02/12/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers present the latest political news, interviews and debate, with justice secretary Chris Grayling.

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Good morning. Welcome to the Sunday Politics. Sorting out the deficit


And in Northern Ireland: Money is too tight to mention. The Finance


Minister on the State of Stormont's coffers. And politicians agree to


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2129 seconds


Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland. More


cuts to the welfare budget are expected to be announced by the


Chancellor, George Osborne, in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday. With


the Executive here divided over the current round of cuts, a row over


the cost of delaying public service pensions, and the price of


devolving corporation tax still to be resolved. The Finance Minister,


Sammy Wilson, is with us to talk about tough financial times. And


the Christmas decorations might be up at Belfast City Hall, but a


disagreement about flying the Union flag means there's not much festive


cheer in the chamber. This is a unique and historic opportunity for


the Unionists to prove that what they are talking about, they mean.


To discuss all of that, and to give us their views on the fall-out from


the Leveson Inquiry, I'm joined by the Sunday World's Northern Editor,


Jim McDowell, and by Sinn Fein councillor and media entrepreneur,


Mairtin O Muilleoir. First to be age old issue of flax. Inside the


building of the continental market the mood is Bar humbug as there is


a vote tomorrow to remove the Union flag over at city hall. The


Alliance Party holds the power of balance in the chamber but there is


still huge disagreement over the issue. I would be proposing that


the Union flag flies with dignity and respect over City Hall on the


designated days. There is a lot of talk about this being a shared


society, with shared spaces, that this is a city hall for all. This


is a unique and historic opportunity for the Unionists to


prove that what they are talking about, they mean. To to maintain


the flag 365 days per year is recognition that Belfast is part of


the United Kingdom. It is the most common practice in Northern Ireland.


It is the most common practice throughout GP. The air has been a


long standing policy of no flags for us. There is no flag that


represents everyone in this city. In an ideal world we would have no


flag flying over this or any public building. Now we will discuss this


issue. Presumably, a Sinn Fein will have to support the flying of the


Union flag on designated days, isn't that the only option?


Relationships in City Hall are probably the best they have ever


been. By was the issue raised? There was a two you process in


looking at the flying of flanks. The agreement at the moment is that


the flags should come down but also we need to remove the flag from


City Hall and have a civic flag. A remove the flag entirely from


Belfast City? Exactly. It is clear that Unionists would rather have


the Union flag. That is the we it is in the rest of Northern Ireland


and the UK. It is 2012 and it is a changing city. We are seeing change


in our relationship and certainly flying the flag 365 days per year


is not tenable. Surely not find it at all flies in D face of your


commitment to a shared society? -- flies in the face. You cannot have


that flag 365 days per year. If they want to talk about a


compromise we are prepared... you are prepared to compromise?


That is right. A Unionists see the spectre in front of them the two


flats, the trickle are as well. Try colour flag. That is what


Unionists are worried about. Republicans think that is perfectly


reasonable. Unionists do not look to London, they look who Dublin.


That is amateur's conversation that we have to have. They still see


Belfast as the main melting point of dealing with these Union and


Great Britain. It is this spectre. I am not advocating for seeing they


are correct. I am seeing that we need to move on and whether it is a


civic flag which no one has any problem with, some see the dry


colour flag over City Hall as a betrayal of their position. Both


camps want everything their own way and they are not prepared to give


anything to the other side at the moment. This is probably be


calloused I ever remember politics in the city Hall. It used to be a


crucible of conflict. There were physical fights in the city Hall.


Alarms were set off in the chambers. This is not the biggest of issues.


Flags do not kill people. What they represent me kill people. But some


colours on a flagpole. It is unfair for the Unionists to see that. --


say that. I think it is vital that we do not treat the minority that


way. What you said was that you would like to see no Union flag


ever over City Hall. My preference is for a civic flag, my second


preference is for both flags. emotion the other day was to remove


the flag 365 days per year. Civic flag or be two flags is what


we would prefer. What will happen tomorrow night? The Alliance


Party's amendment will be voted on first of all. If you bought for


that and support that, that is what will happen. If you bought that


down the other motion to fly it not at all will be lost so you will end


up with its 365 days per year. You get me an alternative that makes


sense. The reality is that the majority in the committee have


voted. At this stage we know the status quo will be different from


that ember 4th. What is your understanding? Was my brief


exposition of what will happen fairly accurate? I think that is


what it looks like. The other thing is on protocol. It will have to go


back to committee enemy. For her both flanks, if that was the


compromise as Sinn Fein said, they would have to come back to the


committee. What I would say is, if we want to build the city together


and this year the majority saw as fund the Jubilee celebrations. We


also realise it is a changing city. I have never seen a minority


treated this well as the Unionists. They have a flag on the dome of


City Hall 365 days per year. essay is what rubs the union nerves


raw. This thing is being thrown at them like a battle cry. We have got


the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, coming here. We have come


on leaps and bounds but what message does it send to her and, by


extension, to the wider world, that we are, yet again, fighting about a


flag in Belfast? It is not just about be patriotism. It looks again,


it is the old saw of sectarianism. If we get a more down or two mobs


down at city hall, one for the flag going up and one for the flat


coming down... We spend a lot of time in America are trying to court


Americans to get investment into Ireland winning a different hat.


think it will be about the unity among other parties in Northern


Ireland. That will be the message. Do you think Hillary Clinton does


not understand why refight about flags and allegiances? Of course


she does. There is a peace agreement here and there has to be


compromised. Unionists will have to compromise. We have to embrace what


is happening here. When the Union flag flying over City Hall on 17


days per year be better than 365 days? We have our own opinions.


