Spotlight Special Spotlight


Spotlight Special

Noel Thompson hosts a debate with finance minister Simon Hamilton, Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy, former victims' commissioner Patricia MacBride, Bob McCartney QC and Dr Mark Hamilton.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Spotlight Special. Over the next hour, our

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studio audience will be putting questions and the big issues of the

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day to our panel, let's introduce them to you. Joining us are the

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Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton of the DUP. The broadcasting doctor,

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Mark Hamilton. Bob McCartney QC a former MP and MLA. Patricia MacBride

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a former victims' commissioner. The Sinn Fein MP knewy Armagh, Conor

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Murphy. Ladies and gentlemen, that sour line-up for tonight's Spotlight

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Special. APPLAUSE

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-- is our. You at home have your part to play. We want to know what

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you think about the talking points of the day. You can text your

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comments throughout the programme to 81 7716789 you can phone and email

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us and tweet your comments to us use # spotlight NI. Follow us on

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Twitter. The details are on the screen right now: Texts will be

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charged at your standard message rate. Let's plunge right in. Our

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first question tonight is from Aidan Hannah, a trade union organiser. Why

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is there still a climate of fear within the NHS and why is frontline

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staff still afraid to blow the whistle? The NHS making headlines

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every day. Nurses saying morale never lower. The new boss of the NHS

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in England saying the service is facing it is biggest challenge in

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history. This is because of lack of resources. If it's bad management,

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do we need to know about that? Should staff be eager to tell us

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about. It if we go to the man with most specialist knowledge on this,

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Mark. I think that the thing in England has really caused a lot of

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problems with Mid Staffs, the Francis Report had something like

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290 recommendations. It was everything from, you know, the very

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basic level of care with patients being poor and inhumane, right up to

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management level, to MPs. It, basically, a culture that has been

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allowed to per veil in that area. When I look at the reports from

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North Antrim, similar picture seems to be coming through that, you know,

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morale is low, staff are afraid to question it. The duties of doctors

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and nurses are laid out very clearly. You know, you are supposed

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to point out if something is going wrong. You're supposed to blow the

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whistle, but when - that is not being heard. I have worked in places

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where that is not heard. The feeling that you are left with is - well,

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you know, I can't seem to change this. I'm trying my best here, the

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demands are getting greater. Patients are requiring more. There

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is more available to treat them nowadays than there was 20 or 30

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years ago, scans and intensive treatments. There are a wider range

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of treatments available. You are under pressure. Resources seem to be

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squeezed. It is coming from all angles. The frontline staff are

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dealing with the patients. They are the ones who it affects more. Speak

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through their representative bodies, through unions and doctor

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organisations, for example, would you like to see more people simply

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coming to the media and saying - this is what I think is wrong with

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the NHS Yeah, I think that has to happen. In Mid Staffs, and other

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places in England, senior doctors, professors and surgeons were being

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threatened and their job was at risk. How would a June or doctor --

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junior doctor put their hands up and say this is wrong. Mr Poots has been

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talking about the duty of candour. It was raised by a group which works

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with the victims of alleged hospital accidents. Why are we talking about

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that now? Shouldn't there always have been this idea that if there is

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something wrong, we in the health service management want to hear

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about it? We as politicians wants to hear about it? Absolutely. We don't

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want to have a situation where health professionals are actually

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worried about coming forward with problems that they see, that they

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should have clear lines of reporting up the line so that the people who

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need to know, who can make changes within management level, within our

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health trust and hospitals are able to take that action

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decountriesively. Why is there -- decisive. Why is there a culture of

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fear I don't think the culture is just as bad here. There have been

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problems here in Northern Ireland as well. Yet, we had the case of a man

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who died after receiving potassium incorrectly. No coroners

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investigation of that, for example. It may not have been a cover-up in

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the Northern Trust area, certainly what happened should not have

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happened? Absolutely. I don't think anybody would say what happened

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should have happened or the consequences there after should have

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happened. Within Northern Ireland, what happens here isn't massively

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different sometimes to what happens elsewhere in the world. Clinicians

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are making judgment calls day in and day out. Most times they get it

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wrong. Occasionally, they will get it wrong. We have to realise - it

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doesn't matter whether it's Northern Ireland, England, or anywhere in the

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world, health officials are under pressure because of the demand they

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face day in day out. Doctors say they are afraid of getting caught in

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the long grass. There is a danger people feel about whistle blowing

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isn't there? There is. We should get it into proportion. The problem in

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Northern Ireland, I think people should be free to blow the whistle,

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and I think the people who are most guilty of intimidation are not the

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actual medical staff or the nursing staff. It's the bureaucracy that are

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running our hospitals. Most evident in England where the man who was in

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charge of the Mid Staffs, where there were nearly 2,000 deaths

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aribable to lack of care, was Sir James Nicholson, was it? He was

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actually in charge of the operation of supervising that group of

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hospitals, despite the fact that all of these things happened under his

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watch. He was promoted to be Head of the entire National Health Service.

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Organisations will always act to protect themselves, won't they? Of

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course. There is absolutely no question. I used to say that the

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civil service had the great organisation for protecting their

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mistakes. People who made mistakes, rather than being made to paid for,

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it were generally kicked upstairs, as Nicholson was. At the same time,

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many of the problems that, for example, are assailing, for example,

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the Accident Emergency in the Royal are brought about by a number

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of factors. One, money. Money was ring financed on -- ringfenced on

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the mainland by David Cameron. It was not ringfenced in Northern

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Ireland. That additional money which should have gone to health was spent

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on a number of other projects decided on by the Assembly. Policies

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such as out of hours doctors. Doctors got a big deal under the

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Blair arrangement. They didn't have to work out of hours. They didn't

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have to work at weekends. Result - enormous pressure on the A at the

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weekends when mothers, elderly folk, relatives were taking people

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directly to the A Thirdly, the alcoholics who were certainly not

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anonymous. On Friday and Saturday the A system was totally

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overloaded with alcoholic accidents. I suppose staff in those A

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departments don't have time to whistle blow, do they? That is part

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of the issue. What is it exactly you are going to whistle blow about?

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There are so many problems. Is the fact that Ambulance Service response

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times in rural areas are way beyond target because the investment hasn't

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been sufficient and quick enough to get those people who are now finding

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themselves without an A into an emergency department much more

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quickly? Is it because, you know, there is not sufficient resources?

