Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, interviews and debate.
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Hello and welcome to the last Sunday Politics before polling day.
It's the vital last push for the campaigns.
And in the studio, as we enter the final days, we've brought
together senior figures from the five main parties,
making their pitch for your vote.
Whatever the result here, the process of forming a government
won't be as tortuous as it's been in Dublin -
but there's now an unprecedented Fine Gael-Fianna Fail deal.
And we'll be live there with the latest
a little later in the programme.
And with their thoughts ahead of a huge week
in Northern Ireland politics, my guests of the day are
Professors Deirdre Heenan and Rick Wilford.
So let's get into the main discussion
with my studio guests straight away.
With me are the DUP's Nigel Dodds, Mairtin O Muilleoir from Sinn Fein,
the SDLP's Claire Hanna, Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy
and The Alliance Party's Stephen Farry.
You're all very welcome to the programme.
Thank you for making time to be with us.
Nigel Dodds, manifesto commitments on the part of Sinn Fein
and the DUP seem to suggest a bit of a sham fight as far as this
notion of Arlene for First Minister is concerned,
because on the one hand, you don't want Martin McGuinness
to be First Minister, but on the other hand
it looks like there's some kind of DUP-Sinn Fein
grand plan for the next five years.
Well, I think, as Arlene put it the other day, it's one thing
trying to persuade undecided voters,
but we're delighted when our politic opponents
actually adopt some of our policies.
Simon Hamilton, back at our party conference, first mentioned
the issue of spending an extra £1 billion
by the end of 2021 on health,
so this was something that we have been talking about for some time.
And an extra 50,000 new jobs and new social housing.
And I think these...
It starts to look like you've had a discussion in the corridor.
What we're doing in this very, very comprehensive manifesto,
and you have put out a number of issues,
but what we're putting forward in this is a very comprehensive list
of policies and objectives covering health, education, infrastructure,
jobs and keeping household taxes down.
But the only way people are going to get that plan implemented
is to vote for DUP candidates,
making sure that we have a large number of members
of the Assembly, the majority on the Executive
and that Arlene remains as First Minister.
And they also know, the DUP voters also know, that the way
those promises will be implemented is by voting for DUP candidates
who will then be sitting at the head of the Executive,
alongside Sinn Fein, implementing those agreed policies.
That's the point.
We are very committed to moving Northern Ireland forward.
If we want a better future for Northern Ireland, it has to be
under the strong leadership of Arlene Foster.
We need to ensure that we have a plan going forward,
and we have a five-point plan.
But we want to see Northern Ireland stable and secure.
Of course we want to work in partnership
with all parties around this table.
Some parties don't know whether they're coming or going or whether they're in or out.
We're determined to move Northern Ireland forward and
we'll work for the best interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.
But to ensure that there's strong leadership and a better future,
people have got to get out there and vote for Arlene for First Minister,
they've got to ensure there is a good representation of DUP ministers
to ensure our five-point plan is implemented.
And that is absolutely vital.
Let me ask you a question, Mairtin, if you don't mind.
The question is simply this - that sounds very much to me
like there is an agreed strategy for what happens on the 6th of May,
and in fact Arlene Foster on The View on Thursday night
more or less accused Sinn Fein of copying and pasting key elements
of the DUP manifesto.
What I wanted to say was this - when I'm at the doorsteps, people say,
"We like to see the big parties more aligned in what they want to achieve
"in health and education and driving the economy forward."
So it's no coincidence that those key issues are the same
-for both of your parties?
-If you'd let me finish,
and what I say to them in return is,
"We're actually going to have a different form of government now.
"A fresh start will mean a fresh start, will mean a fresh urgency,
"a coming together of the two large parties in government."
Cos we want to be in government.
That's one of the great, I suppose, differences between ourselves
and the putative opposition parties.
So the DUP manifesto was launched three weeks, maybe four weeks,
ahead of the Sinn Fein manifesto.
You saw the DUP commitment to £1 billion in extra spending
spending for health, the creation of 50,000 new jobs,
new social housing, 8,000 on the part of the DUP.
You then stuck in your manifesto £1 billion of extra spending
for health, 50,000 new jobs and 10,000 new social homes.
