Special Spotlight


Special

Noel Thompson chairs a political debate as a panel of public figures answer topical questions posed by a studio audience.


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Hello, and welcome to this Spotlight special, where the studio

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audience has a chance to put their questions to the panel. Among them,

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but politicians to shape our lives. Tonight, Mitchel McLoughlin, Sinn

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Fein's spokesperson for victims. Our line etched -- the minister for

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trade and investment. Bernadette McAliskey. Stephen Agnew. And the

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Strangford MLA, Mike Nesbitt, who heads the Ulster Unionist Party. We

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want to know what do you think about the talking points of the day.

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You can text the programme. The details are on your screen. Calls

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cost five pence per minute from most landmines. Let's go to our

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first question, from a teacher from Belfast. His fear being eight

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Unionist Unity candidate in Mid- Ulster a step backwards for

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Northern Ireland? This is a question based on the decision to

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field an agreed's candidate in the Mid-Ulster by-election, which led

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to the resignation of John McCallister and Basil McCrea. I

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expect big question is asking, is this a step back to its sectarian

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headcount, Mike Nesbitt? It is not new for either this party or for

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other parties in Northern Ireland. Bernadette was elected in 1969

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:02:38.:02:40.

because Sinn Fein withdrew a candidate, and she had a clear run.

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At the last Westminster elections in South Belfast, Alex Maskey

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withdrew and Dr Alasdair McDonnell had a clear run for the SDLP. Gerry

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Adams described it as bold leadership about protecting and

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defending nationalist seats. It is not new. We had an agreed Unionist

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candidate at the last Westminster election for Fermanagh South Tyrone.

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I have been listening to the people of Mid-Ulster and they are saying

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that on this occasion, for a variety of reasons, including the

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recent murder of a prison officer but also because for 16 years they

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have had an abstentionist member of parliament, that they would like to

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see a single Unionist candidate. I am an Ulster Unionists, so my first

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preference is that an Ulster Unionist wins the seat. There was

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no possibility of that. What is my second option? It is not to give

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Sinn Fein if free run. My second preference is to see some form of

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Unionist over the line. The best way of maximising the opportunity

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for that is to field one, not three, four or five pro-union candidates.

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Basil McCrea said it is a good decision for Sinn Fein, be you

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agree? It is a matter for the Unionist parties. I hope the by-

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election is contested on social, economic and political issues. At

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the end of the day, I hope the electorate will decide. De you

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believe this is a neutral step or a step backwards? -- do you believe

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it. My sense of it is that Unionism, for some time now, the House

:04:30.:04:40.

cohesion. -- has lacked cohesion. What might emerge is a coherent

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voice. It is difficult when you are looking for partners to build a new

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democracy to fade partners in Alienist PAPA Obree -- to the park

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is in the Unionist Party who are afraid to take decisions.

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depends what future you want for Northern Ireland. The thing that I

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:05:12.:05:15.

find quite sad is that in 1969, as a young student, and around quickly

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a platform of raising the absence of democracy? The parties which

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were meant the old Nationalist Party and the old republican club

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Sinn Fein, allowed a unity candidate, which happened to be me,

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precisely because neither want or the other could elbow each other

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out of a position of authority in the election. It was a very

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temporary solution for them. Ironically, they wondered what harm

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I could do in one year! They were seen to discover. That was a long

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time ago. What is the relevance for today? That we have not moved

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forward. In terms of developing a Northern Ireland as a democratic,

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Equitable, shared society which respects Rights, which builds peace

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and prosperity, which respects difference, which embraces

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diversity, that the conversation is still locked in parties simply

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around the issue of national identity. For me, what a sad to see

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is that there is not the emergence of new alliances in politics Evra

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and shared the social and economic ideas. The reality is that within

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the major parties, the differences on fundamental things, which is

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what this election should be about, the level of unemployment, the

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dismantling of the Health Service, the absence of affordable social

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housing, that absence of any coherence around our health care,

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but there is no clear challenge to the consensus politics on a hill

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about how that should be dealt with. I suppose the last thing you want

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is a challenge to the consensus? The original question is, does this

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take us back? Absolutely not. It is a good move forward for Unionism.

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It will come as no surprise that I believe in the Union and therefore,

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I want to see the people of Mid- Ulster represented in parliament.

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First of all represented, because we have not had a representative in

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parliament for such a long time, but also to have a unionist

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representing Mid-Ulster. It is a rational political ID. I do not

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understand they argument that says it is sectarian? I do not accept

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that. The argument might be that you are not offering a choice?

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are saying that we believe in the union and if you want to vote for

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it, vote for Nigel Martyn. If you believe in Sinn Fein, vote for them.

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If you believe in the SDLP's policies, more akin to Sinn Fein,

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vote for them. What we are saying is, to give people a chance to vote

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for a Unionist candidate and for him to be elected, the union at --

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Unionist parties had to come together.

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How can it be seen as a step forward for Unionism whenever it

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has, in fact, divided the Ulster Unionist Party and there may be

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another party created as a result? How can it be seen as uniting them?

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Do you think that if a new party does emerge at Stormont that it

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would be a good thing? Not necessarily for Unionism, but for

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Northern Ireland. This is not new, and Mike Nesbitt is right. It is

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all politics for a new way of thinking. We hear parties saying

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they are putting the economy first, but they are putting the union

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first. The union is not been debated at Westminster. It is up to

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the people in the audience and at home to decide the future of the

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Union. Let's talk about what we can't influence as politicians.

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People do not want processed parties or politics. They want

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parties that do what they say on the label. We have seen that with

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the horsemeat scandal. People want to know what they are buying into.

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If you start mixing two parties that... You should run at separate

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candidates. This has led to a deep split in the Ulster Unionist Party?

