Special Spotlight


Mark Carruthers chairs a studio debate in which an audience puts questions on topical issues to a panel of public figures.

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Hello, and welcome to Spotlight Special. As ever, we've invited a


first-rate panel to discuss the pressing issues of the day with our


studio audience. Danny Kennedy is an Ulster Unionist MLA for Newry


and Armagh and the Minister for Regional Development at Stormont.


Alex Attwood is the Environment Minister and an SDLP MLA for West


Belfast. Conor Murphy is the Sinn Fein MP and an MLA for Newry and


Armagh and chair of the Assembly's Finance and Personnel Committee.


Joanne Stuart is a leading light in the local business world and a


former Chairperson of the Institute of Directors here. And finally,


Edwin Poots is our third Executive Minister tonight. He's a DUP MLA


for Lagan Valley and he's currently in charge of the Stormont Health


portfolio. That's our lineup for tonight's Spotlight Special. Now


the questions come from members of the studio audience here but you


can have your say at home. You can text your comments throughout the


programme, to 81771. You can phone and e-mail us and geet your


comments to us. The details are on your screen now. -- tweet your


comments to us. Our first question tonight comes from Adrian McKinney


who is a community worker from Armargh. Good evening panel. Based


on today's hot topic, should the minister of the environment's title


be changed to minister of the destruction of the environment?


Well... Alex Attwood, you made a decision to green light this golf


development on the north Antrim coast, you said you knew it would


be controversial, have we got your title wrong? Well, James who is the


head of friends of the earth in Northern Ireland, was at my press


launch today, and he said the following, these are his words not


mine. He said that he thought I was a good Environment Minister, indeed


he went further, and I have to be careful of present company, that he


thought I was the First Minister for the environment in some time in


Northern Ireland, and the reason I think he said that was is that over


the last seven or eight months I have tried to demonstrate that the


build to natural heritage is one of the assets we have. The scale and


wonder of what we have needs to be protected but it needs to be


developed and advanced, in order to grow our tourism, and grow our


economy, given that some people suggest that we need to increase


our tourist growth over the next seven, eight years by 100%, to �1


billion a year industry. So given all of that context, that I do


think I am strong on the environment, but see the benefit of


the built and natural heritage being use for economic growth and


job opportunities in times of need. I think I have made the right


decision about it, because my decision, fully respects Azerbaijan


far as you possibly can, the quality of the natural heritage up


there, the designations up there, including the World Heritage status


that we have for the giants causeway, and the same time, in


sympathy with that, develop a golf resort that will profile tourism


going forward, multi-pie our golfing opportunities going forward,


grow the economy and jobs in that area going forward. As a


consequence, hard though it was, difficult judgment though it is, I


think I've got the balance right. I have the message right and the


opportunities right, both for the heritage and the economy going


forward. Just to be clear, about what Jamesor said, he may have said


you were a good minister for the environment, but he is not happy


with your decision,, situation he thinks you got that wrong. He said


opening this golf resort on the north Antrim coast was like opening


a burger par at the Taj ma hall. think that James and other people


who make that argument can't reconcile the fact on one hand a


good environment ministers apparently the First Minister of


the environment for some time, and the same time make an allegation


that I would be reckless with the natural heritage up there, to


compare it with having a burger bar at the Taj ma hall. Far from it.


What I have done, is recognise that in times of economic need, given


the need to grow a tourist industry, given the opportunities that we


have given success of golfer, professional and amateur, I think


that I have got the balance right, between on the one hand developing


a golf resort, creating hotel accommodation for a project like


that and the same time, being highly vigilant, and recognising


all the necessary heritage standards and protections that are


required up there. I approved the planning permission that lie lays


down 19 planning condition, all minded to protect the environment.


I think that I have the balance right. Yes, people will differ from


me but I hope most people, including those in the audience,


will recognise difficult judgment, balance right, good for the north,


good for jobs and good for heritage. Conor Murphy, is that how you see


it? He is fix Tait Yateed with his own reputation, I think in terms of


the planning decision there are balances to be taken, and of course,


you must protect the environment as best we possibly can, there are


strong environmental protections, there was a debate over independent


environmental protection agency for some time but there are strong


protections for the environment, and I appreciate Alex was damned if


he did and daped if he didn't. If he had taken the decision in


negative those in business and those which want to promote tourism


would have been critical. It is a matter of getting the balance right.