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Is it because the front door is open, the back door to bring people

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into the ward, where they can be properly medically treated or

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surgically treated - If we know this stuff, why do we need

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whistleblowers. We kind of know? If we look at what is happening with

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whistle blowing in the south of Ireland at the moment and the impact

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it's having. The support isn't there for the people who stand up and say

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the system is flawed, things are wrong. We have a situation where a

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Garda commissioner has been effectively removed from office and

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the minister for justice is under threat. The support network isn't

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there for whistleblowers for people brave enough to say, here is the

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problem. We need to identify it and address it. Our local government

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should hang their heads in shame. In 2014 people lined up on trolleys in

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the Royal Hospital, where was the sense of closing down A in the

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Belfast City Hospital? Total disgrace?

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APPLAUSE Hang your head in shame. I don't

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happen to be in the Assembly. You are a politician. Having said that,

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you know... We will get to the stage of talking about whistleblowers, you

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had a failure in the system. People should be able to bring forward, as

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part of their every day work and experience thoeshgs at the frontline

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services should be able to communicate with those taking

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decision in relation to health profession. This is a systematic

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block there. You end up with a situation where you have

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whistleblowers and people contemplating going outside the

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norm. You say people should feel free. It's not just the NHS. Any

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organisation. People don't like the thought of going to their line

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manager saying - I think we are doing it wrongly. There has been a

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bad mistake here. They know the organisations impulse is to keep it

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quiet? Particularly with health. Where people's lives are in threat.

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There should be a built in system where the pressures are communicated

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through without fear of criticism. Communicated to those making the

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decisions to close down hospitals and other services. Do you get that

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by getting the minister to go hospitals and say - come to me with

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your problems? He can't go to every hospital. A system needs to be put

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in place. In terms of hearing from frontline staff at the cold face of

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dealing with these problems is in the middle of that system of

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bureaucracy. The complaints and issues they have are not getting

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through to those managing and taking decisions in relation to the health

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service. Smart says, it is a cultural issue.

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If you look at the policeman down south who have come forward, they

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are people that have nothing to lose. -- as Mark says. They blew the

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whistle on the awarding of penalty points for driving offences. They

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are practically removed from the system. How can you expect someone

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whose livelihood depends on it to come forward? There is also an issue

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of, are of a culpable for what they report? It is a lengthy procedure

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once you raise the issue. That is another issue. Finally, I am a

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pharmacist and it is a prosecutable offence to admit to dispensing

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unlawfully. How can you have a culture? It is like decriminalising

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homosexuality. Wet macro if you made a mistake, do you think you would be

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prosecuted? I don't know. And to go back to decriminalising

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homosexuality in the South, it was a breakthrough and there was a sense

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of freedom. You cannot have a legislative impediment like that.

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The gentleman in the front row. And would like to know why the Health

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Minister is not a qualified medical doctor. You should know the system

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inside and out and then maybe we would not have these issues with

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inexperienced advice. Auditions are not always directly connected with

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the briefs they get. And that is universal. I feel that the health

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service is focusing on the wrong area. They are promoting health and

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the community without resources and they are putting more pressure on

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the casualty departments. They are closing departments on a routine

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basis. They have to decide to reopen beds in the hospitals and admit

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Morse patients or they have to decide to invest in secondary health

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care. -- more patients. They cannot have it both ways. A quick comment?

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The Health Minister stated this week that a lot of this work practice

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happened before his work. But what happened in his work was that in

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2012 he ordered a review of Antrim area hospital and review heard that

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staff within the area A reported a culture of bullying and

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victimisation. And still we continually hear from doctors and

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nurses afraid to blow the whistle because of bullying and

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victimisation. We should commend the Health Minister for taking the step

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of having a review. There has been a significant change of leadership in

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the Northern trust area. And with the stated objective of changing the

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culture. On the point of budgets, the health system in Northern

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Ireland is spending ?4.9 billion a year, over 40% of our total spend.

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It's got an increase in the last budget when many other apartments

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did not. I think we should commend them for the progress they have

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made. But that money was not ring fenced, as it was in England. We may

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have the chance to speak about this later but this is a different issue.

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Moving on to John, a retail assistant. How can the political

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system restore innocent victims' confidence following the on the run

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scandal. As he put it, the scandal was 200 letters of assurance sent to

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Republicans. 300 letters sent to victims already. The issue was very

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cruelly handled. I think there are none so blind as those who will not

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see. This was an issue... Do you mean the Unionists? The information

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was there and people knew the issue had been dealt with. It was

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publicised in the Edens Bradley report and through the policing

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board meetings. People refused to acknowledge that this was being

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handled and they are responsible for developing a climate of fear and

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mistrust. They have the responsibility of building the

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trust. The issue is misinformation. This is not an amnesty or immunity.

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These people sought clarification about whether or not it were wanted

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for questioning, regarding offences that happens stoically. The

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situation is, was and shall be that if information or evidence is

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produced were individuals may be wanted for questioning or may be

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brought before a Court in the future, that will still happen. So

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the climate of fear that was created was wrong and damaging. And we have

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a responsibility as a society to address that climate. Your party

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meter sport of these letters as jet -- spoke of these letters as get out

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of jail free cards. Did that contribute to the lack of trust?

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What we saw with the dispensing of letters of comfort or get out of

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jail free cards was nothing short of a corruption. But that is not what

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they were. It was a corruption of justice, a process kept secret from

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all of us. Except the Unionists. The very fact that Gerry Adams asked for

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a process to be put into place that it be invisible, and Gerry Kelly

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said that if the Unionists knew about it, it would cause crisis, it

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shows that we did not know about it. It was brought up with the policing

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board and you thought they were talking about something else? There

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was plenty of talk, and that can recall having worked from the party

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during the negotiations that led to devolution, and we were mindful of

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this. Way back when the Ulster Unionists were leading unionism,

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there was an attempt to deal with this legislatively and that fell and

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did not proceed. We were incredibly careful to ask at every stage,

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whether it was the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State, was there

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anything in terms of the scheme... And you always believe everything

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the Secretary of State tells you and the Prime Minister(!) The macro

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whenever the Secretary of State is asked in the House of Commons and he

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says that there was no amnesty, no other type of scheme, you have to

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take him at his word. We are where we are. How do you restore

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confidence? It is very hard to restore confidence for victims. What

