04/11/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


04/11/2012

Mark Carruthers looks at the political developments of the week and questions policy makers on the key issues.


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Anton Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland. Thousands of young people

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here cannot find a job, we are asking why a scheme that helps them

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2060 seconds

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Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics. 24,000 young people here

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are out of work and that is the highest in the UK. Reducing this

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figure is a priority for the Executive but it is planning to

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change a scheme that encourages young people to stay in education.

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Student representatives say any cuts would be catastrophic. We ask

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the employment Minister if the Executive is failing our young

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people. You can do it in Argentina, Brazil and even the Isle of Man, so

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should 16 year-olds be able to vote. 16 year-olds can buy a lot of

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tickets and joined the Army. We are looking ahead to the US election

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and we are joined by two fresh- faced politicians.

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The Education Maintenance Allowance allows up to �30 per week to

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encourage 16 to 19 year-olds to stay in school. Proposed changes

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would reduce the grants that are targeted at low-income families.

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Student groups are opposed and say it will lead to massive numbers of

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young people dropping out of education. Stephen Farry is with me

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now. Thank you for joining us. Youth unemployment is its huge

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problem, far worse than it is in the rest of the UK, why are you

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proposing such wholesale changes to a scheme which helps young people

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stay off the unemployment register and in education? Let us break this

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down. First of all, youth unemployment is clearly an issue in

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Northern Ireland. In some respects we are better than in the situation

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in the Republic of Ireland and in the European Union, but this is a

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major challenge for society. Youth unemployment here is 23.5%. When

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you look at that, it does not equate to one in four people being

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unemployed, that equates to people looking for work. We have a higher

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participation rate in higher education in Northern Ireland, so

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in practice one in seven young people is out of work. That is a

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major challenge and that is why we have introduce the youth employment

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scheme. We are now investing more than any other part of the UK in

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helping a young people stay close to the labour market and to find

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opportunities for them to get work experience and to get that chance

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to compete with other workers. These people are not in employment

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or education or training and they need help. They do. We are

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investing in resources for them. The investment is investing �40

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million in youth unemployment and that is a bigger package than is

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available in any other part of the UK. Let us focus on the Education

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Maintenance Allowance. There are a number of options. People who work

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with students and represent them say that this will be catastrophic.

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That is overdoing it. That is the dramatic language they're using. In

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practice, they are engaging with us and they responded to our

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consultation. We're open to alternative ideas, but the reality

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is we have to find some savings and we are doing other investments for

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young people so this must be taken in the round. Why do you have to

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find savings? You got �13.8 million of money for a youth employment

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scheme. Why are you getting extra money in one bit of your budget but

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losing money in another? We have to spend scarce resources where they

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will make the biggest difference in helping young people. The reality

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is that this game, the evidence shows it is not effective in

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keeping young people in education, almost two-thirds of young people

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say it does not make any difference. A survey was carried out which

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disagreed. I have the statistics. It suggests it does keep young

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people in education and encourage them to stay there and it helps

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them. We can argue over the precise scale of the statistics, but we are

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not seeking to abolish the scheme, it has been abolished in England,

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in Scotland and Wales they have reformed it. We're talking about a

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minimal changes compared to elsewhere. We want to keep it and

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make sure it applies to the young people for whom it makes a

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difference and remove it for those for whom it does not make a

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difference. Do you accept that there will be young people

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currently in receipt of the allowance who will lose it are

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having scaled back and that that potentially will have an impact on

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them? It should not. If the scheme is reformed correctly, it will

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focus on those for whom it makes a difference. We will remove the dead

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weight from the system. What does that mean? Where we are spending

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money, where it is not making a difference, there is other things

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we can do with those resources. Look at what we are doing regarding

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tuition fees. We have frozen them in Northern Ireland and that makes

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a huge difference to young people. We have a new widening access

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strategy insuring that people from disadvantaged backgrounds have a

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chance to access and gain from an education. We have extended and new

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training allowance, for those people who are or on a European

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Social Fund type schemes. We're the only part of the UK that has a

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training allowance for those on training for success. We do a lot

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more regarding this allowance been other parts of the UK. Can you give

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me a profile of the student currently and receipt of the

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alliance he will lose that and not be in some way affected? There are

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three different thresholds. Per week that is. We are looking at

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various options for reform, the five options in the consultation

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which closed last Friday, we will seek to look at those options and

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see how the public have responded to those and we will look at other

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ideas that come through and to see how we can actually target the

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available resources were it will have the biggest impact. It is for

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those young people who do needed as an incentive to stay on in

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education, it will be there. For those for whom it is not making a

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difference, we want to address that. We understand that. I am sure

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everyone would support that part of the plan. The difficulty is those

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individuals who are going to Lusaka, they may feel that they are losing

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out and they may choose to leave the courses they are on because

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they feel they cannot afford to stay. If that happens, you will

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have got this wrong. The that could be a by-product of your action.