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I can test whether there has been a split, but I cannot let Stephen and

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-- Stephen Aguiar's comments go. There is going to be a vote on

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Scottish independence next year. The debate about the future of the

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union is alive and Westminster is key to it. In terms of John

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McCallister and Basil McCrea, we have well over 100 elected

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representatives, 2000 members, 100,000 people vote for us, never

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mind the DUP and TUV and other pro- union people involved in all of

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this. It does not always have to be about John and basil. They say they

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are men of principle yet they are not prepared to resign. Yet you

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would still be 20% short. Nigel Lutton, I can see Catholics and

:10:59.:11:09.
:11:09.:11:09.

nationalists voting for him. Let me bring a few more people in. The two

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Unionist leaders, Surrey, people, have been talking about the most

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important thing. If you can sit in Stormont with Sinn Fein and work

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with them on committees, why can't you two parties work together, make

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one big union party instead of having all of these little ones

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with arguments among the in cells? -- your selves? It is not getting

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:11:46.:11:59.

Was it a one-off or is at the start of things to come? What we want are

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not necessarily Unionist or nationalist candidates. What we

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want our people who we can vote for who will take leadership on

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improving jobs and the economy in Northern Ireland. We want it to be

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one party. Maybe Mike is heading that way. No, I don't think

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Unionist unity is a possibility. But I think Unionist co-operation

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can be done and at times should be done. I believe I demonstrated by

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winning this one I believed that time was right so to do it. What

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I'm talking about is not so much... Well, it is, yes, an experiment

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that has been done before. It's the right thing for Mid Ulster at this

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time. I can't look beyond that, as people would like it to do, for two

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reasons. First, we have to see how the co-operation between all the

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group's goes between now and 7th March, and then we have to see how

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the result goes. On the basis of that we will make a decision.

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think it's putting the constitutional issue right back up

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the top of the political agenda. Any type of normal politics should

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be moving us beyond simply the constitutional issue. To go to

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Stephen's point about constitutional politics. It is

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important we do give people the opportunity to vote for a candidate

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who might actually get elected. The way to do that is for both parties

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to come together. Because at present there is no representation

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at Westminster. We're talking about the union, we should be talking

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about the economy. Of course we should be talking about the economy

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in the context of the United Kingdom. At like ask another

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question now. The economically and politically, is it more beneficial

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for NI to remain in the UK? We had a recent opinion poll which showed

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38 % of Catholics would vote to stay in the UK, 27 % of Sinn Fein

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voters said it. And it also identified a new sector of about a

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quarter who consider themselves to be Northern Irish. What do you

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think, is it time to give up the republican struggle and throw your

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lot in with the UK? No, I think the first thing that people really

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ought to do is recognise that there has to be a certain integrity about

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the way you do things. You can't just keep chopping about and

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interchanging, say, cultural conversation around people's

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national identity with religious conversation, around people's

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religious beliefs. And then political ideologies around how

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people think, around social and economic issues. Because those are

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all very complex and different. So if you ask people in Northern

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Ireland, would you vote for a united Ireland tomorrow, and they

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say no. Then the question you have asked is, would you vote bought it

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to be united with Ireland tomorrow and the answer you've got is no, I

:15:09.:15:14.

would not vote to be in a united Ireland tomorrow. It is not know. I

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am now, by virtue of being a Catholic, for or against the idea

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of national unity. I am a Unionist. I am something else. You can't play

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this game, which we do all the time. We have created those markers for

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ourselves and then judge them. They have always been, right through the

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history of this country, Catholics who always have and always will be

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unionist and British in their national identity and national

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thinking. There may not be the majority. Not enough for them,

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perhaps. Not enough for Mike Nesbitt or whatever. Also, people

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who have a particular view on separate this or rearranging the

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relationship between these islands, politically, socially and

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economically, are not necessarily nationalists. I do not and never

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have considered myself to be a nationalist. There is not a

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Hibernian bone in my body. There is not a Hibernian thought in my head.

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I am a republican. I am a socialist. Economically and politically, is it

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more beneficial for Northern Ireland? Economically, politically

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and socially, it is at this point almost irrelevant, in the immediate

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sense, whether Northern Ireland is within the context of an Irish

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Republic that is owned by the European Union and by IMF, or in a

:16:51.:16:56.

British economy that very soon will be. The main problem facing people

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in this particular part of this particular island is an absence of

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democratic control. Over decisions that would allow us to reallocate

:17:08.:17:13.

resources. That would allow us to generate resources for the social

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and economic things that we need. What do you think, Stephen?

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you'd have asked that question five years ago, people might have said

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Ireland. If you ask it to date, people might say the UK. So we are

:17:27.:17:33.

a selfish lot. Only interested in our immediate gratification. What I

:17:33.:17:38.

think is the DUP and Sinn Fein have got exactly what they want. Sinn

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Fein's motion at Belfast City Council got us talking about flags.

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At Ulster, they got us talking about the union. This is the

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politics of distraction. At a time when our economy is at its worst,

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we are talking about these issues. This is all the will ever get when

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you have parties defined by their constitutional position first and

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foremost. I don't think these are the issues we need to be talking

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about at this time. Educational under-achievement, the economy, the

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challenges we face. That is where we need to get to. But is it more

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beneficial for people in Northern Ireland to stay where they are now

:18:13.:18:17.

rather than join the Republic? we are going to have that

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conversation, let's talk about the future rather than the past. People

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want to talk about the past, so let's talk and -- about the pros

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and cons, the economy has been mentioned. The UK has a national

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health system, is that a benefit? What about trading across islands?

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It doesn't keep me awake at night. It's up to these people at home.

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Does it keep you awake, be sure? Sometimes. The question really has

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to be answered in the experience... Fall of six of the last 90 years...

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What Mr Schweiz me, Unionists, when you want to discuss an alternative

:19:01.:19:07.

approach, delegating the fiscal power, they start talking about the

:19:07.:19:11.

price tag. About the size of the deficit, or about the scale of our

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bankruptcy. I don't know how anyone can argue over that. Gerry Adams

:19:15.:19:21.

has been talking about it most recently. It's not really is a

:19:21.:19:27.

venture that pour from Westminster. It's a rather strange analysis.