No, Sinn Fein is making pledges based on what we have stood for
throughout the last mandate, what we wish to see in the mandate
ahead and that is sorting out the health service,
providing the extra £1 billion needed. But also making sure...
But is it a draft programme for government?
The two manifestos, those key points of your two manifestos,
is that a draft programme for government?
It gives me hope when I look at what our priorities are,
to create jobs for people, when I go into the Sandy Row Enterprise Hub,
where they're trying to break generational unemployment,
when I go into the market where they're trying for the first time
in a generation to create work for our young people and opportunities,
it gives me hope that our parties are aligned on some things.
We want to create an extra £330 million for our universities
as well, because we need to have the skills to attract new jobs.
We need to bring the other parties in.
There may be differences, but there are key similarities as well.
Claire Hanna, let me ask you, as far as the SDLP is concerned,
does it look to you as if the two key parties in the Executive
up to now and very probably in future have got together
and agreed key strategies for what happens next?
Well, it does. There are a lot of similarities between those two documents.
The DUP did release theirs about a month ago.
Sinn Fein released a 2.5 page manifesto a week before the election
that presumably was distilling some of the other ideas flying about.
Both of them, I have to say, look like a lot of free beer tomorrow,
because there are few specifics.
And it also doesn't reflect what they've actually done for the last nine years.
Listen, the SDLP were taken apart
for not understanding the matters of its manifesto commitments.
So you need to be very careful about going down that road.
The SDLP commitments are very clear.
Well, they weren't to Gerry Diver last week.
Our manifesto is what a manifesto has always been.
It's a statement of your policy and aims, and our five specific
costed pledges were just that.
They were new ideas for which we have identified new money.
This business of saying, "We're going to put one billion into health,
"and six million in this," but without explaining to people
where it comes from, it's patronising. So I'm glad
-if they've done...
-Can we come back on that? Cos we've explained
exactly where the £1 billion for health is coming from.
I'm glad if they've done a little bit of advance work,
because that hasn't been what's happening.
They have been bringing the Assembly up and down
and people have been let down by that.
I also must point out, hilariously,
the comment there about people who don't want to be in government.
Have you had a conversation with Mary Lou McDonald
or any of your colleagues in Dublin recently,
who ruled out going into government immediately?
The SDLP has tried and slogged for the last 10 and 20 years to
-try and make...
-Does the SDLP want to be in the next government or not?
..to try and make government work,
we didn't have to be dragged into power-sharing.
So we're trying to make it work.
If we think we can make government work and better hold failing parties
to account, we'll do that.
Just as a yes or no, is it clear as to whether or not the SDLP
wants to be in government or opposition?
Of course we want to be in government and we have set out
specific areas that we will negotiate on.
But if the programme for government...
And it is a little bit worrying, I think it does take people
for granted if the programme for government is sitting bound
on Arlene Foster's desk already,
because that bypasses the democratic process.
All five parties are supposed to get in and negotiate that document.
She says it's not, of course. She denies that absolutely.
We need innovative, forward-thinking ideas. If we can get those into
the programme for government, we'll be there, and if we can't, we won't.
Danny Kennedy, as far as the Party is concerned,
does this look to you like a sham fight, the whole idea of
Arlene for First Minister, we mustn't have Martin McGuinness
as First Minister under any circumstances?
Is that a distraction in your eyes?
I think it's increasingly clear that there is a precooked programme
for government that has been
agreed in part by Sinn Fein and the DUP.
And I think that is seriously taking the electorate for granted,
and I think that is a huge mistake, because everyone knows that
in a mandatory coalition all of the parties will be part of
the negotiation who are entitled to Executive seats.
We don't know if the Ulster Unionist Party will be,
because, of course, you walked out at the end of the last mandate.
Is that a firm commitment on the part of the Ulster Unionists to be in government?
The other factor that is really interesting to us is that
the DUP's campaign has been centred around one person, their leader.
And, in fact, it's gone to the extent that my wife received
yesterday a letter in the post from Arlene to say
that if she didn't vote for the DUP candidate in my area,
bad things would happen.
-And that we could go back...
-And is she going to take that advice?
I think that's very unlikely.
But the difficulty is, it's a campaign around one individual,
and centred primarily for purely party political interests,
not in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.
Maybe the DUP believes it has a leader worth trumpeting.
-Stormont needs to work for all of the people.