I do have the detail of the decision but I do think that there


is prord recognition that we have a beautiful heritage there we has to


be protected, but at the same time, we are in severe economic


difficulties and tourism is one potential growth area for us, I


think you have to in making decisions such as he made today you


have to be sure and be careful and he says he got the balance right


and I accept that decision. Edwin Poots, you were of course minister


for the environment in the past. You didn't have to make a call on


this very difficult decision. Do you think Alex Attwood did get it


right today? Absolutely. He has made the right decision, and it


reflects where the executive is and that is our economy is our number


one priority, and when we look to Northern Ireland, we see a lot of


unemployment, particularly in younger people, we do need to be


transforming the economic landscape. Destroying our heritage won't


actually transform our economy, so if Alex was making a decision that


was going to destroy our landscape, that is something that I would have


been opposed to as someone on the radio said this morning talked


about bungalows scattered through the site. They are not. They are


against Bushmills village. The hotel itself, it won't be seen from


as wide an area as the causeway hotel which was owned by the


National Trust, and in terms of the dunes themselves, they will not be


affected. This is a sensitive development and indeed a sensible


development. It will help create economic regeneration and Bushmills


and an area where there are lots of people unemployed it is the right


decision. You didn't think it will threaten the status of the giant's


causeway. That is what we are not clear about. It is being referred


to UNESCO. That was a matter for Alex's department. That shouldn't


be an issue. Because what has been proposed here is not something that


will be seen from the giant's causeway, there are lots of people


exaggerating. Can I say if we were to listen to everybody's complaints,


that criticise planning decisions now, if you lock at the road the


Coast Road, the Antrim Coast Road, that would never have been qop


developed. If you look at Parliament buildings in store month


that would never have been developed. These things shouldn't


be developed if you listen to the argument but you look at those and


they are magnificent features on the landscape. Joanne Stuart,


minister for the environment or destruction of the environment?


Minister for the environment. I think from a business perspective


it is great to get a decision I mean this has been five years


within the planning service, and through that time has gone through


a very rigorous environmental impact, on, you know, and as Edwin


said, business remindful and sensitive to our heritage, and that


is the reason that we get business coming into Northern Ireland, so


the development is to enhance that, and it is certainly not the


business won't do anything to ruin the environment. What it shows it


is good to see the economic considerations are being taken into


account, as well as the environmental, and it always is a


balance, but for business it is about getting decisions quickly,


whether that is a yes or no you want dae circumstances because you


can decide what do next. When it takes this long to get a decision


it doesn't help anybody. Danny Kennedy. On balance he has made the


right decision. I am not across the detail of it but it has been a


detail that is in the waiting for a considerable time. Almost ten years


since it was first advocated, so I think we should welcome that. I


think politics is about making big decision, which are sometimes not


always popular decisions but I think for economic reason, sound


economic reasons, the promotion of golf tourism, I think there is a


huge potential there, in Northern Ireland for that, we have golf


champion, we should exploit that to its maximum. Yes, there are


environmental considerations, and they have to be carefully assessed.


There is also the wider view that local farmers for instance, should


have the opportunity to build houses of their own in the area,


that it shouldn't be entirely excluded to those with cheque book,


I think that is an important consideration too, so I think on


balance it is the right decision. And I think it is an important


decision. Let us hear from Adrian, I am not happy with it. Personally


I think we need this golf course like a hole in the head. We have


got three in walking distance. I do not have a problem with the


business. But we have got many more areas that could have taken it. Why


here? It was all from the outside but not out of my pocket and I am


happy about that. The developers have said they are not looking for


public money and we will see if that is the case. I heard on the


radio, be possible minister for tourism, he said he came across


here with some friends and travelled from Dublin to Portrush


to play golf. But they travelled back to Dublin because they did not


have any hotels. Plenty of golf courses but no hotels. But does the


hotel have to be there? That is what people are concerned about.


