02/12/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


02/12/2012

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

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

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

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2129 seconds

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Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland. More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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is a unique and historic opportunity for the Unionists to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Relationships in City Hall are probably the best they have ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unionists are worried about. Republicans think that is perfectly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Americans to get investment into Ireland winning a different hat.

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

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

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not understand why refight about flags and allegiances? Of course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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press breaking their habit of interfering in the lives of

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innocent people. Changes to the industry cannot be realised without

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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would be an entirely independent organisation. We are talking about

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a situation where something like Ofcom would have statutory

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

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

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

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

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implications and what they might mean? I disagree fundamentally with

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

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

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

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think they have brought this upon themselves just as bankers brought

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

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

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

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

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

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respect and ethics within the press is something that affects both

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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friends rather than going through official channels. The Strait

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

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at fantastic press officer! have got State sponsored censorship

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

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

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

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cuts to welfare, still law announcement on corporation tax.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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more attractive destination for people to visit and do business

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

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hurried through quickly otherwise you would have lost many flights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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probably see some people benefited who may be engaging in activities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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suggestion of the view that we would hear something from the

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Chancellor during his Autumn Statement on the reduction of

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

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

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

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

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referendum. We are not expecting any announcement in the Autumn

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

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

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

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

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

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