Not a shared-out, but a shared responsibility.
I'm going to come to Stephen in a second, but just answer my question.
Are you absolutely clear that the Ulster Unionist Party
will be in government if it has the political mandate to be in
government after the next election, or are you still sitting on the fence?
We're seeking a comprehensive mandate from the people
in the first part, and then we will enter the all-party negotiations
for the Executive places to be allocated.
But you had a mandate the last time and you walked out
over the issue of trusting Sinn Fein.
And we will judge it on that basis. It couldn't be clearer.
Couldn't be clearer? OK. Stephen, is it a sham fight?
I think that answer is as clear as mud.
First of all, we need to reflect on what all the parties
have been doing over the past five years.
Whenever we're seeing new commitments to fresh starts, etc,
we have to judge that based upon
the track records of the different parties.
This week we launched Northern Ireland's other waiting list crisis
where we identified at least ten major reforms
where we've either missed opportunities and things have
been delayed or indeed entirely left on the shelf.
There are important reforms where we need to move forward faster
in Northern Ireland. I'm very conscious that both David and I
have delivered in our own departments. There has been
delivery elsewhere in terms of the Executive, but going forward,
I'm seeing a lot of populism, frankly,
from some of my colleagues here at the table. For example,
this £1 billion on health - the issue on health
isn't just about money, it's actually about doing things
differently and having a sustainable model.
Is there not a lesson - with the greatest respect,
is there not a lesson in this for the Alliance Party?
Because you accuse these other parties of being populist -
they get more votes than you from the electors at election time
because they put forward policies that people want to vote for.
You continue to sit at the same level that you've sat at
for the last 20 or 30 years and tell people that they're
going to have to pay more in various payments in the next mandate.
I mean, maybe there is a lesson.
With respect, the Alliance Party vote has grown
election after election over the past ten years.
-By a small amount, yes.
-Every election, we have grown.
We've now had an MP, we've had two ministers at the Executive table,
our two ministers, myself and David, we have delivered a clear programme
despite some very adverse circumstances
in terms of public finances.
So we've proven what we can do whenever we're given the chance.
And frankly we need more discussion of policy in terms of our elections
rather than a beauty contest or issues over which party
is going to be the top in terms of some symbolism.
This is about electing the government of Northern Ireland,
the people who will be deciding the issues for the next five years.
Hang on, I want to ask Mairtin O Muilleoir a question
about petition of concern.
We've heard a lot about the arguments about
who's going to be the biggest party.
Surely what Sinn Fein wants above anything else is to move
from 29 to 30 MLAs in the next mandate so you will be able to table
a petition of concern yourself
without having to get support from someone else?
And if that happens, potentially we're going to have two blocks,
Sinn Fein and the DUP, each able to petition a table of concern,
so each able to cancel the other out on issues
where you haven't made some sort of agreement.
Please, God, we don't have more log-jam in the time ahead.
But that's potentially going to be the case.
This is our pledge, our pledge is the fresh start,
our pledge is to put a greater premium on consensus than conflict.
I'm asking about petition of concern.
Yes, but if we do that, then we can't go down a road
of trying to use a petition of concern willy-nilly.
A petition of concern was introduced
to protect minorities in extreme cases.
Every party that uses the petition of concern
says that its particular instance is an exception.
And it isn't a willy-nilly use of the petition.
Let me say two things. First, I would like to see
petitions of concern used less often in the time ahead.
And Sinn Fein would like to increase its mandate so that we can deliver
more of our pledges in government.
And I'm proud of what the Executive has achieved.
I know some people come to the table
and want to defend our ministers only in the Executive.
Except for Mr Kennedy, who is in opposition now,
everyone else has been in government.
And I'm proud of what's been achieved, 40,000 jobs,
the huge number of new schools built in my consituency alone,
and encouraging other people...
You're getting off the point here.
Much more has to be done and part of that has to be to stop
emphasising the divisions in Stormont,
and part of that is the petitions of concern.
They are necessary in some circumstances
but I would like to see them used less often. So that's not why...
Does it worry you that Sinn Fein could have enough seats
to trigger petitions of concern off its own bat in the new mandate?
Is that a nightmare scenario for the DUP?
The people will decide how many MLAs to return to Stormont.