What they were saying was if they had hotels in that area, he could


frequent sites in the area. Also, we have got good quality golf


courses. You think it is a good idea? I do not! Hotels, yes but


there is enough golf courses in the area. But in that location, you are


happy. The lady in the red scarf. What assurances will be be given to


insure that young people will actually benefit from jobs on the


site and that it does not become a rich playground. --? A very quick


word on that because other members of the audience wants to get


involved. Are there any stipulations about local people


getting jobs? I think that developers in the north of Ireland


like the government into Northern Ireland need to apply rigorous


practice around the course. Then we have got to have a local


involvement. We have got to have social clauses for long-term


employed people. I previously collapsed a threshold around


housing associations in order to enable a lot more people to get


social clauses and get a long-term job as part of the original


contract. The developers, public and private, government and


external, must build into the contracts going forward, these


types of clauses. Do they have to at the moment? In public contracts,


yes. But not to guess, a private contract? I have asked my


department to look at a series of proposals whereby there are


community benefit causes as part and parcel of planning decisions.


Then we will escalate the opportunities to build into


planning permissions, funding going to local communities as well as


opportunities to build into contracts opportunities for


employment. At the moment, we have got legal restrictions on that but


that clearly to answer the question is the way to get a better culture.


It will be interesting to see how the debate continues and stable --


people will want to express their opinions. Our next question is from


Jonathan, a student from Lisburn. What science is the Minister basing


his supposition on the? You have a policy in place that gay men cannot


donate blood in Northern Ireland which is not the same as the rest


of the UK. What is your response? Up the slick, this goes back for


some considerable time and I have not changed or altered anything. --


obviously.... Actually, the same regulations are in place in North


America and virtually every other country in Europe. We are not out


of step in the Europe and America. A but with the rest of the UK.


There has been pressure in terms of blood donations in the rest of the


UK because the people that the blood in the UK are from an older


population base. It has been a pressure for them that is not


present for us. In terms of the sides involved, we have looked at


best and my department has made a recommendation. We have to take


their opinions into consideration and look at the issues of


compliance. We have asked for papers on compliance. We have not


made a decision to proceed because we are not happy with the


information that has come forward. Some people made a remark about


commercial sex workers but that was not a claim that I made. That was


about a lesser risk from commercial sex workers. But the rest of the UK


is satisfied with the scientific evidence. Why are we not satisfied?


They have made the recommendations and we make the decisions.


Currently, we do not have a big pressure, perhaps not as big a


pressure as a part of Great Britain in terms of the blood supply that


we have got. But what makes it nonsense is that you do not like


demented debate but in Northern Ireland but we get blood from


across the water that could have been donated by gay men. We have


donations per annum across the UK. The number of units we receive


probably did not even enter into 100s. What is clear to me is that


this is not about sexuality. It is about the risk applied. I have met


the officials and I have spoken to people that have engaged in sex and


being able to get blood from people that have engaged in sex with


prostitutes. All of these are things I have concern about. This


is about people receiving blood and it is about maximising the security


they have that the blood that they are receiving is not something that


will give them an illness. Some people have died from diseases as a


result of receiving blood. I know some people have died because of


receiving blood. I have to be very sure and I am strong about this,


that I am acting in the interest of people receiving blood. Notts


people giving blood but the recipient. The has he got this


right? He has got it plainly wrong. I think we have got an important


principle that whatever personal morality and values that we have,


ministers must stand back and take advice. He has not actually


mentioned morality at all. understand that. But we cannot


easily divorce personal values and morality is from a public position


but we must be very vigilant. When the sides suggests that is the way


to go, we should follow that. -- science. I think that is the


principle we should follow. You are saying personal morality issues


Clio and scientific judgment? -- cloud sighted judgment? -- cloud


judgment? I previously allowed a conference to be operated in a


university involving gay and lesbian people and representing


their needs will stop outside the student union, people were trying


to impose their morality, in their words, Save Ulster from sodomy and


undermining the student population. Whether it is said or not, there is


a danger that personal and private about these are influencing public


policy. It is a serious charge. You are letting moral convictions cloud


your judgement as Health Minister. I have questioned regulations about


a series of things and not just about this issue. If he is


suggesting we should be receiving blood from commercial sex workers,


that is an interesting point of view to have. I think it is


difficult to say one whole group presents a risk. Every group,


straight and gay, they have got different risks associated. We have


to look at the screening and testing of blood. We have to insure


that because that has moved on in a number of years and that is what


would give me confidence. Are you satisfied that system is


sufficiently in place in Northern Ireland? I certainly have


confidence on the screening and testing facilities and I think


maybe there has got to be a bit more transparency and information


in the public domain, so we can look at that in more detail. That


is what the brokers should be had not on the person giving the blood.