:19:27.:19:32.

What we have taken of the figures produced by the British Treasury

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and the figures produced by the finance minister in Stormont. We

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demonstrated that the assumptions that are made, which Gibbs raised

:19:39.:19:44.

to these exaggerated claims. But the real issue at the end of the

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day is not the size of the deficit, but the reason why there is a

:19:47.:19:52.

deficit. His partition good for the note? It doesn't answer that

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question. What we can talk about are the alternatives. We were

:19:57.:20:01.

starting with a green field. If I could stay that in terms of this

:20:01.:20:05.

small island of 6.2 million people. There are European cities that have

:20:05.:20:10.

a bigger population. So we can get the balance right between the

:20:10.:20:14.

different traditions. Would the first decision be, let's have two

:20:14.:20:18.

economies on this island? I think the answer would be no. We are

:20:18.:20:24.

managing the mistakes that were making history. But there are two

:20:24.:20:29.

sides to the house and Arlene is on the other. The people of Ireland

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would and decide to have two economies, 0 two Health Systems,

:20:36.:20:42.

nor two educational systems. Here is where we are. We are in a

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situation where we are in the UK, whether Mitchell likes it or not,

:20:47.:20:53.

and Benavidez and. End of the talks about this, so let's talk about

:20:53.:20:56.

something other than the economic figures, let's not talk about the

:20:56.:21:00.

economic figures. But those are economic realities and people need

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to understand those, if we're talking about the UK and how we

:21:04.:21:07.

benefit from membership. Economic and, yes, it's the right decision.

:21:08.:21:12.

Politically, for me, it's the right decision. Socially, culturally and

:21:13.:21:16.

every other reason it is right to be in the UK. I firmly believe that

:21:17.:21:26.

and that's why I'm a Unionist. short answer to the question is yes,

:21:26.:21:31.

we are better off in every sense being in the UK. Amazing! We are

:21:31.:21:37.

one of the 10 strongest economies in the world. Bernadette has been

:21:37.:21:42.

very clear where the Republic's economy is. That is not in

:21:42.:21:45.

anybody's best interest. I'm a Unionist, but before I was in

:21:45.:21:49.

politics when I was working in the private sector, I work with Mr

:21:49.:21:54.

George quickly, a great thinker, and a North-South economic corridor

:21:54.:21:58.

between Belfast and Dublin. I will give you a quote from John Hewitt,

:21:58.:22:03.

I am an Ulsterman but I am also and I am British and I am European. And

:22:03.:22:09.

to deny any of those diminishes the. In terms of our economic, cultural

:22:09.:22:13.

and social freedoms, we have to have relationships across all those

:22:13.:22:17.

different sectors. However, to get to the point where we are talking

:22:17.:22:21.

about the economy, education, health, housing, all those issues

:22:21.:22:25.

we want to focus on, you have to first settle people in terms of

:22:25.:22:29.

their culture and identity and make sure they are comfortable. When

:22:29.:22:32.

republicans weren't happy with the way their cultural identity was

:22:32.:22:37.

being treated in Northern Ireland, 3500 people had to dive and the

:22:37.:22:40.

economy was brought to its knees. We mustn't go back there. Everybody

:22:40.:22:43.

must feel comfortable with who they are and how well they are respected.

:22:43.:22:47.

That's what the Ulster Unionist Party did 15 years ago with the

:22:47.:22:52.

Belfast Agreement. Mutual respect, consensual and not majority rule

:22:52.:22:58.

politics. I want to take a quick straw poll on it being more

:22:58.:23:02.

beneficial for Northern Ireland to remain in the UK. What are your

:23:02.:23:08.

views? I would agree with Mike. I do think it's better economically,

:23:08.:23:15.

politically and socially to remain in the UK. Who thinks the same? I

:23:15.:23:22.

would say quite a big majority of people here. You agree? Yes, a huge

:23:22.:23:30.

majority. A comment to make their quickly? It's all about division.

:23:30.:23:34.

Not about what we can do it together and shared. It's not about

:23:34.:23:38.

Northern Ireland. We are Northern Ireland, we can all identify with

:23:38.:23:48.

that. Not everyone identified with that. That is what the NI 2012

:23:48.:23:52.

campaign was about last year. Hugely successful campaign, which

:23:52.:23:56.

was to attract more people to come to Northern Ireland. It was also

:23:56.:23:59.

about civic pride in Northern Ireland, and it was something

:23:59.:24:03.

everybody could take part in. I was proud of that campaign. I think

:24:03.:24:09.

it's something we can build on. Johnson is a nurse. Your question,

:24:09.:24:14.

please. I just wonder what the panel think the impact will be of

:24:14.:24:17.

the recent vote in the House of Commons in favour of gay marriage,

:24:17.:24:23.

and what impact they feel that were having Northern Ireland? It was

:24:23.:24:28.

carried by a majority of 225 in favour of allowing marriage with

:24:28.:24:31.

members of the same sex in religious institutions which

:24:31.:24:36.

consented to that. Of the Northern Ireland MPs, two voted for, nine

:24:36.:24:41.

against and two abstained. All the DUP voted against. Arlene Foster,

:24:41.:24:45.

why did you all do that and what impact would it have, or will it

:24:45.:24:49.

have in Northern Ireland because it has been passed? It doesn't have

:24:49.:24:52.

any impact in Northern Ireland in so far as the assembly has the

:24:52.:24:56.

power to pass laws in relation to that matter for Robben Island, and

:24:56.:24:59.

therefore we will continue with the definition of marriage as it

:24:59.:25:04.

currently stands. We believe that marriage is about a man and a wife.

:25:04.:25:09.

