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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


problems with Mid Staffs, the Francis Report had something like


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


demands are getting greater. Patients are requiring more. There


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


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


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


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


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


through their representative bodies, through unions and doctor


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


want to have a situation where health professionals are actually


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


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


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


health trust and hospitals are able to take that action


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


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


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


who died after receiving potassium incorrectly. No coroners


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


the Northern Trust area, certainly what happened should not have


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


should have happened or the consequences there after should have


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


different sometimes to what happens elsewhere in the world. Clinicians


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


actually in charge of the operation of supervising that group of


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


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


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


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


civil service had the great organisation for protecting their


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


weekends when mothers, elderly folk, relatives were taking people


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


anonymous. On Friday and Saturday the A system was totally


overloaded with alcoholic accidents. I suppose staff in those A


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


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


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


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


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


themselves without an A into an emergency department much more


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Garda commissioner has been effectively removed from office and


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


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


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


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


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


Belfast City Hospital? Total disgrace?


APPLAUSE Hang your head in shame. I don't


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


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


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


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


services should be able to communicate with those taking


decision in relation to health profession. This is a systematic


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


whistleblowers and people contemplating going outside the


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


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


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


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


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


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


through without fear of criticism. Communicated to those making the


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


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


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


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


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


bureaucracy. The complaints and issues they have are not getting


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


service. Smart says, it is a cultural issue.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


pharmacist and it is a prosecutable offence to admit to dispensing


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


inexperienced advice. Auditions are not always directly connected with


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


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


the community without resources and they are putting more pressure on


the casualty departments. They are closing departments on a routine


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


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


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


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


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


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


staff within the area A reported a culture of bullying and


victimisation. And still we continually hear from doctors and


nurses afraid to blow the whistle because of bullying and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


system restore innocent victims' confidence following the on the run


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


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


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


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


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


publicised in the Edens Bradley report and through the policing


board meetings. People refused to acknowledge that this was being


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


mistrust. They have the responsibility of building the


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


These people sought clarification about whether or not it were wanted


for questioning, regarding offences that happens stoically. The


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


produced were individuals may be wanted for questioning or may be


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


an automatic assumption from the media and politicians that these


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


this was part of the process of normalising the situation in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


carried out by the victims commission and the great and ongoing


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


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


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


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


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


they feel sorry for victims. The republican movements responsible for


making more victims in Northern Ireland than any other organisation.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


once again? Danny Alexander confirmed they will lose ?100


million because of the failure to approve welfare reforms.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


have a responsibility as elected represent toifs try and protect the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Treasury over here or for the British government who disperse the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the people on the mainland paying for enhanced benefits for the


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


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


Ireland having greater benefits than their fellow citizens on the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


MacBride, Mr McCause lands said incentives should be a springboard


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the taxes they should rightfully be telling that the domestic businesses


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


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


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


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


route following legislation in Westminster that is not fit for


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


higher percentage of people on sedatives which he felt was possibly


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


If Stormont would stop arguing against each other and working


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


where very vulnerable people in Northern Ireland are going to


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Wales on Friday. Scotland are expecting their first marriage later


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


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


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


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


this issue, the majority were against introducing same-sex


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


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


necessary in the end because a majority rejected the proposals that


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


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


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


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


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


being proposed by homosexuality. Iris Robinson said it was an


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


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


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


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


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


I oppose the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern


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


that tolerance was about accepting that other people had different


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


accepting of people and their rights to choose whatever lifestyle they


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Understand from a religious background that there are teachings


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


how that application of the democratic process can apply in this


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the health service is that the Health Minister chooses to pursue


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


that they may be equal with heterosexuals who can have that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


rights. The gentleman here spoke about homosexual amenities being a


minority. So are survivors of the conflict and people with


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to Belfast if he accepts the invitation. Unionists abstained in


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


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


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


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


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


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


exist in any significant or substantial way at present. The


whole political landscape, the religious landscape has changed. And


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


about an invitation being accepted would be actually looking at the


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


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


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


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


there is a substantial catholic community here and people who have


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


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


reinforcement of the importance of their faith, especially when you


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


interested in David Norris, the conservative Catholic vote for the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


brought into the streets. Celebrating the patron saint of the


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


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


question the motives of the Unionists are stealing from the


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


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


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


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


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


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


views? Everything that happens in Northern Ireland has symbolism


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


from the team.


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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