At should be Minister think again? He has not made the final decision


yet. But I do not think we should say all of one group is a


particular risk with blood. Conor Murphy? The primary objective is


that he said that there is not a need and if that is correct then


day is no point in carrying on. I think it is a regulation that could


be considered insulting and discriminatory and he should move


ahead with the decision to lift that ban. I do not think that there


is a point of principle here. As long as scientific evidence does


not suggest greater risk, this is certainly discriminatory and


insulting for that community and it should be lifted. I want to hear


from the audience but first, Danny Kennedy? What is crucial and what


has already been indicated is that the sexuality of the individual is


not the issue at stake. I think we have got issues that our moral and


ethical. These have to be considered. But you assemble all


the facts. You take the necessary information from the experts that


are available and then you make the appropriate decision. I think based


on that, I would certainly be relying on people like the Chief


Medical Officer of Northern Ireland to provide information on this


matter. What do you think, Jonathan? I think the points about


screening were very good. Screening has come to a stage where we can


detect things in the blood that might be harmful to the recipient.


I would like to pick up on the. The Minister made, that it is happening


in the rest of the UK. -- the point that the minister made. A very


quick response to that. Sometimes the blood is needed very quickly


and sometimes some of the screening is very important. I do not


apologise for not taking risks. I need to make a decision and I do


not apologise for taking my time when it is health we are talking


about. The gentleman on the left. Important thing is that if I am


brought into the hospital, I want a guarantee that the blood I get is


100 % not contaminated. I do not care where or whom it comes from


but I want to be saved. Do you think the minister is right to hold


off or is that irrelevant because you could be getting blood from


across the water? Regardless of where it comes from, I want to make


sure, 100 % that it is safe to take his blood. That is my interest at


the moment. That is the most important thing. Irrespective of


the moral of philosophical issues of gay blood donation, what we must


remember is that it is the patient that is the recipient. You have to


be 100 % sure that he is getting, not necessarily pure blood but but


that is not contaminated. anything, this is contributing to


the myth that only gay people contract HIV and Aids. What is your


message to the minister tonight? He has got to make a decision. What


should he do? He needs to be careful not to contribute to these


problems. Heterosexual people need to protect themselves from HIV and


Aids as well. You must consider what message you are putting out.


We have looked at these issues with HIV and prostitutes and we have


looked at Africa and this is all about safety. It is important that


we concentrate on not who gets the It is not only the prostitutes who


contract aides and HIV. Let us move on. It is something people have


strong views on. We won't have complete agreement but it is


interesting to give it an airing, when will you make a final decision


on that, do you know? We have been taking legal advice from the


department's solicitor's office, so there is interesting views. But the


bottom line it will take a lot to get you to change your position?


is something we will give due consideration to and wise


consideration too. Our third question is from Paul, who is a


student support officer from Belfast. My question is, how does


the panel feel ability Scotland attaining independence and what


will this mean for Northern Ireland? Danny Kennedy? I am


opposed to Scottish independence. I think the United Kingdom works best


when all four constituent parts are working together, co-operating


together, and economically, I think that makes sense. I hope very much


that the Scottish referendum when it does take place, that it will


reject the notion of Scottish independence. I would hope that all


the partys in the United Kingdom, like local parties will be able to


make a contribution to that overall debate. Edwin Poots, I imagine you


don't disagree with much of that? think Alex Salmond to some extent


remind me at a dog at the end of a leash barking and slavering,


wishing to get off it but sometimes when they do, they don't know what


to do I would urge the Scottish people to be careful what you wish


for, because Scotland does very well out of the Barnett Formula.