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is happening in terms of three enquiries which will get to the

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truth, the fact that the police have come out and said that these letters

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have no standing and they will be re-examined, and everyone will be

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looked at again, that goes some way to ameliorating concerns of

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victims. I've understand why victims who perhaps never thought they would

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get justice anyway, when they see and hear what has been done, they

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will be traumatised again, and it will reopen old wounds. I think it

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is very bad political home work on the part of the Unionists to claim

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that they did not know anything about it. Because it is stated in

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that report that they were being dealt with. They ask simple

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questions, who, what, where, when the why and how. And they would have

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loved those answers. I think it is home work, bad research. There was

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an automatic assumption from the media and politicians that these

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people were guilty. They have not been convicted of anything. The

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gentleman here. You, Sir. Father was murdered in 1887. That afternoon,

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the Prime Minister promised no stone would be left unturned in the should

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of justice. The British government has gone full circle and let the

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victims down. They promised they would get us justice and they have

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let us down. Why should we have faith in what people are saying

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about the ordeal are two? We are trying to establish that. The First

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Minister was able to order five enquiries into the scandal. Does

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that leave it open for people like myself, who has been trying to get

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an enquiry into the collusion of police and farmers, one of whom

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murdered my brother. Can I get an enquiry? Can I get an enquiry into

:20:37.:20:46.

that? Do you accept, Conor Murray fee, that confidence has been

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damaged by this episode? Think it was a cynical exploits and --

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exportation of these people. Clearly, these were not amnesty is.

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That was apparent. I feel for the people who were wound up for a

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political purpose. The political purpose was to get unionism out of

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the Robert Hass process. They have worked away from the Haass Talks map

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until such times that the issue is sorted. If you get the letter, you

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get the letter, you're still not wanted for questioning. This

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nonsense about enquiries and looking at the letters again is nonsense.

:21:33.:21:39.

The process ended in failure for this. Lou macro -- the Haass process

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is still ongoing. The First Minister has done is stepped away from it. We

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cannot deal with these issues until the ODI issue is resolved. This was

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a cynical exercise to wind up victims and feel sorry for the

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victims who were hurt by it. They should not be hurt in this way. And

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we should do what the Haass Talks were spent -- meant to be doing. In

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2006 it was clear to me that there were two parties that were busting

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to get into government, into this assembly. One of them was Sinn Fein

:22:26.:22:30.

and the other was the DUP. A bill was put before Parliament in 2006

:22:31.:22:35.

that would have included dealing with the on the runs on the same

:22:36.:22:43.

basis as members of the security forces. Sinn Fein would have none of

:22:44.:22:47.

that. Anything that granted the same privileges to members of the

:22:48.:22:51.

security forces as to people who were involved in terrorism or were

:22:52.:22:54.

believed to be involved in terrorism was out for them. The British

:22:55.:22:56.

government was then forced, secretly, or semi-secretly, to

:22:57.:23:05.

introduce a methodology of providing Sinn Fein with what they wanted,

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some comfort about the future of the on the runs, but at the same time,

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the DUP, I believe, were guilty of wilful ignorance. They may not have

:23:17.:23:20.

known about it but the truth is, they did not wish to know about it.

:23:21.:23:29.

I will let you come back to that. Two main things that occurred to

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me. First of all, is your confidence damaged by it? Yes, in the sense

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that there are laws and there are people who make the laws, and when

:23:41.:23:46.

that line gets blurred, it does concern me. That things can be done

:23:47.:23:52.

above the law. How do you follow the judicial system? Peter Hain said

:23:53.:23:56.

this was part of the process of normalising the situation in

:23:57.:23:57.

Northern Ireland. The other thing that struck me is that it is another

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distraction away from progress. That is the way that I see it, and

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possibly in my naive way, can assure you all, I did not know

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about these letters. I suffer with Stephen every day of our lives.

:24:47.:24:50.

Because of what the IRA did. They robbed him of his father, brutally.

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And we need justice. I would like to ask,, Sinn Fein have been saying for

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a while but this process was open and transparent. If it was open and

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transparent, why was it not discussed with Haass? Why did he not

:25:13.:25:17.

know anything about it when he was there to discuss dealing with the

:25:18.:25:21.

past and victims two it has got to the stage from innocent victims that

:25:22.:25:24.

they are feeling that they are an embarrassment to the budget process.

:25:25.:25:30.

It is a disgrace. Conor Murphy, can you address that? Why was it not

:25:31.:25:35.

brought up? Haass was an open process. As far as we were

:25:36.:25:37.

concerned, the process run its course. It was apparent and on the

:25:38.:25:42.

agenda since 2001 or before that, and innocent victims, there are

:25:43.:25:49.

many. Many victims. I would be concerned about this attempt to

:25:50.:25:54.

categorise people as innocent or not innocent but there are people who

:25:55.:25:58.

were annoyed about this and they are entitled to be annoyed if that is

:25:59.:26:01.

how they feel. But there are many others who have never had the chance

:26:02.:26:05.

to have any enquiry into their loved ones. There are no police who are on

:26:06.:26:11.

the run, because when they were involved in killing people on the

:26:12.:26:13.

nationalistic unity, they were often rewarded or promoted for that. There

:26:14.:26:17.

are many victims in this and my final point, and during the first

:26:18.:26:21.

question, was that we need to get back to what's Haass was discussing,

:26:22.:26:25.

a process by which we deal of the legacy -- deal with the legacy

:26:26.:26:30.

issues of the past, the first of all the victims. To go back to the

:26:31.:26:34.

original point, and we re-establish confidence? The issue has been that

:26:35.:26:36.

we keep asking questions of victims, what do you want, what do we need to

:26:37.:26:42.

do to meet your needs? We get the answer and then we ignore the answer

:26:43.:26:47.

and we ask again. That is not good enough. Between the needs assessment

:26:48.:26:51.

carried out by the victims commission and the great and ongoing

:26:52.:26:54.

work being done by the Forum for victims and survivors, the Haass

:26:55.:26:59.

process, we keep asking the questions and we keep getting the

:27:00.:27:02.

same answers. And yet we do not deliver. The ball is in your Court

:27:03.:27:07.

and that of your colleagues. To say the DUP was not combernd a

:27:08.:27:11.

scheme like this is as ridiculous as it is to listen to Sinn Fein that

:27:12.:27:18.

they feel sorry for victims. The republican movements responsible for

:27:19.:27:21.

making more victims in Northern Ireland than any other organisation.