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Before the allowance was introduced, Northern Ireland had the highest

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participation rates in education and we still have those rates and I

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expect that will remain the case. The evidence shows from the survey

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we conducted, it was an independent body, which shows that almost two-

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thirds of young people, this is not making a difference. We want to

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focus at on those who find it does make a difference. Have you got

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reservations about the tinkering about his proposed or are you

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relaxed about them getting it right? And I am comfortable with

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this because there were recent statistics that showed a huge bulk

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of people who were in receipt of this allowance, it was spent on

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social activities. The idea that this allowance, if it was reformed

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and fewer people were getting it, that this would be a catastrophic

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blow that would discourage young people from stain on in education...

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It is a waste of public resources? I think it is dead weight in the

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system. The resources can be targeted more effectively to Jenny

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Wyley encourage people who do find barriers in the wake to their

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education to stay on in education. I come from a working-class family

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and I was encouraged to stay on in education, I did not need a state

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handout to encourage me to stay on. There are people out there who do

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encounter obstacles... You could be in the child with many siblings.

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do have many siblings. There are families were there may be a number

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of children in a household and parents cannot give the kind of

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support to several children that they bite be able to give to one.

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have two sisters and a brother and I came from a family were we were

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all encouraged to continue in education. I do not necessarily

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think that a blanket handing out of taxpayers' money in the way that

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the system is currently weighted represents good value for money.

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you have reservations? No, I support the retention of the

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allowance. I think there is a clear link between social disadvantage

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and educate -- educational attainment. There is a need for

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intervention of some sort to encourage young people and give an

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incentive to stay on in education particularly in these economic

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times. It is important for young people to get qualifications to

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make them more employable. Your colleague is working closely with

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Stephen Farry to negotiate a path through this change. If the change

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to the allowance targeted those in most need and left out are those

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who do not need it, that would be better, we Det? Like every scheme

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are there has to be a review to see how effective it is. The students

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that I have talked who are worried about the changes and are confused

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about what will happen and it is important that we have that

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incentive for people. I know that Sinn Fein are in favour of it and I

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have yet to be convinced that any of the options in the consultation

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will be better. She is yet to be convinced. Yes, we will have to

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review what comes back from the consultation. We do have to find

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savings across a range of different programmes. We have to shift

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resources from weather been used inefficiently to where they can

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make a difference. When savings are found, they will be reinvested in

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young people, they will not be put into another area of government

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activity. This is about investing in young people and we're doing

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more than anywhere else in the UK on this issue. Stay with us. Thank

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you. We are going to move on to another issue, should 16 euros get

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the vote? In Scotland it will get the opportunity to vote in the

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independence referendum. Sinn Fein and the Green Party think the time

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is right to lower the voting age here and have raised the issue. We

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caught up with some young people on a visit to Stormont this week to

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see what they thought. I do not think there is any difference.

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There is no difference in maturity levels. What is the difference?

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do not believe that 16 year-olds have the responsibility to make an

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informed decision about who should represent them because I think

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they're more likely to be swayed by things like fashion or how they

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appear and will not look into the candidates. I think it would bring

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a more into education and people would know more about it. You can

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buy a lottery ticket and joined the army so why should she not be able

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to vote? They should have the right to voice their opinion. It is a

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difficult enough question it occurs some people are more mature than

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others. It raises issues of quality. Ageism is a huge thing right now.

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It is reverse ageism. Reverse ageism. There you go. The Assembly

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motion is in fact signed in your name. It is due to be discussed on

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Tuesday. Why do you think 16 euros here should be voting? I think it

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is about giving young people a voice, giving them the ability to

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take part in the democratic process and have at the right to vote. We

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have an opportunity to send out a message that young people, their

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voice matters, and it is as relevant as anyone else's. There is

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as serious issue of apathy among young people that has to be

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addressed. By lowering the voting age we conspire in interest and may

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be grounds for future political engagement which is essential for

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the future. A what is wrong with that? Statistics show that the

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lowest turnout at election time is amongst people aged between 18 and

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25. The argument that is being put forward is that if we lower it,

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that will in some way address apathy and increase turnout. If the

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people two years older are not voting, why would the people

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younger than that be more inclined to vote? Perhaps they feel that

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they're not being taken seriously and if you say that we do care we

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think and let 16 year-olds boat, they would feel that they are being

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listened to and that people want to hear their voice and they would go

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out to vote. You were politically active when you were a teenager.