People say to me, what about equality and equity? Equity doesn't

:25:09.:25:14.

mean equality in all things. Actually, there is equity because

:25:14.:25:16.

civil partnerships are now in place for people who are homosexual, to

:25:16.:25:23.

come together in partnership. How are they not equal? You can't have

:25:23.:25:28.

a religious reading with a civil partnership ceremony, no religious

:25:28.:25:34.

music, no religious symbols. says that? The Church says that, as

:25:34.:25:39.

opposed to the law. In the law, you cannot have any civil partnership

:25:39.:25:44.

ceremony any religious ceremony. Are you sure that is not from the

:25:44.:25:50.

church as opposed to the law? As I understood it, his civil

:25:50.:25:54.

partnership event, it was a matter between the parties as to what they

:25:54.:25:58.

had done their partnership event, as opposed to in a church. But I

:25:58.:26:02.

very firmly believe in marriage. I believe in the institution of

:26:02.:26:05.

marriage and I believe it is between a man and a woman, and that

:26:05.:26:10.

is the position I have. David Cameron says Love makes societies

:26:10.:26:15.

stronger. This kind of marriage will promote commitment, which can

:26:15.:26:19.

only surely be a benefit to the wider society. That is happening

:26:19.:26:22.

already through civil partnership. That is why they are there, to

:26:22.:26:27.

allow people who are homosexual to come together in a relationship.

:26:27.:26:31.

That is not damaging the institution of marriage, as I

:26:31.:26:41.
:26:41.:26:51.

believe it would be damaged if If we do not have equality of

:26:51.:26:53.

access in Northern Ireland, then having quite rightly discussed that

:26:53.:26:57.

we are members of the United Kingdom and we are British, it is a

:26:58.:27:02.

requirement of British law that all British citizens be treated equally

:27:02.:27:07.

before the law. And so, if it is the case that once again, in this

:27:07.:27:13.

particular part of the United Kingdom that people are going to

:27:13.:27:18.

half less rights because of the particular religious persuasion are

:27:18.:27:23.

the majority parties here, then we will be over a period of time

:27:23.:27:27.

looking at a case, and quite properly, looking at a case going

:27:27.:27:31.

before the European Court of Human Rights on that very issue. Gentle

:27:32.:27:36.

man in the front row. It is important to note that the vote in

:27:36.:27:42.

the House of Commons was for England only. The position of

:27:42.:27:46.

Northern Ireland is not technically Defford -- different from Wales,

:27:46.:27:49.

Scotland or Northern Ireland. the end of the day, the government

:27:49.:27:54.

of the UK is the government that has the statutory obligation for

:27:54.:27:59.

human rights protection to Europe. If we again have human rights

:27:59.:28:03.

protections by postcode lottery and region, then they will quite

:28:03.:28:08.

rightly, as they were on every other issue, be taken to the

:28:08.:28:12.

European Court of Human Rights and found wanting and they will be

:28:12.:28:17.

required and forced, just as the stake was taken out of the

:28:17.:28:21.

teacher's hand by the European Court, just as every other piece of

:28:21.:28:28.

prejudice was taken out of hand... The lady over there. It is wrong to

:28:28.:28:34.

oppose gay marriage. You can be Christian and gay. It is wrong as

:28:34.:28:39.

well, I do not see how the Protestant religion can remarry and

:28:39.:28:44.

divorce as much as they want in a church setting but a gay person

:28:45.:28:50.

cannot even get married in a church. It is just wrong. Gentle man in the

:28:50.:28:56.

blue jumper? The Church's due on gay marriage is that it is wrong,

:28:56.:29:00.

it says in the Bible it is wrong. Surely be a church should have a

:29:00.:29:06.

choice whether they will have gay marriages because it's a -- it says

:29:06.:29:16.
:29:16.:29:18.

in the Bible. The day and a man in the back row? I do not think

:29:18.:29:27.

religion has any place in politics. Mike Nesbitt. Marriage is not a

:29:27.:29:34.

political construct, but is the difficulty. I can't do this as a

:29:34.:29:37.

churchgoer and a struggling Christian, but I led a become --

:29:37.:29:45.

congregation of the church I attend. I think they would feel that

:29:45.:29:48.

permitting gay marriage would make the Church are colder place for the

:29:48.:29:53.

majority of them. I look at this idea of equality and I think there

:29:53.:29:57.

is a contrary argument for the one Bernardette put forward. If you

:29:57.:30:00.

have a choice of civil partnership and marriage for the gay community

:30:00.:30:03.

and you do not have the same available to the heterosexual

:30:03.:30:08.

community, as would be the case, you do not have equality, you have

:30:08.:30:11.

inequality. That could be challenged in the European courts.

:30:11.:30:15.

It is a matter within my party, where people have a free vote and

:30:15.:30:21.

take different stances... What is your stance? I am against. You

:30:21.:30:25.

mentioned the vote in the Commons. Two of the Ulster Unionist Lords

:30:26.:30:29.

voted in favour and that is perfectly fine, because it is a

:30:29.:30:38.

matter for individual conscience, not politics. Does that mean, that

:30:38.:30:45.

if they are bringing equal marriage, would you be forcible partnerships

:30:45.:30:51.

-- fought civil partnerships in straight relationships? I would be

:30:51.:30:56.

pro anything that represents equality. The bottom line for me

:30:56.:30:59.

his commitment. A commitment between two people, whether they

:31:00.:31:06.

are same-sex are not, I will support. I think it was a

:31:06.:31:14.

regrettable decision by the Assembly. By Westminster? Not by me

:31:14.:31:21.

Westminster. I agree with the decision-taking. If people can be

:31:21.:31:26.

legally married in England and they come off the steps of an aeroplane

:31:26.:31:33.

here and they are no longer married, that is ridiculous. My sense is

:31:33.:31:37.

that we made the wrong decision and once again, religious opinion

:31:37.:31:42.

dominated a political decision. That is a matter for regret.

:31:42.:31:49.

APPLAUSE. Good to hear that the British got

:31:49.:31:58.

something right! Not everything, just most things. I am pleased with

:31:58.:32:02.

the decision Westminster have taken and I am pleased that Caroline

:32:02.:32:06.