:27:22.:27:25.

It's ridiculous to suggest other things. It was a secret and

:27:26.:27:32.

invisible process at the request of Gerry Adams. The real people to be

:27:33.:27:38.

indicted are Blair and his sidekick Powell. Powell, to show you the

:27:39.:27:47.

decrepes and deceit, Powell in his biography admitted he drafted IRA

:27:48.:27:52.

communiques that were signed P O'Neill. He drafted them for the

:27:53.:27:56.

IRA. They should be in the dock. Thank you very much, indeed. We will

:27:57.:28:02.

have to move on. Vital topic though it is. Our next question. Josh is a

:28:03.:28:07.

student from Armagh. Josh. Are the consequences of not passing the

:28:08.:28:11.

Welfare Reform Bill a clear sign that Stormont has failed to deliver

:28:12.:28:19.

once again? Danny Alexander confirmed they will lose ?100

:28:20.:28:25.

million because of the failure to approve welfare reforms.

:28:26.:28:32.

Conor Murphy, you are the party which is stalling this in the

:28:33.:28:38.

Assembly. Why? At what cost? Well, the cost, if this is implement is

:28:39.:28:43.

?450 million to our economy. That is the loss you need to set against

:28:44.:28:47.

what the figures that have been banded about by Simon and others

:28:48.:28:51.

from the Treasury. We set our face against - Can I interrupt. Mr

:28:52.:28:58.

McCausland say it's not a loss. It's not money in people's pockets. It's

:28:59.:29:02.

a reassessment of money that would come to them. To say it's a ?450

:29:03.:29:06.

million loss is not accurate, he would say. You are happy to quote

:29:07.:29:10.

the number of operations that would be lost and hip replacements. I said

:29:11.:29:16.

Simon Hamilton said that. OK. The reality is, there will be a loss. If

:29:17.:29:19.

people lose benefits, that is money people are currently spending. If

:29:20.:29:22.

they lose benefits, that is a loss to the spending power in this

:29:23.:29:26.

economy. This is a Tory ideology which is to attack the most

:29:27.:29:31.

vulnerable in society to set their face against any hope or chance for

:29:32.:29:35.

those people, not only people on benefits, for the working poor as

:29:36.:29:38.

well. We have pledged to resist that. We have asked the DUP to stand

:29:39.:29:42.

with us. They expressed themselves as unhappy. They voted against some

:29:43.:29:45.

of that legislation in Westminster. They voted for the benefit cap last

:29:46.:29:49.

week in Westminster. We have said to them, stand with us and stand

:29:50.:29:52.

against what the Treasury are trying to impose. Will rise from ?5.5

:29:53.:30:00.

billion in 2012 to ?6. 3 billion. That is not a cut, that is an

:30:01.:30:05.

increase. People will lose. ?450 million is going out of our benefit.

:30:06.:30:09.

People will lose and force into a dire situation than they are. We

:30:10.:30:12.

have a responsibility as elected represent toifs try and protect the

:30:13.:30:15.

vulnerable in our society. We had some of those agreements with the

:30:16.:30:19.

DUP in relation to issues like water charges. When I was Minister for

:30:20.:30:23.

Regional Development I was told by Sam #yi8 Wilson and civil servants I

:30:24.:30:27.

would bankrupt the Executive ifive if I didn't bring in water charges.

:30:28.:30:32.

Five years later the Executive are spending more money than ever. We

:30:33.:30:35.

have the responsibility to stand up for the most vulnerable people in

:30:36.:30:39.

our society and protect them. We are not county treasurers for the

:30:40.:30:42.

Treasury over here or for the British government who disperse the

:30:43.:30:46.

money as they see fit. We are elected here, elected on programmes

:30:47.:30:50.

and responsibility to stand up for the people who elect us. Didn't

:30:51.:30:54.

agree with much of that? The basic principle is this. The citizens of

:30:55.:30:59.

Northern Ireland are citizens of the United Kingdom. There is a policy

:31:00.:31:02.

for the whole of the United Kingdom in order to recover from the dire

:31:03.:31:06.

financial situation that was left by Labour. To cut back on benefits

:31:07.:31:12.

across theual kingdom. What is the Treasury is saying, you cannot have

:31:13.:31:18.

the people on the mainland paying for enhanced benefits for the

:31:19.:31:22.

citizens of Northern Ireland. They just won't do it. It's cloud cuckoo

:31:23.:31:28.

land to think that they will ever agree to the people of Northern

:31:29.:31:32.

Ireland having greater benefits than their fellow citizens on the

:31:33.:31:36.

mainland. There is no doubt what ever it will cost up to ?250 million

:31:37.:31:42.

when the Treasury reclaims the money. They will. The second thing

:31:43.:31:49.

is, there are 1,500 jobs in the infrastructure of paying out

:31:50.:31:54.

benefits and assessing them. Those people in those jobs also work for

:31:55.:32:03.

part of the United Kingdom. If we do not accept the overall reforms,

:32:04.:32:08.

those people will lose their jobs. That's for sure. Secondly, as far as

:32:09.:32:16.

the necessary money to be invest in order to have a separate system,

:32:17.:32:21.

welfare system, will run into millions. The argument that they are

:32:22.:32:27.

losing ?450,000, Northern Ireland is losing ?450,000 is a joke. Patricia

:32:28.:32:34.

MacBride, Mr McCause lands said incentives should be a springboard

:32:35.:32:37.

not a trap. Is that what these reforms are trying to - has Stormont

:32:38.:32:43.

failed to deliver? Well, I think, you know, I'm in favour of welfare

:32:44.:32:48.

reform. I tell you the reform I'm in favour of. Why don't we spend the

:32:49.:32:52.

same amount of resources in trying to reach out to those people who are

:32:53.:32:55.

entitled to the hundreds of millions of benefits every year that go

:32:56.:33:01.

unclaimed. Why don't we do - let's do away with Working Tax Credit.

:33:02.:33:05.

Everybody should be earning a living wage where the Government doesn't

:33:06.:33:09.

have to bring them up to a minimum living standard. Don't have that.

:33:10.:33:12.