a look at the week in 60 seconds. An escape from this present and the


justice minister signals and leaves a think over its closure. --


signals at rethink. And plans to cut legal aid on civil cases.


public eye are the ones who will suffer. And accusations of the


press breaking their habit of interfering in the lives of


innocent people. Changes to the industry cannot be realised without


legislation. And the Deputy First Minister notices that MLAs ski away


from question-time. I think it is a disgrace that so many were not


present to answer their questions. I do not know what he is pointing


to these die for. If he is looking for divine intervention I am happy


to pray with them. Gareth Gordon with that brief look at the past


week. Now, let us talk about the Leveson Inquiry. Do you think he


probably got it right? He had a very difficult path to walk, a lot


of compromises to make and the opinions to take on. Did he come up


with a magical solution to a very difficult problem? No, he did not.


I even heard from a solicitor who takes libel cases saying he had


hoped Lord Leveson would drag the inquiry on for another year because


of the atmosphere that the inquiry has created, papers we be willing


to bend more in civil cases. I think it is a waste of time and


money. As a newspaperman and newspaper editor I do not see


regulations on the ink that Prince the press being a good thing.


would be an entirely independent organisation. We are talking about


a situation where something like Ofcom would have statutory


regulation of the press along with an independent body. It has to be


independent and there should be no smoking gun held to anyone's head


saying we will approach a Ofcom if this does not work. And you run a


newspaper. Winning your media hat, are you concerned about the


implications and what they might mean? I disagree fundamentally with


him as a newspaper man among other things! I do not think newspapers


have to be dejected and in this be a. I think the press had a moral


vacuum. There was no moral compass within the British press and I


think they have brought this upon themselves just as bankers brought


this upon themselves. I have no fear, have I know I'll run a small


local newspaper, but no fear of statutory regulation. We have


seemed serious issues from some Irish tabloids recently. It is a


small cabal of powerful people that run the press. They have their


golfing friends. It is the same in Ireland. That lack of integrity and


respect and ethics within the press is something that affects both


islands. Based on the Levenson results. We all want to retain the


freedom of the press but at the same time I do not see anything to


fear from the best. You and the people you see, it is the closest


you get to political control. party is close to political control.


How is it political control? It is the BBC director who would be


answerable. He is answerable to the Trust and Ofcom but not the Prime


Minister. You would be hard pressed to say the BBC is not independent


of the public. If you are talking about political control or anything


and you belong to a party that controls its own newspaper, what


went into that was propaganda on behalf of Sinn Fein. What Sinn Fein


do now, there ministers are the most obtuse and difficult to get to


for any journalist. A hang on! I am talking about the printed


press asking for a straight answers. Everything is spin-doctored and


controlled. I asked for a comment the other day about an attack on


the black mountain on the day of the Queen's visit. I asked for a


comment from the MLA and I had to go through the press of us for a


statement. I could not even phoned the MLA, as he would not give me a


quote or comment. I think it is astonishing and contradictory that


you would say Sinn Fein wants State regulation of the press when they


are already notorious for their control of the press. We have to


help the Sunday World or Belfast Telegraph or whomever. Speaking as


somebody involved in newspapers and as a politician I think the press


are or reading increased regulation. No one in newspapers has anything


to fear from that except the small cabal who want to contact their


friends rather than going through official channels. The Strait


jackets are already on. I am going to wind you up, the Sinn Fein have


at fantastic press officer! have got State sponsored censorship


through the privacy laws and you have got the criminal law. What is


being talked about, the moral compass and all the rest, it is a


criminal offence that should have been dealt with by the police. More


cuts to welfare, still law announcement on corporation tax.


And no further guaranteed that the air passenger duty cuts will happen.


Is it all doom and gloom on the economic front, or might the


Chancellor have a splash of good news in the middle of the week?


Let's hear from the keeper of the purse locally, Finance Minister,


Sammy Wilson. I thought you started an hour later than you did. It is


very nice to see you, better late than never. Let's talk about Air


Passenger Duty first. On Friday the NI Affairs Committee floated the


idea of reducing or abolishing short-haul APD to make this place a


more attractive destination for people to visit and do business


with. But you're not convinced, Why? We had to get the legislation


hurried through quickly otherwise you would have lost many flights


that the dead have. It is up now to the Executive to work out whether


or not they wish to have further devolution of the air passenger


duty. The important question is whether or not the �9 million it


would cost to produce the air passenger duty, whether that �90


million would be better spent on other things rather than on a


reduction on duty which might not be all that well targeted. We would


probably see some people benefited who may be engaging in activities


that are not all that beneficial. We are pushing it in a general


sense as far as the UK as a whole is concerned. The aviation industry


across the UK is at a disadvantage. As far as Northern Ireland is


concerned, I would like to know whether the benefits outweigh the


cost and, indeed whether there are other things we could spend �9


million on that would have a greater benefit. What about the


suggestion of the view that we would hear something from the


Chancellor during his Autumn Statement on the reduction of


corporation tax in Northern Ireland, is that going to happen? I do not


think so. We have taken it as far as we can. The report that has gone


to the Prime Minister and Chancellor, it is now a political


decision. I think it is getting mixed up with the Scottish


referendum. We are not expecting any announcement in the Autumn


Statement. We have been pressing the Government to give us some


certainty. We do not need it devolved immediately. There is a


long lead-in period when you tried to sell Northern Ireland on the


issue of low taxation. And you want it to happen? I have always


expressed the view that it cannot be at any price. Our negotiations


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