And that's a matter for the electorate on Thursday.
Of course we want to see as many Democratic Unionist Party
representatives, because then we will be the ones
that will stand up and get away from some of the policies that
Sinn Fein put forward in the last election,
where they blocked welfare reform and we had to step in,
provide leadership and make sure that was done from Westminster.
There are big differences between us and Sinn Fein.
There're differences between all of us.
We're determined to bring people together.
Arlene is going to provide strong leadership.
Danny talks about Arlene being front and centre of our campaign.
We're proud of Arlene's record since she became First Minister.
There was a major splash
in the Sunday Times Magazine today on Arlene.
Why are even national figures focusing on Arlene?
Because they see her as the key person
to drive Northern Ireland forward.
But in order to be First Minister, in order to have
as many Executive ministers around the table to implement our plan,
which is a very comprehensive plan...
Danny, you want to come in.
The point about it is, they need to ensure people go out and vote
-for the DUP candidates.
-I think you've made that point.
You've said that. Danny.
This is a campaign based on fear and the DUP campaign is largely
now reduced to sending people letters at the last minute to say,
-"Please vote for us, otherwise bad things happen."
That is not the basis for even a fresh start.
-But Danny can't even say...
-Let Danny speak. You've had a fair go.
-Let's hear what Danny has to say.
-He's not even saying
-he's going to be in government.
-Where is the basis for a fresh start
when people in North Belfast are being told
you can't even vote for other pro-union parties,
you must vote for the Democratic Unionists?
-Claire, you wanted to come in.
-But you were happy, Danny, last year...
Hang on, Nigel. Claire, you wanted to come in.
..to take DUP support to stop a Sinn Fein person becoming an MP.
It's far more important in terms of First Minister...
-Do you mind? Claire.
-That is why you are MP for North Belfast.
This is distraction as well.
This squabbling is what is turning people off
and plunging our turnout. But it is a bit frustrating,
parties are acting like they just landed on planet Earth
and haven't been driving Stormont for the last ten years.
What people see as inertia and under-delivery,
and it is not just the petition of concern, and we put forward
quite comprehensive proposals to reform that mechanism,
it's the general log jam,
the fact powers kept being pulled into the centre in OFM-DFM,
strategies go in and nothing comes out at all.
I think of the ugly scaffolding, as people have called it,
around the petition of concern,
we tried to reform some of the things in the opposition bill,
and it's regrettable parties like Sinn Fein
didn't support any of that material.
But the petition of concern was envisaged to be
a human rights mechanism, and we think it should go back to that,
as in 1998, to protect minorities and not thwart them.
Stephen Farry, the Alliance Party, and you in particular,
found things you wanted to do blocked, effectively,
by others in the Executive.
Are you concerned about what Claire Hanna has referred to
as the ugly scaffolding in certain circumstances?
It's important we move beyond talking about process issues
and personalities, and talk about policy outcomes.
This is what the election is fundamentally about.
I got most of my agenda through, as a minister, as did David.
There were some examples where we found the situation frustrating.
For example, the crisis we had around the budgets
was a massive problem.
We could have done a lot more in terms of scaling up what we've done,
particularly around skills.
If we are to deliver 50,000 new jobs,
we have to invest a lot more in skills,
we estimate £85 million per year.
The one example where I was blocked was around teacher-training reform
where we are trying to save money to reinvest it in the skills we need,
For example, engineers, computer scientists.
We all know we're training too many teachers.
But my four party colleagues here decided they wanted
to protect the best interests of the current infrastructure.
The point is, the smaller parties have absolutely no capacity
to push through what they want to do
if Sinn Fein and the DUP want to block it.
-That won't change in the next mandate.
-On some issues, we've seen
Sinn Fein and the DUP blocking each other on a host of reforms.
But, if a minister focuses on a very clear agenda,
as David and I did in our departments,
we can achieve a huge amount.
David has reduced crime,
I've improved skill levels with more places in terms of apprenticeships.
Did anybody else do a good job at all?
-Did anyone else do a good job in the Executive?
-I am sure others did.
Mairtin, it is for you to defend your ministers.
But the potential game-changer, at our suggestion, is that,
after the election,
those parties entitled to Executive positions,
have a negotiation, and have an agreed programme for government.
-All five parties potentially?