The type of welfare reform we need to look at. To provide the jobs and

:33:13.:33:17.

employment before you can do that? You get the big corporations to pay

:33:18.:33:21.

the taxes they should rightfully be telling that the domestic businesses

:33:22.:33:28.

are paying. Simple mathematics. This is not rocket science, it's back of

:33:29.:33:32.

the envelope stuff. You get that revenue in from the people who

:33:33.:33:37.

should be paying the taxes and give it those in need. That is the

:33:38.:33:42.

welfare we form you need to do here. Are we pushing ourselves down a

:33:43.:33:46.

route following legislation in Westminster that is not fit for

:33:47.:33:51.

purpose. It won't ever get enacted in Westminster the way things are

:33:52.:33:53.

going at the moment. I think we need to look - It's already enacted of

:33:54.:33:57.

course. That's the problem for Stormont. It's already enacted. We

:33:58.:34:04.

are either United Kingdom citizens or not. Mark, you were born in

:34:05.:34:09.

Bangor you spent your working life in Manchester. When you look at

:34:10.:34:15.

here, we have one in ten of working-age adults on Incapacity

:34:16.:34:19.

Benefit, one in ten of working-age adults on DLA. Way higher, almost

:34:20.:34:25.

twice the DLA percentage than the UK average, what do you think? I'd like

:34:26.:34:31.

to know why. I have lots of friends who studied here. They work in

:34:32.:34:36.

hospitals and GP practices and I've asked a few of them why that is. One

:34:37.:34:40.

of my GP friends also told me that in Northern Ireland there is a

:34:41.:34:45.

higher percentage of people on sedatives which he felt was possibly

:34:46.:34:52.

hangover from the troubl past. There are unique problems associated with

:34:53.:34:56.

Northern Ireland. I have to agree with what Patricia has said. Why are

:34:57.:35:00.

we looking to claw money back from the people who have the least.

:35:01.:35:05.

It's... You know, we get into this financial situation through the over

:35:06.:35:09.

spend of big businesses and banks. Yet, the people who have the least

:35:10.:35:13.

are being asked to pay for it when yet huge, huge bills of tax are not

:35:14.:35:18.

being paid. I'm seeing it on the frontline. I moved from A to GP.

:35:19.:35:23.

I'm seeing vulnerable people coming in, having their benefits cut,

:35:24.:35:27.

having their benefits reduced. How low can they go? They can't go any

:35:28.:35:33.

further. The gentleman in the row. Sir, I'm totally at the end of my

:35:34.:35:40.

rope about us the, the working-class people, being held responsible for

:35:41.:35:43.

the greedy fat cat bankers and the money they sfroel our economy and

:35:44.:35:48.

the money that the Government has put in to raise them up while they

:35:49.:35:56.

are still getting multi-billion pound bonuses across the board. We

:35:57.:36:00.

are being told day in and day outousous is good for everybody

:36:01.:36:04.

except for those people. I find it very hard every day to bring home

:36:05.:36:09.

money to feed my wife and my kids and I'm sure serve the same way. To

:36:10.:36:14.

be told we have to take our own part in austerity. It's all the same

:36:15.:36:17.

thing. Would you like to see Stormont make it happen? You

:36:18.:36:20.

wouldn't tliebg see that. They have to do something, that is the point?

:36:21.:36:24.

If Stormont would stop arguing against each other and working

:36:25.:36:27.

together on the facts, then we will be able to get something down in

:36:28.:36:32.

this country. All right, lady in the back row. I know people... I know

:36:33.:36:37.

some people are worried about the cost of the health service if

:36:38.:36:41.

welfare reform is not implemented. I would be worried to the cost to

:36:42.:36:47.

society in general if it is implemented for fact. We are looking

:36:48.:36:51.

at a budget where 26% of it is spend keeping people in employment with

:36:52.:36:55.

working tax credits. In some cases the profit margins those companies

:36:56.:37:00.

are working away with is laughable. There are 2.6% spent on those

:37:01.:37:04.

getting unemployment-related benefits we need to look at why we

:37:05.:37:09.

have a welfare system. Our Government is failing to deliver.

:37:10.:37:14.

The gentleman here. Lady in my cab was a family support worker. She was

:37:15.:37:19.

getting paid off on Friday night. There were 48 of them going. I said,

:37:20.:37:24.

surely that will be on the news. 50 people were getting paid off. She

:37:25.:37:28.

said, no, you will never hear about it on the news. I said, I can't

:37:29.:37:33.

understand that. The cuts are happening now under stealth, is this

:37:34.:37:36.

is what is happening? We are not hearing about these cuts? 48. We

:37:37.:37:41.

heard about it now. If they are watching this programme. We will

:37:42.:37:45.

maybe follow that up. You said that the bedroom tax would hit Northern

:37:46.:37:48.

Ireland disproportionately hard. You are pressing everyone to get on with

:37:49.:37:53.

implementing it? Can I go back a little bit. Over this decade. To the

:37:54.:37:58.

end of 2020, welfare expenditure in Northern Ireland will increase by

:37:59.:38:03.

?1.4 billion. Whenever I hear people say we should simply trapes off to

:38:04.:38:08.

Downing Street, bang on the door of Number Eleven and ask the Chancellor

:38:09.:38:12.

to give us more money to pay for this and that, as part of the United

:38:13.:38:17.

Kingdom we are getting ?10 billion from Westminster every single year

:38:18.:38:21.

to keep this place running. And, look, there are lots of bits

:38:22.:38:27.

including the bedroom tax about the Welfare Reform Bill I'm not overly

:38:28.:38:32.

enamored with. That is why we did try to work together. We had

:38:33.:38:38.

agreement with Sinn Fein a year ago, the Deputy First Minister agreed to

:38:39.:38:41.

a deal that would see the bedroom tax actually not affect people here

:38:42.:38:44.

in Northern Ireland. We had that agreed. We had other flexibilities

:38:45.:38:49.

and exemptions to the Welfare Reform Bill that meant people in Northern

:38:50.:38:52.

Ireland would benefit in a way that their counterparts in England,

:38:53.:38:55.

Scotland and Wales wouldn't benefit from. Because of an utter lack of

:38:56.:38:59.

leadership from Sinn Fein on this issue. We are facing a situation

:39:00.:39:02.

where very vulnerable people in Northern Ireland are going to

:39:03.:39:05.

suffer. If we have to take the reductions of ?100 million next

:39:06.:39:09.

year, rising and rising all the time to the point where over the next

:39:10.:39:12.

five years - Still less than the ?400 million that would go at one

:39:13.:39:23.

fell swoop if you enacts ed. -- enacted the welfare reforms. It goes

:39:24.:39:30.

up and now. The quantum it goes up will be less with welfare reform

:39:31.:39:36.

rather than without. If this is impacting in terms of cuts of some

:39:37.:39:40.