Scotland is well ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom, in many


things it can offer the public. I suspect if he is reliant on North


Sea oil, which may not last forever, it will be a very foolish way to


lead the people of Scotland. This United Kingdom is a stronger for


having Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and


Wales all together, and I am glad that Scotland is currently part of


the United Kingdom. I trust that continues to be the case, as I am


glad that Northern Ireland as opposed to north that Alex was


referring to is part of the United Kingdom and will remain part of the


United Kingdom. It is entersing the question is no longer about


Northern Ireland. The question is about other parts of the United


Kingdom, we are secure within it. Alex Attwood? Unlike Edwin I think


Alex Salmond is one of the best politicians in these islands. More


than that, I think Alex Salmond, John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon


the three leaders of the Scottish Government know best of all the


ministers in these islands the difference between in Government


and being in power. Whatever happens about the referendum, we


have a lot to learn about good Government from the Scottish


Government and about pushing the limits of good Government and good


politics, we need to get our heads round that here. The second thing


is the nature of British union has been changing fundamentally over


the last 60 or 70 years. The old certainties are gone. The empire


has gone. The character of British monarchy is changing. Devolution


has come, and when you give power to people it is likely they will


want more power to themselves, be it Wales, Scotland or Northern


Ireland. I think we need to encourage this debate. Encourage a


definition of the British union and redefine the nature of


relationships at the same time. Scotland votes for independence


what would that mean for Northern Ireland? I think it will encourage


Northern Ireland to consider further its role in the British


union. And the future as part of united Ireland. That is for another


day. I think for now, we need to get our heads round, if not the


issue of independence, at least the issue of devolution Voe max, about


more power coming to Belfast, Wales and Edinburgh and the same time,


learning from Scottish experience, of a Government that pushes the


limits of Government. Pushes the limits of politics, pushes the


agenda with London in a way we should measure up to Devo Max is a


separate debate to any region of the United Kingdom, most especially


Scotland, because independence for Scotland would presumably give them


economic independence, and I mean I think it doesn't need to be spelled


out to harshly, that that is simply an non-starter. I think it's a


matter for the people of Scotland, just as it is for ourselves here as


well. I don't think that the British Prime Minister should be


interfering or attempting to bully Scotland in terms of deciding when


the question is asked or what the content of the question is, and I


do think there are lessons to learn in the interim in terms of having


more authority, having more say over the issues that affect the


people that you are elected to represent, and you know, for


instance Sammy Wilson's objection to more fiscal powers to the


assembly because he is a unionist doesn't stack up, I think we should


continue to press the boat out here for as much powers as we have to


affect and at erthe economic and social conditions we are trying to


grapple with. Certainly I think the question of sentence -- sentence


for Scotland is a matter for the people of Scotland. It shouldn't be


dictated to by a British Prime Minister. -- sentence sentence.


think Scotland has a progressive Government and certainly they ra


Government that have made decisions quicker than we have here. They


have a majority Government, but I think they have been more radical


in their policies and they have put things in place to help develop


their economy. In Northern Ireland, we have good relationships with


Scotland from a business perspective but when it comes down


it is a more complex question. It is one thing says do you want to be


independent but how are you going to do that? And are, do we have


that ability within us as a country? I agree with Conor, that


it is not for us to influence what Scotland are doing, that is a


question down to them, but I think you need to have the question and


the decision made, I think the longer that this goes on, without


maybe having all the information there, does create an unstable


environment, so you know, am glad there is now a date that has been


set, so that a decision can be made, and we take it from there. OK. Let


us hear from Paul who asked the question. Yes I I agree with what


some have said. It is up to the people of Scotland decide. If they


decide that is what they want, as Democrat, if you claim to be


Democrats you have to respect this butlet maltly that will ask big


questions about the future of Northern Ireland and the union, the


old certainties are gone. It isn't necessarily great depending where


you are coming from to be part of the union, Northern Ireland has


been treated as an afterthought and we still experience that today.


What do you think the implications would be for Northern Ireland if


Scotland was to vote for independence? I think we are going


to start thinking about more we will become more independent.


independent or just a union with a different country? More independent.


We don't have to look to England for support, and that we have, we


have our own culture and history. We can do it in conjunction with


England. We don't have to be ruled, uniformly from the UK. OK. Thank


you. There are a couple of hands, a couple of quick comments. I agree


more or less with Conor and the fellow ore here, nobody has the


right to say to Scotland don't, you know, sort of determine your own


future. So it's a democratic decision as far as you are


concerned. Yes. The SNP are looking at a referendum for 2014. I would


take one next week because they will be rejected. You think so?


Final thought from a gentleman in the front. The thing that suprises


me is why England hasn't gone for independence. APPLAUSE. I reckon


England could make a fair go of it on its own. Do you think that would


make everybody think twice. could get rid of the aping --


hangers on and start living the good life. Interest thought! Thank


you for that. Thanks for asking the question. Let us hear our next


question on youth employment. It is from a student. Good evening. Can I


ask what is being done to keep Northern Ireland's talented young


people here, to work and study? It's a question I think this time


round for Joanne Stuart, it is your area of expertise, you have been


written about this and been to conferences, it is a serious issue.