Lucas voted for it. I am pleased to have brought it forward in the

:32:06.:32:09.

Assembly. It is an issue of equality. There is a lack of

:32:09.:32:13.

religious freedom as we speak. Churches cannot perform a civil

:32:13.:32:21.

partnership, even if they want to. An atheist heterosexual couple can

:32:21.:32:25.

have a religious ceremony but a Christian gay couple cannot have

:32:25.:32:30.

any religious paraphernalia at all at their civil partnership. This is

:32:30.:32:34.

something we need to address. We need to ensure consistency. The

:32:34.:32:38.

question was asked, what will be empowered be for Northern Ireland?

:32:38.:32:41.

Scotland have said they will legislate for it and the English

:32:41.:32:46.

and Wells seem to be doing it -- West seen to be doing it, as are

:32:46.:32:51.

the Republic of Ireland. We could find ourselves in a legal quagmire.

:32:51.:32:54.

Those uncivil partnerships in Northern Ireland cannot adopt

:32:54.:32:57.

either. You could have a married gay couple with children coming

:32:57.:33:01.

over to Northern Ireland from England, what is the status of

:33:01.:33:04.

those children in Northern Ireland? I do not know it Billy. Answers but

:33:04.:33:13.

those are questions we will have to face. Yes, sir? This legislation

:33:13.:33:18.

would not force any church to carry out the ceremonies. If the Unionist

:33:18.:33:23.

Party are still fighting strongly against it, does that not point out

:33:23.:33:31.

their homophobic undertones? I want to go back to John. As a Christian

:33:31.:33:37.

I do not agree with gay marriage. Although I totally agree with what

:33:37.:33:41.

Arlene has said, that their rights are protected is of a partnership.

:33:41.:33:50.

I think, 100%, people's rights should be protected. Marriage is a

:33:50.:33:55.

biblical concept that should be preserved and a sure touch -- and

:33:55.:34:05.
:34:05.:34:05.

the Church should be allowed to say no. There was an accusation of

:34:05.:34:11.

homophobia and I resent it. resented as well. There is an anti-

:34:11.:34:14.

Christian feeling against people who take a stand on particular

:34:14.:34:18.

issues. People say you have to take religion out of politics. If you

:34:18.:34:27.

take religion out of politics you are taking the religion --

:34:27.:34:33.

personalities art. I am an Anglican, I cannot believe that at the door.

:34:33.:34:37.

You reject accusations of, for beer, that is fine and we have accepted

:34:37.:34:46.

that. -- accusations of homophobia. Is it bad news for Northern Ireland.

:34:46.:34:52.

9,000 children leave school each year without reaching required

:34:52.:34:58.

levels in reading, writing and counting? The Audit Office brought

:34:58.:35:03.

out a report today saying to out of five pupils failed to achieve the

:35:03.:35:12.

basic standards of five GCC -- GCSE passes above grade C. Is this bad

:35:12.:35:21.

news? It is bad news and it is not new news. If we go back to a report

:35:21.:35:27.

a number of years ago, at that time it was clearly identified. We are

:35:27.:35:31.

not talking about people in Northern Ireland now, who do not

:35:31.:35:36.

have English as a first language. That was a report when we had very

:35:36.:35:44.

little immigration. It said that one in every four at that was 25 --

:35:44.:35:49.

in every four, 25% of the adult population of Northern Ireland,

:35:49.:35:56.

were fun actually illiterate. That is 15 years ago. Every report since

:35:56.:36:02.

has continued to indicate that a society that sense it's children

:36:02.:36:05.

into formal education, almost earlier than anyone else in Europe,

:36:05.:36:15.
:36:15.:36:18.

that provides compulsory education, the drains the people still come

:36:18.:36:22.

round, parents do what they think is the best for their children and

:36:22.:36:27.

at the end of that compulsory education system, we are still

:36:27.:36:30.

producing young adults and teenagers were that the basic

:36:30.:36:35.

ability to be numerate, to be literate. -- without the basic

:36:35.:36:40.

ability. Where does the fog like? That cannot be totally removed from

:36:40.:36:48.

the way we view education. We have segregated education on the basis

:36:48.:36:52.

of intellectual lines, for a long time on gender lines, fundamentally

:36:52.:37:00.

on class lines. We are not educating children to read and

:37:00.:37:06.

write and critically think, and the reflective. We are educating to

:37:06.:37:10.

meet market demand. We are producing some of the highest

:37:10.:37:18.

qualified school-leavers and we are part of the downside of that, the

:37:18.:37:22.

concentration of our resources on meeting that high-level market is

:37:22.:37:28.

directly related to the number of children that we are not

:37:28.:37:32.

concentrating on, because we are continually reinforcing the go-

:37:32.:37:40.

getter. This report points out that 90% of grammar school children get

:37:40.:37:45.

that level, only 40% of secondary children. That is a serious

:37:45.:37:52.

disparity. That tells you where the problem is. I am going to identify

:37:53.:37:59.

the failure and point a finger at Sinn Fein. Every child in this

:37:59.:38:04.

country has ability. I do not care if it is academic, vocational,

:38:04.:38:09.

technical, sporting, artistic. The educational system should allow the

:38:09.:38:14.

child to bring that forward. To do so they need basic levels of

:38:14.:38:18.

literacy and numeracy. Over all the years Sinn Fein have held the

:38:18.:38:22.

Ministry, it has been clear that the same groups of people are the

:38:22.:38:30.

ones most likely to under-achieve. Yet Sinn Fein have done nothing...

:38:30.:38:34.

Bernadette was pointing out a report from 15 years ago, before

:38:34.:38:39.

the Assembly. It is important to recognise it is not all down to

:38:39.:38:45.

teachers or schools. Academics who look at these issues say up to 70%

:38:45.:38:49.

of the influence of a child's education is outside school. When I

:38:49.:38:55.

was elected in 2011, I went to John O'Dowd and put forward proposals

:38:55.:39:02.

about a scheme called but bodies, which operate in the United States.