-Whoever is eligible for that.
But the loudest voices at the table, Danny Kennedy,
-will be the DUP and Sinn Fein.
-Well. You don't know that.
It's extremely likely.
We have fought a very positive campaign.
And we are pleased with the response we are getting.
We will await the outcome. But I have to say,
I am increasingly worried that there is a precooked programme
for government that has been hatched up
-between the DUP and Sinn Fein.
-We've discussed that already.
-And that doesn't lead to collective responsibility.
Claire Hanna, I just want to ask you about turnout.
There is a tremendous concern in certain quarters
that public apathy is running at an all-time high,
the public not connecting with Stormont.
In the elections in 2003 and 2007, turnout was 63%.
In 2011, it was 54%.
There are some people saying it could dip below 50%.
We don't know, but it could dip below 50%.
If it does, how serious is that for democracy?
It's very serious and it's worrying and it's sad.
If you go further than 2003, close to 80% voted in the referendum.
So, if we do drop down to 50, that really is a stark fall.
A referendum's exceptional, though.
Clearly, people are switched off from Stormont.
I know, when you knock on doors,
people aren't switched off from politics.
They still do want to talk to you about issues around education,
they want to know why all these negotiations in Stormont House,
why don't they deal with things like the 11-plus
and not just mechanisms to elect First Ministers.
People are switching off from politics in a Stormont sense.
But they are interested in issues.
Unfortunately, it serves some of the parties a little bit better
if people switch off.
And I think the voting data since 1998 will show
that it's largely the centre ground switching off.
Very quickly, Mairtin and Nigel,
is there a direction of travel, as far as turnout is concerned?
And does it give you cause for concern?
Obviously, I want to see turnout get up as much as possible.
I am reminded in the last Scottish Parliament elections when it was 50%
and in Wales it was 41%.
So, we still do pretty well in Northern Ireland.
What I find out, when I go round the doors,
and we knock doors, and we talk to people.
Arlene has been on a listening tour, listening to people.
She's travelled some 15,000 miles, as far as Rathlin Island,
talking to people, because we want to ensure
that the policies we implement after the election
-are ones that resonate with people.
-I understand that.
I'm asking you specifically what the danger would be
-if turnout dips below 50%?
-Obviously, we want to ensure
it's as high as possible,
-but we have to work with the mandate given to us.
The reality is, Mark, when I go round the doors,
I think people are engaged. I think the media could do more.
We launched a health document, an education document,
agri-food documents, and there wasn't a single camera
that turned up to any of them.
So, I think the media have a role of ensuring...
We're having a discussion now. I'm sure lots are watching.
Let's not waste time talking about the media.
-You raised the issue.
-I didn't raise the issue of the media. Mairtin?
But that's a relevant issue.
In South Belfast, the Sinn Fein vote's gone up.
We're taking a larger percentage of those who turn up.
We want to engage more young people.
I do find young people engaged in issues of marriage equality,
the Irish Language Act, refugees, looking after our neighbours.
We need to take those issues of compassion, of social justice,
and bring them into the heart of government.
I'd like to see more people come out and vote.
But I also say to those I meet on the doorsteps,
if you don't cast your vote,
if you don't give us the power to deliver for you,
if you opt out of the system, then you can't criticise the government.
A couple of things I want to get in,
and we don't have a lot of time left, so, if you could be brief,
if that's at all possible,
that would be a big help to people watching at home.
Sinn Fein has said legislation, Nigel Dodds,
bringing forth marriage equality,
will be a priority in the next mandate.
Will the DUP lodge another petition of concern
to block that if it happens?
On the issue of lodging petitions of concern,
we will wait to see the circumstances
the issue has brought forward.
Arlene has made it clear she will make the decision then
along with the Assembly Members.
Are there any circumstances where the DUP would sit back
and allow marriage equality to proceed?
-I'm not going to speculate. No. Our position is very clear.
We've been consistent on this matter,
we believe we are not in the business of redefining marriage.
We want to see people treated properly and equally
and with respect. We have a position on that.
But, I have to say, on the doorsteps,
the issues coming through to me are education, health...
I'm asking about marriage equality.
-I've made that very clear.
-Just answer this question.