I think there are a number of options for young people, and I


think there is a rule for business, young people and Government, from a


business perspective there is a lot of opportunity out there but we


have to get much better at communicating those. And really


marketing ourselves to young people, so that you can see exactly where


the growth industries are. I mean areas like ICT, in engineering, in


health, in the connected health the minister was speaking about this


week, tourism, hospitality, there are opportunities out there but we


are not marketing those in the right way. But I think from a


Government there are programmes out there so for example for graduates


there is a graduate acceleration programme, a programme which is


about helping you to get some work experience and understand what


being in a job is about, there is training for success, to help


people to get into work, there is apprenticeships, there is knowledge


transfer partnerships working with universities colleges and business


but the problem for young people there is some research you need to


do of all of the stuff we have, available in Northern Ireland, one


of the problems we have and I find this in any area we are looking at,


we have great things happening on the ground, we haven't got the way


of how do we join it up so it is easier to final the information.


The other thing I would say, is because one of the programmes I


support is a mentor ship programme which is about giving graduates 12


months experience in the US UK, and I do think there is something to be


said for getting that sort of international experience, for us to


build our economy we need to be looking at markets outside of


Northern Ireland, we need to be growing our export, and if we can


get people who have got that international experience, got those


network, that can bring those skills back to Northern Ireland,


then I think that will be the benefit. The key is though, is


keeping connected. It is, we can't let young people go off and you


know, not stay connected to them, so programmes like the come on over,


the Department of Employment run which keeps people connected. We


have a programme that keeps people connected so everybody can see what


the opportunities are, how do we bring you back, how can you


contribute to Northern Ireland? It is not always negative for people


to spend some time overseas, learning a different experience,


getting a broadening your horizon, I have started to see poom people


coming back from the mentor ship programme they have spent in the


States. The contact is second to none. They have much more


confidence, they have come up with different ideas of how they want to


go forward, including creating their own businesses as well as


working with smaller business, and the other area is supporting young


people, because young people have great ideas. It is how do we


support yourselves to actually take those, and make them into


businesses as well. And there is different ways of supporting that.


There is a lot out there but it is getting it available to young


people. Maybe there isn't the joined up approach we need. Do you


think first of all that enough is being done by Government? If you


open one of the newspapers in Belfast this morning and saw a


photograph of the GEA team where two thirds of the members are


overseas at the moment, many of them in Melbourne, you would vo to


conclude there has been a collective failure. Whatever the


economic situation is beyond our control, there should have been


more within our control, to ensure that so many didn't go overseas.