:39:02.:39:07.

You have one on one teetering between children whose literacy is

:39:07.:39:12.

below the national standard and people in a fold. They found that

:39:12.:39:15.

the young people, their levels of literacy went way above the state

:39:15.:39:21.

average but also, the people in the fold, there are medication levels

:39:21.:39:25.

dropped off because they found a new purpose in life. There are a

:39:25.:39:29.

lot of schemes, which are cheap and gave a sense of purpose, which are

:39:29.:39:39.
:39:39.:39:40.

just there. It is new thinking on education. This report is very

:39:40.:39:43.

interesting. It points out some successes as well. There was an

:39:43.:39:50.

earlier inquiry. I remember the Public Accounts Committee, and we

:39:50.:39:57.

reviewed education difficulties in the workforce. -- I am a member of

:39:57.:40:02.

the Public Accounts Committee. We found that 30% of the workforce had

:40:02.:40:08.

profound literacy and numeracy difficulties and 25% had moderate

:40:08.:40:15.

difficulties. That is over half. This goes back many generations.

:40:16.:40:20.

The problem has been there for a very long time. We are trying to

:40:20.:40:24.

make it right. One of the main things we are attempting to do when

:40:24.:40:28.

we looked at the disparity between crime whiskers and post-primary is,

:40:28.:40:35.

we believe that the 11-plus his discrimination. -- between grammar

:40:35.:40:39.

schools and post primary schools. The 11-plus stops young people

:40:39.:40:43.

achieving their potential. We would like support from the other parties,

:40:43.:40:47.

including b Younis parties, in bringing forward reform. -- the

:40:47.:40:52.

Unionist parties. I was certainly told through school that our

:40:52.:40:55.

education system was one of the best in the world. We have focused

:40:55.:41:02.

on those at the top, and that is a good thing, but we have swept under

:41:02.:41:06.

the carpet those children you referred to. Special educational

:41:06.:41:11.

needs have almost been an afterthought. Tackling these issues

:41:11.:41:15.

takes resources and if we continue to educate separately we will

:41:15.:41:21.

continue to waste resources. If we educate together we can tackle

:41:21.:41:25.

educational and social issues with that. We can put the money into the

:41:26.:41:30.

early years, were all the evidence suggests. We can do the best work

:41:30.:41:36.

before children enter school. We need to shift focus on to the early

:41:36.:41:41.

years, when the child's brain is in development. All of the parties

:41:41.:41:45.

know this, we get hold it all the time. We need to put the resources

:41:45.:41:53.

I went to Belfast Royal Academy. It is a disgrace that someone would

:41:53.:42:01.

want to take away their privilege we had died taking away the

:42:01.:42:11.
:42:11.:42:16.

I believe in academic selection, because it gives those children who

:42:16.:42:19.

come from a working-class background to have the aspiration

:42:19.:42:24.

to better themselves and to move further on. But shouldn't everyone

:42:24.:42:30.

have those basic building blocks? Yes. A but they don't. The which is

:42:30.:42:33.

why we shouldn't destroy a grammar system and think that is going to

:42:33.:42:39.

solve all of the problems. It's not. If you change that 90 % to 40 %

:42:39.:42:46.

ratio. It would. How is that going to help anybody? What we need to

:42:46.:42:51.

have is a system set for everybody. Those people who struggle and also

:42:51.:42:57.

at the grammar school level as well. It is mostly down to the individual

:42:57.:43:02.

how well they do. I come from a working-class background, I went to

:43:02.:43:07.

a state school, I failed the 11 plus, I've now got three A-levels.

:43:07.:43:11.

I didn't have any money to pay Browett and I managed to come out

:43:11.:43:16.

all right. The fact you will remove grammar schools and say we're down

:43:16.:43:20.

to segregated schools, or it's down to how much money your family's

:43:20.:43:26.

debt. It's not. It's down to self- motivation or, unfortunately in

:43:26.:43:35.

Northern Ireland, other key issues involving education in family life.

:43:35.:43:40.

I went to a state school and there was a lot of emphasis on grammar

:43:40.:43:45.

and spelling and punctuation. My daughter, who just finished school

:43:45.:43:49.

about five years ago, at her school there wasn't any emphasis on

:43:49.:43:53.

grammar and spelling and punctuation. How is she, no matter

:43:53.:43:59.

how well she does in her GCSEs, and she got her GCSEs and A-levels, but

:43:59.:44:03.

how could she even fill in an application form if she doesn't

:44:03.:44:09.

know the grammar? Is that part of the education now in state schools,

:44:09.:44:13.

that there isn't the emphasis on that? Do you not think that's

:44:13.:44:19.

important? The gentleman in the front and then we will have to move

:44:19.:44:24.

on. For the past 10 years the focus hasn't been an early years or

:44:24.:44:28.

improving. The sole focus has been on destroying the grammar school

:44:28.:44:32.

sector. Sinn Fein for the past 10 years have had disregard for

:44:32.:44:36.

improving the education system. Their focus has been on destroying

:44:36.:44:46.
:44:46.:44:47.

the grammar school sector. My own son, he's 14. At the moment his

:44:47.:44:54.

reading level is aged 8.1. I said to the school, I got a school

:44:54.:44:58.

report home which had the full curriculum on that I know of,

:44:58.:45:03.

history, geography, French. My child can't read or write English

:45:03.:45:08.

and yet he's been taught French. I approached the school. On the

:45:08.:45:11.

curriculum, we have to spend so much time per week on all of these

:45:11.:45:15.

objects. I want my son into macro years' time to be able to read and

:45:16.:45:19.

write when he leaves school. Or what chance does he have in life?

:45:19.:45:23.

The CBI is calling for a complete review of the primary curriculum.

:45:23.:45:30.

We have to move on. Thank you very much. Clare MacGowan is a baker

:45:30.:45:35.

from Belfast. What are MLAs doing to help local traders who are at

:45:35.:45:40.

risk of losing their businesses due to the ongoing flag protests?