You said earlier on, interestingly, you're a democrat,
and the people will decide. If the people decide
that a majority of the 108 MLAs
would support a change as far as marriage is concerned,
would the DUP, as democrats, allow that to happen,
or would you use a mechanism, which some see as undemocratic,
-to block it?
-For the sake of repeating myself,
-because you obviously didn't hear the first question.
-you didn't answer.
-What I'm saying very clearly is
-we have a consistent position on this as a party.
-So, you'd block it?
Well, any technicality about process, about petitions of concern,
let us wait and see what the circumstances are.
Our position is very clear.
We are against the redefinition of marriage. But concentrating on...
-I think that's fairly clear.
-Yes, it is.
And we're going to concentrate on education, health and jobs.
Are you going to bring this back to the table,
or are you going to concentrate on those other issues?
It's a really interesting area,
I think the argument has been won out in the wider community.
-It hasn't been won in legislation.
-You're absolutely right.
But, in the wider community,
and I see it particularly during the Pride parade,
the huge turnout of young people who support that,
people accept that, live and let live, love thy neighbour,
having a fully-inclusive society, especially here,
is the best way forward. We've had enough discrimination and exclusion.
It's also the case, Mairtin, with respect, there are a lot of people
in Northern Ireland who are uncomfortable about any change.
Absolutely. But I think the majority are now accepting,
and I got an e-mail last night from a lady who said
her niece is transgender,
how much she appreciates the fact we are standing up for all our people.
We need to move forward, it would be great to move forward
by putting that emphasis on consensus.
We will do that, and Colum Eastwood and I brought the motion
that got a majority for equal marriage in the Assembly last year.
We will bring a bill that does tackle in turn
each of the issues, and does write in protections for churches,
which seems to be the concern for many people.
But, what the campaign last year down south
showed us is there isn't anything to fear.
The world hasn't stopped turning. It is about equality,
and recognising the lives and aspirations of everybody here.
I think that shows how, when you do engage, and when you, one-by-one,
address the concerns, in a balanced way,
-you don't shout people down, people will be reassured.
A lot of these issues will remain matters of conscience
for members of the Ulster Unionists Assembly party.
-Other issues like abortion as well?
And my personal view on abortion,
I am opposed to the extension of the 1967 to Northern Ireland.
And I also am opposed to same-sex relationships.
But you think there could be some change on the issue of abortion
in cases like fatal foetal abnormality?
Other colleagues take a different view.
-And we will look seriously at all of these issues.
On equality, equality is not a zero-sum game.
So, if we extend civil marriage to same-sex couples,
we don't take away from anyone else's marriage.
That is entirely achievable.
If the Assembly doesn't act on this in the next five years,
I predict that the courts will intervene and ensure it does happen.
The courts are part of our democratic process.
Wouldn't it be great if we could sort it out, the Irish Language Act,
marriage equality? We, together, could do it
instead of having to wait for the courts?
That is a challenge for all the parties.
That will happen if the Assembly fails.
Maybe we've just lifted the curtain slightly
and given people a glimpse of the kind of issues that will come up
whenever people are returned after Thursday's election.
We have to leave it there. Thank you all for coming in to join us today.
We'll hear what Professors Deirdre Heenan and Rick Wilford
made of that very shortly,
but first, to Dublin and the historic deal
between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, which is set to see Enda Kenny,
described as a political corpse just a few weeks ago,
elected Taoiseach on Wednesday.
The formation of a working government
now seems to rest in the hands of the independent TDs.
What is now going to happen is intensive work will now
continue in relation to the text of the agreement between both parties.
That will then be shared with the Taoiseach
and with the leader of Deanna Fail
and then with our respective Parliamentary party meetings.
But we have concluded our work here.
It has been a tortuous and long and difficult at times process
but I think that the formation of a minority government and the document
that we can hopefully agree in the next two days can become a blueprint
for the formation of future minority governments in this jurisdiction.
We're determined to implement the policies
that we put forward in the Independent Alliance,
but we're going in there to fight on these issues.
Do you think you're going to be successful?
Do you think you will see yourselves in government?
Well, we're very optimistic,
but there are obviously a lot of things
which we need to go into the final document which are radical,
responsible, but which we've got to achieve. We've got to be able
to show that Irish politics has changed by this time next week.
So, let's go to our Dublin correspondent, Shane Harrison,
for the very latest.