The fundamental issue for me is that we have to decide in the north


where we are going to place ourselvess, when it comes to


economic opportunity, in order to have the jobs, so that young people


in every other generation can get access to jobs, and those are the


fundamental strategic choices we have to decide now. And they are


about recognising that renewables is our single biggest opportunity,


recognising we can grow agricultural and Agri food in the


image of the south of Ireland but 200-300% going forward. Tourism,


where we are hoping to have 26,000 new jobs over the next seven or


eight years and that by deciding what the global economic strategy


is for the north, then applying our resources to have people trained up


for the skills, in the short-term we need a lot of urgent


interventions, to try to give people some sense of hope and


opportunity, so for example, Government, if you look at Belfast


City Council, they have announced a major capital project which is


looking to build into the body of the council a lot of training


opportunities for young peep. We should do the same thing in


Government. If we adopted a model I am working up on, we could have


2,000 six month placements in Government, as part of the


architecture of Government, giving people an opportunity for and those


are the short-term urgent interventions as we decide what is


the overall economic strategy going forward. Danny? I served as


employment and learning minister, and many of the projects and


schemes that Alex is referring to are actually happening and Joanne


will confirm that, but we need to intensify that, and certainly,


there is clear proof to me that at a time of economic downturn, you


must always invest in training and skills, and that goes for local


companies but it goes particularly for our young people, because they


are one of our greatest assets, if not our best asset, so I think the


executive is continuing to look at schemes, I know the employment and


learning minister has recently circulated a paper to executive


colleague, we are studying that, to look at ways we can bring forward


positive initiatives to improve the lot. People are still leaving, that


is the point and leaving in big numbers. But this is not just a


Northern Ireland problem. This is a problem in national terms of almost


epidemic proportions and so we need to be careful that we take all


necessary measures that we can and can I say the executive has held


the issue of student fee, tuition fees, to encourage young people to


study here in universities in Northern Ireland, and that was part


of the brain drain that for years dogged Northern Ireland and


industry in Northern Ireland, a lot of people, the best of our young


people left and didn't return. We have to encourage and put in place


the mechanisms where by the train Conor Murphy? More than half of my


family are scattered across the water. I do not think any of them


will come back, such is the reality of life here. They are in Australia,


Canada and England. Is that a failure on the part of Northern


Ireland? It is a failure across the country, in Britain as well and it


is a symptom of the economic downturn to. But there are things


to be done and Joanne has listed a few of them. We have made the point


about contracts. That was made in the last Executive but the


Executive is still a big spender had it has got the power, if not


the case in the golf courses, they can insure that we have got


opportunities for young people in contracts to gain employment,


experience, knowledge and skills. There are other areas suited for


people in terms of new technology as well. We need to invest in


chasing opportunities abroad. In this climate, we should be striking


that balance more in favour of investing in local businesses and


finding opportunities for young people here. I think we need to get


back to basics and I think the economy was too reliant on retail,


construction and as Northern Ireland plc, we need to be


manufacturing more and selling more services abroad. We need to bring


more money into the economy and when that comes in, it will sustain


the retail sector and the construction sector will grow again.


A considerable amount of work is being done and we have got a lot of


job opportunities in Northern Ireland. I can think of farms for


example, which employ people. But some people do not want to work in


these industries. Why? In the New York Stock Exchange recently,


people put up advertising for 40 staff and have not got the workers.


We need to encourage people to take up opportunities that actually


exist. We will go back to the question. All these programmes


sound fantastic and I am sure they cost the taxpayer a fair amount of


money but where is the evidence they are working? Where are the


employment figures? When will they reduce? Well, they have. Youth


unemployment was 21 %, down to 18 %. Against Wales at 27 %. We are


bringing in 7% of investment into the United Kingdom in a population


of less than 3%. I recognise it is tough but a lot of good things are


happening. I want to bring in the audience. The gentleman on the left.


We cannot wait eight years for another 26,000 jobs. We can wait


eight months but you have had five years to get past the jobs. Perhaps


if you put 80 things more through planning had made decisions in the


last term a parliament, we would not be in this situation today. By


in the second row. One of the things that I have to say is that a


lot of the interventions are full 17, 18-year-old but what about 12 I


and 17? What about opportunities for the young people here? -- 12-


17? These are the things I think are very important and they are


neglected in urban and rural areas. The lady in the front. You are


talking about giving people skills but a lot of people read social


skills before they can get qualifications. They have not got


consequences -- concert at -- they have not got confidence to do the


job interview. The panel spoke highly of freezing university


tuition fees to decrease unemployment. But could be funding


not go to increasing employment and not maintain increasingly high


graduates in Northern Ireland? gentleman on the ride. Every time


we talk about youth unemployment, we talk about university and


college graduates. We need investment in working-class areas.


How do young people feel? People want to hear about solid investment


in their areas to help them. final comment. Universities are


irresponsibly offering places in jobs, for example, teaching.


Careers are really important and we have to work in schools and we have


got to teach people how to market themselves better. People pick up


skills through hobbies and different things that they have


done and not just through jobs. Some people are not understanding


the skills that they have got. The market place is competitive but


businesses are stepping up to try and get the skills to young people.


People feel very strongly about that. The next question is from an


administrator from County Armagh. Would putting a minimum price not


be penalising P-U -- people that drink alcohol sensibly? Sometimes


we have what can be considered a clear and short term solutions. --


short-term solutions. We have got a broad range of problems. Some have


been referred to in the past discussions about self-esteem.


About decent people have of themselves and lack of self-worth.