:45:40.:45:46.

you know, before Christmas I said that I felt the flag protests on

:45:46.:45:49.

the street needed to end and we needed to get into a process of

:45:49.:45:54.

discussing the issues that many people have raised, very relevant

:45:54.:45:59.

issues. A forum was set up to deal with those issues. I have been

:45:59.:46:03.

around the country meeting people, listening to their concerns about

:46:03.:46:10.

those issues. Street protest is a viable way to indicate your

:46:10.:46:15.

annoyance about an individual decision. Illegal street protests?

:46:15.:46:20.

No, street protests. What we have to look at now is, what is the

:46:20.:46:24.

purpose of the continuing protest? I firmly believe there is a process

:46:24.:46:28.

to listen to those concerns, and the process is through the Unionist

:46:28.:46:33.

forum. I do also believe that the traders have suffered. It's one of

:46:33.:46:38.

the reasons why I put money into back in Belfast through the

:46:38.:46:42.

Northern Irish Tourist Board. It has provided a lot of help and

:46:42.:46:46.

support to traders in Belfast. I hope that they will be able to see

:46:46.:46:52.

the benefits of that in the coming weeks and months. Putting local

:46:52.:46:57.

businesses first, from spearheading the Green Party, encouraging people

:46:57.:47:03.

to shop in their local town centre, right up to our stance on

:47:03.:47:08.

corporation tax. The enterprise trading and investment committee

:47:08.:47:12.

heard from the Belfast Chamber of Commerce and he said it was under

:47:12.:47:17.

the best interest of Belfast traders. We tried to put local

:47:17.:47:20.

businesses first, grow the local economy and ensure that where our

:47:20.:47:25.

priority is. What response should there be to the flag protest, which

:47:25.:47:31.

has cost 15 to �25 million and upwards? First of, I do agree that

:47:31.:47:37.

the legitimate right to processed. The protests have in many instances

:47:37.:47:42.

boiled over to illegal activity. I think we need... We didn't need to

:47:42.:47:49.

comes back to what I said earlier. If we continue to have the

:47:49.:47:51.

polarisation of politics in Northern Ireland along sectarian

:47:52.:47:56.

lines, we will continue to have these types of social protests.

:47:56.:48:02.

What concrete help should MLAs be giving to these businesses? To be

:48:02.:48:07.

fair, I will say that the present Belfast Chamber of Commerce did set

:48:07.:48:11.

up the campaign, so credit where it's due. I'm not going to be in

:48:11.:48:15.

opposition for the sake of doing so. But we have had a genuine

:48:15.:48:19.

expression from the public of disengagement. We need to bring

:48:19.:48:23.

them into the political process. We need to have a Sibbit conversation

:48:23.:48:26.

about the number of issues, including the reform of the

:48:26.:48:29.

assembly which ultimately is a reform of the people's agreement.

:48:29.:48:33.

We need to bring people back into these discussions and stop having

:48:33.:48:40.

them enclosed room discussions. think there are a number of issues

:48:40.:48:45.

that you can go off on a tangent about. But I always find it

:48:45.:48:49.

interesting how we are all told about rights not being absolute,

:48:49.:48:54.

they are all balanced. So when we are talking about important rights,

:48:54.:48:58.

like a right to equitable education, you have the balance that against

:48:58.:49:02.

the privilege of the grammar so -- grammar school set who are here. If

:49:02.:49:06.

we want to talk about rights of people do housing and welfare, we

:49:07.:49:10.

have to balance that against people not abusing the system. But God

:49:10.:49:15.

forbid that anyone should challenge an absolute right to wave flags up

:49:15.:49:19.

and down the streets in Northern Ireland. People who go on about

:49:19.:49:23.

their lawful business. That is an absolute right on everybody's part,

:49:23.:49:28.

and everybody has to walk round tiptoeing around it. I think the

:49:28.:49:32.

first thing you have to do his challenge that nonsense head-on.

:49:32.:49:38.

But that's the job of the police, about what is legitimate and what's

:49:38.:49:43.

not and what should be done about it. In terms of hard pressed, small

:49:43.:49:47.

business people, I think there are two things that have to be done. We

:49:47.:49:52.

heard a lot about corporation tax, which doesn't really help anybody.

:49:52.:49:58.

But we used to have a lower rate of tax for small areas of profit. So

:49:58.:50:02.

small, local retailers and small business people who are not making

:50:02.:50:09.

a large amount of profit should actually be paying less tax in the

:50:09.:50:14.

pound on the profit they make, so that they have resources to

:50:14.:50:20.

reinvest in their business. A return to the 10p tax, a return to

:50:20.:50:23.

the 15 p tax until you are making the kind of profit that allows you

:50:23.:50:29.

to avoid tax, like Starbucks and others, that would be helpful to

:50:29.:50:38.

small retailers. A lot of hands up. I think the protesters get a bad

:50:38.:50:41.

rep for the protesting. They are protesting because they are

:50:41.:50:47.

frustrated. They are getting led by a certain other members of the

:50:47.:50:51.

public and not getting led by the politicians. That is what is

:50:51.:50:58.

happening in Belfast at the moment. My question would be to Arlene. The

:50:58.:51:03.