?70 million next year to our health budget, that isn't hip operations or

:39:41.:39:47.

knee operations or care or hours in nursing homes for elderly people.

:39:48.:39:51.

Vulnerable people, people who are vulnerable will suffer. People who

:39:52.:39:53.

aren't vulnerable will be made vulnerable. You have been challenged

:39:54.:39:58.

to put on paper what it is you would agree to. What would you agree to?

:39:59.:40:06.

They have already agreed. No we haven't. Let him answer. Can I make

:40:07.:40:12.

this point. Simon challenged me. The DUP told the British Government they

:40:13.:40:16.

are satisfied with what you got. How do you negotiate with someone who

:40:17.:40:19.

you told you are stats satisfied with what you have got. We said

:40:20.:40:26.

there is work to be done. What? Hurry along, time is short. You give

:40:27.:40:31.

plenty of time to others. The bedroom tax issue isn't resolved.

:40:32.:40:34.

There is a relief on the bedroom tax which we are paying out of the

:40:35.:40:38.

executive budget for people currently on it, not for people who

:40:39.:40:43.

may end up on it. It's not resolved. We want to get the best deal. The

:40:44.:40:47.

best way to do that is by standing together not by playing the blame

:40:48.:40:51.

game until relation to that. That is your second answer. Everyone else

:40:52.:40:56.

had one. No, we will move on. We never solve any of these, but we do

:40:57.:40:59.

raise them. Our next question: When will Northern Ireland stop

:41:00.:41:09.

moving into the dark ages when it comes to the issues that are having

:41:10.:41:14.

an impact on the gay community? I assumed that uppermost in Europe

:41:15.:41:18.

nine will be the fact that same-sex marriage became legal in England and

:41:19.:41:22.

Wales on Friday. Scotland are expecting their first marriage later

:41:23.:41:25.

in the year but no plans in Northern Ireland. Is that the dark ages?

:41:26.:41:30.

Using language like the dark ages is not particularly helpful. This is an

:41:31.:41:38.

issue which is the responsibility of the assembly. The assembly has

:41:39.:41:41.

spoken on this issue twice. The second time they took a decision on

:41:42.:41:47.

this issue, the majority were against introducing same-sex

:41:48.:41:50.

marriage. Have you not twice tabled a petition of concern? No. Votes

:41:51.:41:56.

were not blocked. The petition of concern went down. It was not

:41:57.:42:01.

necessary in the end because a majority rejected the proposals that

:42:02.:42:07.

were put forward. To go back to the point about the dark ages, think we

:42:08.:42:11.

need to tone down the language. We need to be respectful of

:42:12.:42:15.

everybody's views. We need to do except that there are good people

:42:16.:42:19.

who disagree on this thing. -- we need to accept. I was brought up

:42:20.:42:24.

to... Let me stop you there because Ian Paisley Junior talked about

:42:25.:42:30.

being proposed by homosexuality. Iris Robinson said it was an

:42:31.:42:33.

abomination. Another member said the same, and he said his words were

:42:34.:42:38.

taken out of context. You have selected a couple of colleagues of

:42:39.:42:43.

mine. There could be other views. Reducing your colleagues. There are

:42:44.:42:48.

other people on the other side of the argument to have used equally

:42:49.:42:50.

inflammatory language from time to time. What is your belief? The macro

:42:51.:42:56.

I oppose the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern

:42:57.:43:00.

Ireland. I have spoken publicly on that. I was brought up to understand

:43:01.:43:04.

that tolerance was about accepting that other people had different

:43:05.:43:08.

views to you but accepting that they have those different views. What

:43:09.:43:11.

seems to be the case now in Northern Ireland as it is across the world is

:43:12.:43:17.

that if you do not... If you do not actually accept other people's views

:43:18.:43:23.

then you are intolerant. That is... Nobody is asking you to actually

:43:24.:43:27.

have a gay marriage. It is not compulsory! Let those who want to do

:43:28.:43:34.

it get on with it. Idea say my wife would have something to say about

:43:35.:43:38.

it. I do not think even those comments are particularly helpful. I

:43:39.:43:45.

think we have two except... We have to define tolerance. People choose

:43:46.:43:48.

different lifestyles. They want to do things differently. I am in

:43:49.:43:54.

accepting of people and their rights to choose whatever lifestyle they

:43:55.:43:57.

want. Think people should be free from prejudice, and I think we

:43:58.:44:00.

should also bear in mind that there are people who take for many

:44:01.:44:06.

reasons, an opposing view. And we should be respectful of that fact.

:44:07.:44:12.

These are not... So respectful but he will stop same-sex marriage? It

:44:13.:44:18.

is the democratic right of the assembly to take that position. I

:44:19.:44:21.

hope we're not saying that we should remove that democratic right from

:44:22.:44:30.

our assembly? Mark? With Northern Ireland being part of the UK, why

:44:31.:44:37.

not be with the UK on this point? I don't see what the issue is.

:44:38.:44:40.

Understand from a religious background that there are teachings

:44:41.:44:47.

in what you choose to read about marriage and this that and the

:44:48.:44:50.

other. In the Bible, there are different versions of marriage.

:44:51.:44:53.

Solomon had hundreds of wives, as did David. And actually gay marriage

:44:54.:45:02.

was not outlawed until 1971. These issues... I'm sure there are people

:45:03.:45:07.

in the audience who will give us biblical quotes. The thing about

:45:08.:45:12.

democracy, the rough guess is that one in ten people are homosexual.

:45:13.:45:16.

You cannot have a democratic vote in that sense. If the majority said,

:45:17.:45:21.

then you cannot have your way. It is not a minority issue that do not see

:45:22.:45:24.

how that application of the democratic process can apply in this

:45:25.:45:28.

case when generally, I'd just do not see what is wrong with that. Why do

:45:29.:45:32.

not see what the big deal is. You do not have to get married to a man if

:45:33.:45:38.

you do not want to. Simply, it is up rights issue. Simon and the people

:45:39.:45:42.

who've bought this issue being progressed say that people can have

:45:43.:45:45.

a lifestyle they choose, but they cannot have the rights that other

:45:46.:45:47.

people have stop it cannot have the legal protection of a marriage. So

:45:48.:45:56.

if... That is not accurate. It is not true. Then why deny it? The

:45:57.:46:04.

human rights commission, which my party are not used to courting, says

:46:05.:46:10.

that there is no human rights issue. They say that nobody has been denied

:46:11.:46:15.

rights in Northern Ireland. The do not have a legal marriage rights.