Shane, hello to you. It's been 65 days since the election now.
Against the odds, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have done the deal.
But of course it's not the end of the matter.
What do you think happens next?
Well, both Parliamentary parties
have to endorse the deal, but that's a given.
Then it's up to Fine Gael to persuade enough independent TDs
to support the particular arrangement.
That means getting Enda Kenny's vote up from 52 to 58,
with Fianna Fail abstaining, on Wednesday or shortly thereafter.
Now, some of those independent TDs may be tempted
to try and drive a hard bargain, but the people
who want a general election least are the independents,
and Enda Kenny has a bit of a carrot,
he's got up to five jobs to offer the independents,
either in cabinet or at junior ministerial level, so I would say
on balance it's more likely that a government will be formed than not.
So, Shane, if there is a deal with the independents,
then it's to last three budgets,
this plan between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, what are the odds,
do you think, of that actually happening?
Cos three budgets, it's quite a long time potentially.
It is indeed. There's a lot of talk here about new politics,
because the Danes are used to minority governments
and that means more consensus between the political parties,
TDs having more of an input into legislation
and holding the Executive or the Government more to account.
But it's not going to be the end of confrontational politics,
by any means, and as Harold Macmillan once said,
"Events, dear boy, events," can unhinge and damage
whatever arrangement may emerge.
And of course, while the country
may be administered, will it be governed?
Will this new arrangement be in a position to take tough decisions,
for example, if there's another economic crash?
That's a bridge which will have to be crossed,
and we don't yet know whether they will be able to do so.
And, Shane, just briefly and finally,
as I said there in the introduction,
Enda Kenny was described as a political corpse
just a few weeks ago, and we talked about that.
He could be re-elected as Taoiseach on Wednesday,
but how long do you think he will survive even within his own party?
Well, Enda Kenny has a chance to make history
and become the first Fine Gael Taoiseach to be re-elected after
a general election, but I doubt very much if he'll be Taoiseach
this time next year,
and I'd be of the view that Francis Fitzgerald,
Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar would be the same mind.
OK, thanks, Shane, for that.
You're going to be busy this week in Dublin, no doubt.
Back to Belfast, though, and the elections to Stormont
with our professors, Rick Wilford and Deirdre Heenan.
Hello to you both.
You've been listening and watching with interest
to the political discussion that we've just had on the programme
with the five main parties.
Deirdre, what did you make of it,
the issue of the sham fight between the DUP and Sinn Fein
on the one hand, but this draft programme for government,
as some people see it on the other?
How does it stack up from where you're sitting?
Well, Danny Kennedy referred a number of times to something
that was pre-cooked, and there is a feeling of,
"Here's one I made earlier" when you look at the manifestos.
I think, though, that isn't the issue
and it isn't something we really should have our focus on.
If you're going to write a manifesto, in many cases,
they are motherhood and apple pie.
It's more money for health, it's more money for education,
it's more money in infrastructure, but it's very light on detail.
Where is the money going to come from?
How are we going to finance at the same time we're going to cut taxes?
It just doesn't stack up.
I think the biggest issue, though, in those manifestos is,
both main parties have hung their hats clearly on corporation tax
as a game changer, the reduced rate of corporation tax.
What they have not discussed at all, the elephant in the room is
how are they going to deal with the cuts to the block grant?
So we know for certainty there will be cuts to the block grant.
We know that the money will come from front-line services,
so there's a severe lack of long-term financial planning.
I mean, it is interesting, Rick,
some people have said during this campaign,
"What, in fact, is the point of a manifesto anyway?",
because people make all sorts of pledges and commitments
and they talk about all sorts of strategies but in fact,
none of this is going to come out in the wash until there has been
a detailed discussion for up to two weeks on a programme for government.
So does a manifesto pledge mean anything?
Well, it's a series of wish lists, in a way.
I certainly agree with Deirdre when she says these are largely uncosted.
And we saw with Gerard Diver's unfortunate, car accident interview.
-And he wasn't the only one.
-No, he wasn't. I think Conor Murphy
had an equally troublesome time on Friday in trying to explain
this particular point about if the block grant is reduced
to pay for corporation tax cuts,
where are the cuts in departmental spending going to fall?
Is it a sham fight?