Warwick former barrister and solicitor. The information we are

:51:03.:51:07.

getting is the protests are illegal if the road is blocked but not if

:51:07.:51:12.

there is a dividing line between the two lanes. The reason why I'm

:51:12.:51:15.

asking the question of clarification is because if it's

:51:15.:51:20.

illegal to stand in the middle of the road, will the same law apply

:51:20.:51:27.

in Ardoyne... That's not really what the question was about. It's

:51:27.:51:30.

always illegal, no matter what you do. You stand over there, it's

:51:30.:51:39.

illegal. We always seem to be in the wrong, no matter what. These

:51:39.:51:44.

time-bombs are going to tip us up all the time. While the politicians

:51:44.:51:48.

not moving in at an earlier stage and making sure they things aren't

:51:48.:51:56.

happening. They are our leaders. Given the money that has been

:51:56.:51:59.

invested try and come back from this, does Arlene find it strange

:52:00.:52:04.

that some of her own party councillors are already using

:52:04.:52:08.

photographs of themselves as publicity the two will come of them

:52:08.:52:13.

addressing the protesters? He I do think it is important. On many

:52:13.:52:16.

occasions police have come to party colleagues and said they felt their

:52:16.:52:19.

presence there was important to make sure that no trouble has

:52:19.:52:23.

happened. That is a responsible thing to do as a public

:52:23.:52:28.

representative, to try and keep the peace. There has been money put in

:52:28.:52:32.

to try and sort this situation, but if we want to go back to pointing

:52:32.:52:36.

fingers - why was the decision taken in the first place? There was

:52:36.:52:42.

a consensus... People are going back to the question. I've got to

:52:42.:52:48.

take a few more questions very quickly. There wouldn't be any

:52:48.:52:51.

protest that people would listen to what we want. Why don't they stop

:52:51.:52:54.

complaining about how much money it's costing the economy and listen

:52:54.:53:04.

to what we want? Which is want - but what? We want the flags back up.

:53:04.:53:09.

I'd just like to say, there's a lot of short-termism here about the

:53:09.:53:13.

flanks and the cost to the local economy. Is no one looking at the

:53:13.:53:20.

long-term effect of these protests? Tourism is a huge boom to Northern

:53:20.:53:24.

Ireland and it is totally going to die. Is the money being wasted now

:53:24.:53:34.
:53:34.:53:38.

on policing or not policing... think the fact around the flag

:53:38.:53:43.

protests is wrong in itself. This is about that is content within the

:53:43.:53:46.

communities. This is about the failure of Stormont in general to

:53:46.:53:52.

provide what was promised in the Good Friday Agreement. The flags

:53:52.:53:56.

issue was the straw that broke the camel's back. They're all the other

:53:56.:54:04.

things that are going on within the tactics of Sinn Fein against... We

:54:04.:54:08.

had promises made to us. What are you going to help the people who've

:54:08.:54:15.

been suffering economic it? We've already discussed the back in

:54:15.:54:19.

Belfast. We support that approach. That type of approach is

:54:19.:54:25.

appropriate. The issue clearly is, can we come as a society, cope with

:54:25.:54:30.

the process of change? Belfast has changed. We should reflect and

:54:30.:54:35.

celebrate that. We should be able to manage and cope with that change.

:54:35.:54:40.

I look at the protests and what are they, they are a tactic to

:54:40.:54:44.

illustrate a grievance over the flag went all the other issues, the

:54:44.:54:48.

lack of peace, political failure at Stormont. But all the focus is on

:54:48.:54:52.

the tactics. We said from the first week of December, move on to

:54:52.:54:56.

another tactic and we will help you. We've created a forum to bring that

:54:56.:55:02.

to. We called for this Saturday, led the parade to commemorate the

:55:02.:55:06.

two people who were murdered 25 years ago go ahead. In terms of

:55:06.:55:16.
:55:16.:55:16.

supporting the traders, for example, nothing is done for retailers.

:55:16.:55:22.

There's one in my constituency he says... I want you to tell me what

:55:22.:55:27.

you think should be done. Gillibrand says he sells clothing

:55:27.:55:32.

to the United States. He gets no support because he's not

:55:32.:55:35.

manufacturing, but he is exporting. Let Northern Ireland take a more

:55:35.:55:40.

imaginative look at supporting local traders. They have programmes

:55:40.:55:44.

to help. If the gentleman in question would like to come to me,

:55:44.:55:49.

I would send him to invest Northern Ireland. He's already been. Has he

:55:49.:55:59.
:55:59.:56:01.

I feel like it's lots of talk and no action. I'd trade out of St

:56:01.:56:04.

George's and this is an immediate problem. It only takes a few bad

:56:04.:56:08.

weeks for these businesses to go down. More action and less talk

:56:08.:56:14.

would be helpful. The questions started off on a retail issue. We

:56:14.:56:17.

mentioned invest Northern Ireland. But what are we doing to help

:56:17.:56:24.

Northern Ireland's small businesses in totality? What were you going to

:56:24.:56:32.

say? On the flag situation, we wouldn't be in that situation at

:56:32.:56:39.

the moment. We are where we are. There's too much talk and not

:56:39.:56:43.

enough action. What we need is more talk, that is the action we need.

:56:43.:56:48.

If we bring the protesters into a process of engagement, we could

:56:48.:56:53.

potentially take them off the street. Edu think we do need to

:56:53.:56:57.

engage in a Sibbit conversation. Not just about the flags, about the

:56:57.:57:05.

institutions of the assembly, about we are many years on from then Good

:57:05.:57:09.

Friday Agreement. We need to change everything with their agreement.

:57:09.:57:14.

What is it you want specifically, what would help you most?

:57:14.:57:18.

protests going on outside St George's, they need to be stopped.

:57:18.:57:23.

Honestly, it's a week-to-week basis and we need to be getting people in

:57:23.:57:25.

there and making people feel they can come to Belfast safely and get

:57:25.:57:29.

home safely. It needs to be immediate. And that's more

:57:29.:57:33.

important than any financial aid that someone might give you? We did

:57:33.:57:38.

put in for rent reduction with the council. Three times a week, if you

:57:38.:57:42.

are not making any money, you could lose your business very quickly. We

:57:42.:57:52.
:57:52.:57:58.

We have come along to represent the traders at St George's Market

:57:58.:58:03.

because we have all been affected. What do you need? On a Saturday

:58:03.:58:10.

Sunday, we have a vibrant market at St George's. We have got families,

:58:10.:58:16.

communities, all cultures working and trading at St George's. Com

:58:16.:58:22.

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


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