:46:16.:46:20.

They can have a civil union, but in that case, why does everybody else

:46:21.:46:24.

not have a civil union? Let everyone else have one. It is an equality

:46:25.:46:28.

issue. Back to the previous issue, part of the lack of confidence in

:46:29.:46:31.

the health service is that the Health Minister chooses to pursue

:46:32.:46:36.

these issues rather than looking at the health service. Gay blood

:46:37.:46:42.

donation issues, these are the issues he is fixated on, rather than

:46:43.:46:50.

looking after A The DUP has a difficulty with this rights issue.

:46:51.:46:53.

It should be respected. It is not enough to respect people's lifestyle

:46:54.:46:58.

choices and then deny them rights. I had never seen the real difference

:46:59.:47:02.

between same-sex marriage and a civil partnership. Basically, they

:47:03.:47:09.

are the same. But think the point is in a clueless society, gay people

:47:10.:47:16.

wanted the right to have a marriage. What ever that may be defined as, so

:47:17.:47:23.

that they may be equal with heterosexuals who can have that

:47:24.:47:27.

marriage. Earlier on, on the welfare debate, I argued that if you were a

:47:28.:47:31.

member of the United Kingdom, a citizen of the United Kingdom, you

:47:32.:47:35.

have the ups and downs. By belonging to the United Kingdom. The mainland

:47:36.:47:39.

United Kingdom has decided that the should be same-sex marriage. I have

:47:40.:47:45.

great difficulty being a plug a list, and believing that there are

:47:46.:47:49.

many things which I'd disagree with, but I am not prepared to put

:47:50.:47:55.

them down. If you do not believe in gay marriage, then do not have a gay

:47:56.:48:00.

marriage. There are some homosexuals who are against this argument. But

:48:01.:48:06.

the basic thing is, what does it matter what these people do if they

:48:07.:48:12.

are not breaking the law? And A+ for gay marriage, it has been argued

:48:13.:48:17.

with some force that the effect of having a gay marriage gives a

:48:18.:48:24.

stability and an authenticity to the relationship which tends to make it

:48:25.:48:34.

longer and more permanent. We need to remember that this is an old

:48:35.:48:41.

issue. We have homosexuality, who are in a minority, try to enforce

:48:42.:48:44.

their will on the majority in this country. The government is enforcing

:48:45.:48:50.

it. As a young Christian, I often find that when we speak out for the

:48:51.:48:54.

biblical stance on marriage, we are branded as bigots or as fascists.

:48:55.:48:59.

And we cannot stand up for our beliefs because we are persecuted

:49:00.:49:06.

and victimised. The lady here. I would like to say that whenever two

:49:07.:49:09.

people decide they want to be married, whether they are of the

:49:10.:49:13.

same sex or different sex, they do not do that for a political reason

:49:14.:49:16.

or a religious reason. They do that because they are in love. Who are

:49:17.:49:20.

politicians to stand in the way of that? I think the issue is much

:49:21.:49:27.

bigger than the issue of gay marriage itself. It goes to the

:49:28.:49:33.

issue that Conor raised around equal rights and adoption. This is an

:49:34.:49:37.

equality issue. The reality is that the assembly, if you will, needs to

:49:38.:49:40.

examine its consciousness. They need to say, how is it that if I'd give

:49:41.:49:47.

equal rights to someone else, it demeans mine? It does not do that.

:49:48.:49:52.

We need to look at ways that we can ensure that we address all minority

:49:53.:49:55.

rights. The gentleman here spoke about homosexual amenities being a

:49:56.:50:02.

minority. So are survivors of the conflict and people with

:50:03.:50:05.

disabilities but we try to protect their rights and promote them. We

:50:06.:50:12.

have the same duty of care to everybody, to every citizen,

:50:13.:50:14.

regardless of how they identify themselves. We must move on. The

:50:15.:50:22.

next question is from Charlotte O'Hara, a music teacher from County

:50:23.:50:28.

Antrim. Would a visit from the Pope to Belfast show how far we have

:50:29.:50:31.

progressed since the Good Friday agreement? I can tell you expose a

:50:32.:50:39.

plea that Belfast City Council voted 34-0 in favour of inviting the book

:50:40.:50:43.

to Belfast if he accepts the invitation. Unionists abstained in

:50:44.:50:45.

the vote and the motion said that Belfast should welcome the Pope as a

:50:46.:50:51.

man of peace, reconciliation and faith. What do you think, Bob

:50:52.:50:57.

McCartney? Frankly, it is a good idea. If the Pope wants to visit,

:50:58.:51:04.

why shouldn't he? In Northern Ireland, we suffer from the residue

:51:05.:51:14.

of our past, including things like a 1912 home rule is Rome rule thing.

:51:15.:51:17.

There was a lot of substance to that argument in 1912. But it does not

:51:18.:51:23.

exist in any significant or substantial way at present. The

:51:24.:51:30.

whole political landscape, the religious landscape has changed. And

:51:31.:51:42.

I believe we should mirror that. Patricia? The interesting thing

:51:43.:51:46.

about an invitation being accepted would be actually looking at the

:51:47.:51:51.

number of MLAs and City Council officials who would be lining up for

:51:52.:51:54.

a selfie with him, because that appears to be one of the key things

:51:55.:52:00.

that we see across Twitter and the internet. I think we could see an

:52:01.:52:03.

ever delicate that. It is utterly wonderful. I think the fact that

:52:04.:52:07.

there is a substantial catholic community here and people who have

:52:08.:52:13.

various degrees of compliance with their faith and as he runs to the

:52:14.:52:16.

faith, but I think for that community, it would be a

:52:17.:52:22.

reinforcement of the importance of their faith, especially when you

:52:23.:52:25.

look at the fact that the previous papal visit to Ireland in 1979, the

:52:26.:52:30.

visit to Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital, was cancelled all stop and

:52:31.:52:37.

that was held instead elsewhere. For the Catholic community, it could be

:52:38.:52:44.

a positive thing. Anything that creates cohesion is positive. Would

:52:45.:52:49.

it have shown more evidence of progress if the Unionists had been

:52:50.:52:53.

able to say, yes, bring it on? I think the new Pope is an impressive

:52:54.:52:59.

character. I think he is a breath of fresh air in a traditionally stuffy

:53:00.:53:05.

office. There's a bit of an issue with were at the invitation has come

:53:06.:53:09.

from. It wasn't invitation from the Irish Senate to come to Northern

:53:10.:53:14.