No, I went through the five major parties' manifestos,
and there's an extraordinary degree of convergence
amongst and across all five, actually.
But there's particular convergence between Sinn Fein and the DUP,
so Danny Kennedy may be forgiven for thinking this is something
which is already, as it were,
Blue-Peter-style, been cooked up earlier.
But you're right, Mark, we're into a new phase now,
because post-election, we have up to two weeks of interparty negotiation
which will presumably be very leaky.
People will be appearing in front of cameras, and we'll find out
exactly what the temper of those talks are
and where the likely lines of agreement may fall.
Deirdre, on the other issues, moral and social issues,
we just touched on it towards the end of our discussion,
do you think there is a direction of travel?
Is that an issue, or are those issues which will find their way
back onto the order paper at Stormont,
or will the parties focus on the big issues like education
and corporation tax and the health service?
Well, I don't think we're going to find agreement on the moral issues
and they shouldn't be reduced to sound bites.
We need that informed discussion around abortion,
same-sex marriage, which is missing. We haven't had it.
All we hear are sound bites about compassion in some circumstances
and not other circumstances.
The actual underlying moral and ethical issues
have not been discussed.
I think, though, the majority of people at home
want health and education on the agenda.
Our education system is a mess.
40% of our young children are leaving
without GCSE English and maths, yet our politicians can stand up
and say we have a world-class education system.
I think most people find that offensive, and the nonchalance with
which our politicians seem to talk about our education system,
there is a real worry out there
that we are losing people, they are leaving because they don't
have prospects here, and that we don't have a skilled workforce.
And of course I am going to say there's a huge worry that we have
hung our hat, as I said, on corporation tax
while at the same time reducing skills
and reducing money to higher and further education.
Rick, that brings us on to the issue of voter apathy and turnout.
Again, does that matter? Some people are fairly relaxed about it
and say that it's up a bit, it's down a bit.
Nigel Dodds made the point that it's better here, much better here,
than in Scotland and Wales, but is that enough?
In 2011, there were five constituencies
where the turnout fell below 50%,
and they were largely in the east of Northern Ireland.
I think there could be more this time.
I think if the overall turnout falls below 50%,
then the legitimacy of the Assembly
and the Executive has to be put in question.
Now, you might say that's because most people perhaps are content
or at least complacent, or that they are utterly disaffected.
And I think where I maybe part company
a bit with Deirdre on the moral issues, I think that partly
because there are very strong single-issue campaigns
across Northern Ireland, particularly, I think,
on the abortion issue, over in the west
and certainly certain parts of Belfast,
there are huge leafleting campaigns on "no change to the law".
But I was a bit surprised Danny Kennedy actually said
he was opposed to same-sex relationships, full stop,
not even same-sex marriage.
But I think the important part
is I don't believe that it is voter apathy,
I think it's voter disengagement, voter anger.
And I think Claire Hanna was right
when she said that people are politically engaged,
they're just not engaged with Stormont because they see
that it hasn't delivered. We were told by Peter Robinson
that it would be all about delivery.
It simply has not delivered for people.
And as Stephen Farry said, the smaller parties,
even when they put forward good ideas,
can simply be vetoed, brushed aside.
-They can't get their ideas put forward.
I agree with Deirdre too about disengagement
and one of the great white hopes of the election, I suppose,
is the Good Friday generation of first-time voters,
whether they'll turn out to vote and we know from polling evidence
that they are much more liberally minded
on the moral and ethical issues that we were discussing.
But getting them out of bed to the opinion polls
I think is going to be a big problem.
But they could have a decisive outcome if they were so motivated.
I think one of the more energetic episodes during the course
of the campaign was the Good Friday generation programme
that Tara Mills and Stephen Nolan did
and you saw a lot of very well-informed, engaged young people.
How representative they are, though, well, I just hope they are.
-Getting any of us out of bed might be the issue.
-Well, that's true.
That's what it makes it all so fascinating.
Thank you both very much indeed. That is it for today.
Don't forget the leaders' debate on Tuesday at 8pm on BBC One.
I'll be here with The View, as usual,
straight after the polls close on Thursday at 10.45.
And our Election 2016 results coverage
starts at 3pm on Friday afternoon on BBC One.
If politics is your thing,
you're in the right place for the next seven days. Bye-bye.