-- about people with a lack of self-worth. Some people think that


the answer is actually a much broader issue. We have to look at


health and all of the other departments and education in


particular. When people talk about a sense of despair, education is


failing people and we are trying to change the education system and we


are getting resistance to that. But we have to recognise that we have


got a broad level of young people that are affected by the problem


that you are talking about and simply applied one solution about


prices is not enough and it needs a broader intervention. I support


minimum unit pricing of alcohol. Absolutely no doubt about that. 80


% alcohol is consumed by 20 % of people. Most people are not a


problem drinkers. They are responsible. But we must create


disciplines in order for people that do drink to excess, they can


be prevented. You have to hit hard on irresponsible might club owners.


You hit hard on irresponsible drinking promotions. You hit hard


on vehicles driving people consuming vast amounts of alcohol


before they get to nightclubs. You create a minimum price per unit of


alcohol. That will not inhibit people from buying alcohol when


they are responsible but it will restrict access to alcohol from


people that are not responsible. A collective measure across a range


of interventions is all one way of drilling down on people that are


irresponsible. My view is that alcohol is too easily accessible.


In terms of price, it is too cheap. It provides any number of social


problems that we have to deal with at a later stage. My opinion is


that we should be coming forward with measures to deal with it


effectively. To respond to the question, for people that drink


responsibly, the price increase will not created by most people.


But we need to make any impact on people that drink excessively. They


are costing the health service millions of pounds every year. They


cost the economy around �900 million every year. That is not


sustainable. It is not morally right that Northern Ireland, almost


300 people last year got killed because of alcohol. It was not


right during the Troubles. We did not found -- find that acceptable.


Joanne Stuart? I think it is one of a number of interventions and one


aspect of that his education and how we get the message out to


people. A lot of people might not think they are drinking too much


and we need to look at this in the round. We will hear from the lady


get asked the question. To an extent I do think people will be


punished and penalised. Some people want to have a good time and drug


people will get drunk no matter what and people will find a way to.


Is there any guarantee that this money will come in handy it will


actually go back into the health system and education? Are These


people damaging their bodies? more audience thoughts? There is a


lot of research that indicates that when we have a unit price increase


that it actually reduces the harm resulting from alcohol abuse. That


is good international research that demonstrates that increasing the


price can reduce harm. understand suicide is a big problem


and the psychiatrists have said that if we have a minimum price of


alcohol it would reduce that problem greatly. I am a recovering


alcoholic. I think the system of controlled drinking in bars where


people cannot get access to drinking, we have to go back to


that system and reduce problems with the drinking and social


problems. The gentleman on my right. Primarily, people on low incomes


would be penalised by an extra tax on alcohol. Should we not penalise


the government for not delivering on a range of issues? Out of these


people penalise our government? -- how do these people penalise our


government? But is it progress? but many people will see it as a


tax on poor families. It will be regarded as a tax by these people.


The gentleman at the back. I think having a minimum price is likely to


encourage other markets which are already increasing. We will take a


final question from Roger, a businessman from Belfast. What


would each of the panellists gave up for Lent and why? It is a short


one that you might or might not be glad to hear. Joanne Stuart?


would have to be me constantly on a diet so I think it will be crisps.


Will that be easy? I would just have to try! Enjoyed. Plenty of


crisps in the studio if you need them. Edwin Poots? I did not have


that many bad habits... But I do tend to wind up people closest to


me so I could promise not to wind up my wife that but I suspect that


would not last very long. instalment? I will have to keep


winding them up. -- and in Stormont? Sometimes you start to


falter from New year's resolutions and for me it would be more about


foodstuffs. Are you good about that? I am generally good during


the week but the weekend is always my downfall. Danny? Chocolate bars.


I am not sure that you are allowed to advertise chocolate bars on the


BBC. And wine gums. Not a wine gums. Will they go tomorrow? The jury is


still out. You can make a commitment on BBC One. Politicians


making a commitment? It would be novel! Looking towards Danny and my


other colleagues, I presume they would wish that I was speaking less.


Not a chance, is there? Around the executive table I can tell you that


is very true. Roger? I think politicians should give up


pretending to be competent politicians. They cannot run this


country. What are you giving up for Lent? I did not recognise Lent.


Interesting you asked a question about it. The lady in the middle?


What should they give up about welfare reform and the impact on


the lips of carers? -- lives. is where we must leave it for


another edition of Spotlight Special. Thank you to the panel of


Political debate as a studio audience puts questions to a panel of public figures on the week's big talking points. Mark Carruthers presents.

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