Ireland. -- it was an invitation. It is like me inviting everybody back

:53:15.:53:17.

to your house later on for a party. Not a bad idea! There seems to be

:53:18.:53:24.

some support for that. I think that we have made tremendous progress in

:53:25.:53:26.

Northern Ireland over the last few years and whilst we disagree on many

:53:27.:53:30.

things and will have those stats openly, we have made progress and we

:53:31.:53:34.

are further on today and we were ten or 20 years ago. Think we should

:53:35.:53:37.

celebrate that and I think if you... I think it was Senator David

:53:38.:53:43.

Norris who invited Pope Francis to visit Ireland, not Northern Ireland.

:53:44.:53:47.

The macro probably for electoral purposes. So we should be accurate

:53:48.:53:54.

in that. Would you go to see him? To finish my point, I think we have

:53:55.:53:59.

made poor this progress. -- tremendous progress. I think the way

:54:00.:54:01.

we have dealt with the commemorations of a -- and centenary

:54:02.:54:07.

is, that has shown the progress we have made. We have to be sensitive

:54:08.:54:14.

to the sensitivities that are still out there. We do not want to do

:54:15.:54:19.

anything that would see us step backwards and progress in terms of

:54:20.:54:23.

the progress we have made. But it is something that will have to be

:54:24.:54:28.

considered. He may have been invited but I'm not sure if he has accepted

:54:29.:54:33.

the invitation. Would you be posing for a selfie? I would probably put

:54:34.:54:41.

my thumb over the lens and ruin it! The Ulster Unionist councillor said

:54:42.:54:43.

he was not against the Pope but there was hatred, mistrust and

:54:44.:54:48.

unrest. He said at this moment in time, he should not go to Belfast.

:54:49.:54:52.

Is that a reasonable view? Not really. Those people accept that it

:54:53.:54:56.

was unreasonable. Belfast City Council took the decision, a good

:54:57.:55:01.

decision. Even those who did not bring themselves to support, it was

:55:02.:55:05.

a good decision by all involved not to oppose it. It is all about taking

:55:06.:55:10.

steps. It is not just about the Catholic community although I'm

:55:11.:55:14.

interested in David Norris, the conservative Catholic vote for the

:55:15.:55:17.

Senate. Do not think it is going to work for him. This is not just about

:55:18.:55:21.

the Catholic unity. It is about a general feeling that steps can be

:55:22.:55:26.

taken. Martin McGuinness met with the Queen and the Pope was invited

:55:27.:55:32.

to Belfast. Think it is a sign... Only after Sinn Fein totally

:55:33.:55:35.

misjudged the public mood around the Queen's visit. That is your mood. --

:55:36.:55:46.

that is your judgement. The two checked shirts. I think it is great

:55:47.:55:53.

that the papal visit has been embraced by the council this evening

:55:54.:55:55.

but I think it is worrying that Unionists were not fully embracing

:55:56.:56:01.

of the visit in itself. I think it is a mark of reconciliation that the

:56:02.:56:05.

papal visit can be a success but can it be a success? The macro I think

:56:06.:56:11.

it is good that the new Pope has been able to sort out the

:56:12.:56:16.

paedophiles. I would welcome him. But the problem with him coming here

:56:17.:56:22.

is that St Patrick's Day, when you look at that, able from the

:56:23.:56:25.

Protestant immunity going to see the Pope, there is too much trouble

:56:26.:56:29.

brought into the streets. Celebrating the patron saint of the

:56:30.:56:35.

island. Families come, and some of them with cohesion. So you would be

:56:36.:56:41.

with Jim Rogers that there is too much mistrust? Yes. I think I would

:56:42.:56:46.

question the motives of the Unionists are stealing from the

:56:47.:56:50.

vote. Remember, this is an election year so they do not want to distance

:56:51.:56:54.

themselves from the community. They might be privately embracing it but

:56:55.:57:00.

not in public. The gentleman at the front he met I have no problem with

:57:01.:57:05.

the Pope coming here but remember the G8 Summit. Who would pick up the

:57:06.:57:09.

bill? I would think it would be astronomical compared to the G8

:57:10.:57:13.

Summit? That is another question we will not get tonight but Mark, your

:57:14.:57:18.

views? Everything that happens in Northern Ireland has symbolism

:57:19.:57:20.

attached to it. It is a positive step, yes. It reflects tolerance and

:57:21.:57:30.

progress. Of course, and do not think everybody will be holding up

:57:31.:57:36.

their hands and the abstention this evening has reflected that. Even if

:57:37.:57:39.

it is a little bit of progress, it is still progress. I'd macro and

:57:40.:57:45.

would you go for a selfie? I am friends with everybody! That is why

:57:46.:57:53.

we invited you here. That is the other side of the coin. Charlotte,

:57:54.:58:01.

bodies think? -- what do you think? It is important to say that it would

:58:02.:58:05.

not just be for the catholic amenity. It is sad that the

:58:06.:58:10.

Unionists abstained and I think that the fact that the majority in

:58:11.:58:13.

Belfast council have voted for it is a good sign. And you very much,

:58:14.:58:18.

Charlotte O'Hara from County Antrim. And we have other questions but as

:58:19.:58:22.

always, we have run out of time. We must leave it there for this

:58:23.:58:26.

edition. Thank you to our panellists and to our studio audience. And of

:58:27.:58:30.

course to you at home. Continue the debate with the hashtag on the

:58:31.:58:34.

screen now Mobot from the team, until next time, goodbye. -- but

:58:35.:58:39.

from the team.

:58:40.:58:44.

The week's big talking points, as a studio audience puts questions to Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy, former Victims' Commissioner Patricia MacBride, Bob McCartney and doctor and broadcaster Mark Hamilton. Noel Thompson presents.


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