick has rejoined me for a final word.

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Is the renewed debate over Scottish independence likely to influence

:21:35.:21:36.

events in this part of the world over coming months?

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It's certainly going to give a bit of a sprint to the step of

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nationalists that are keen to propose and ferment the idea of the

:21:52.:21:55.

border poll. I miss you mean that when she asked for permission, --

:21:56.:22:02.

I'm mushrooming of that when Nicola Sturgeon asks... They have turned or

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see proposal. Interestingly enough, the polls in Scotland haven't

:22:11.:22:13.

changed very much since the first referendum. For some time, there's

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been a contingency about the UK as a state. We are a fluid state and not

:22:20.:22:29.

a steady state. What this does is further warbles the extent to which

:22:30.:22:35.

the union can hold. The centrifugal forces are recovered. Whether the

:22:36.:22:42.

centripetal forces are, this will be a consequence of what the outcome of

:22:43.:22:46.

the Brexit negotiations are. Chris saw it has a bearing on out? --

:22:47.:22:56.

sultanate has a bearing on as you? Brexit is not just a small evidently

:22:57.:23:00.

from it large elephant in the room. It dominates. Nobody likes an

:23:01.:23:11.

election more than you and me. The chances of another snap election?

:23:12.:23:17.

I'd be very surprised if Brokenshire takes that step. He has forgotten

:23:18.:23:21.

his opportunity to go to the White House. -- he has forgotten his

:23:22.:23:29.

opportunity. My best guess would be that we have an extended period of

:23:30.:23:37.

talks beyond this. If they fail, I suspect... We will see. Thank you

:23:38.:23:40.

for now. That is it for tonight. Our next scheduled

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Stormont Today isn't That's the deadline

:23:49.:23:49.

for the nomination of the First Meantime, I'll be back

:23:50.:23:53.

with The View on Thursday night The very embodiment of the England

:23:54.:23:56.

that must emerge. I have my own path to follow.

:23:57.:24:30.

Destiny.

:24:31.:24:32.

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people - from decision makers to opinion formers - to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.