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think that that is a challenge for political parties to demonstrate

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that they take young people seriously and certainly my own

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party, my experience has been that every young person comes forward

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who has interest and talent they will be encouraged. So why not let

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them vote early? I think that there is a false premise on which the

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argument that reducing the age to 16 will in some way inspire young

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people or increase turnout, I do not see that based on strong

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evidence. Is there evidence for it? He is right when he says the 18 to

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25 year olds are generally do tend to be pretty apathetic. In parts of

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Austria were you can vote at 16, the turnout has been a lot higher.

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My whole issue with this is that there should be a vote of

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confidence in young people. Young people are mature enough and

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informed enough and articulate and smart enough to make informed

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decisions. Politicians deal with issues, we have just discussed the

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Education Maintenance Allowance, issues are being discussed that

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affect young people so why should they not have a say and a vote is

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one of the best ways that anyone can influence what happens. Your

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party is broadly supportive of this? The Liberal Democrats are

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supportive as well. We should be supporting the motion on Tuesday.

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We have a crisis of democracy at the moment were young people are

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not voting at the same volumes as their older peers. I do not see any

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difficulty in extending the franchise if it encourages young

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people to participate at an earlier stage, that is a good thing. We're

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looking at a whole range of issues that affect young people, it is

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important that they have their say, they can pay taxes at that age,

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they can marry, they can have children, they can join the armed

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forces... Can I say on that, one of the younger people there raised an

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idea, I think we should have an increased role of citizenship

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classes in schools, whereby people understand the value of the vote

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and the way it can make a difference. That is interesting.

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Thank you. Now it was half-term at Stormont

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but even though there was no business in the chamber, our

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politicians were busy. Here is our correspondent at the political wick

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macro. -- Week in 60 Seconds. In the Commons, the Prime Minister

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paid tribute to the army medic killed in Afghanistan. I think you

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stroke -- e spoke strongly and movingly on it and I think he is

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right that those in the medical regiment do a fantastic job. It has

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been an honour and privilege for me to meet some of them. Also at West

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Minister the government to, as rebels joined Labour to vote down

:53:15.:53:25.
:53:25.:53:26.

the EU budget. They were helped by the DUP who hailed it as historic.

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In Belfast and you play opened based on the life of a new

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firebrand preacher politician called Ian Paisley. This city of

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culture gets a makeover. Hundreds of thousands of pounds even in the

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course of this year, for their heritage buildings, the listed

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buildings that so fully define the character of this great city.

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The tragedy of the past week of course it was the murder of David

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Black. That United local politicians in condemnation. It did

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more than unite politicians, it united the whole community. They

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are determined that these criminals will not be allowed to drag

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Northern Ireland backwards. Too many people have lived through the

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violence in the past and we do not want to go back to that. The war

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you pleased to see Martin McGuinness standing with Peter

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Robinson condemning what happened. Absolutely. My heart goes out to

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them. It is important that we stand shoulder to shoulder with each

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other and show that there is no appetite in society for this.

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you. One final subject for us, the American presidential election is

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on Tuesday, the campaign was suspended as Super Storm Sandy

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wreaked havoc. According to polls, it is a close call, but no matter

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who it is, Northern Ireland is certainly not on the political

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radar on the way it used to be. Let us look back at a time when trips

:55:03.:55:13.
:55:13.:55:29.

across the Atlantic were And so I ask you to build on the

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opportunity you have before you, to believe that the future can be

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better than the past, to work together because you have so much

:55:36.:55:46.
:55:46.:55:56.

more to gain by working together I welcome you here. I congratulate

:55:56.:56:06.
:56:06.:56:16.

you for seizing the moment and That certainly brings back memories,

:56:16.:56:21.

it will probably not be like that anymore. You are a big fan of Mitt

:56:21.:56:26.

Romney, so I can say you are a Republican. A You are absolutely

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right. The election, any person who says they know how what will go is

:56:32.:56:42.
:56:42.:56:42.

telling you lies. It is neck and neck. I think there are poles all

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over the place and I think it is a genuine cliffhanger and I do not

:56:46.:56:52.

know how it will go. One do you think that is? I think the

:56:52.:56:57.

circumstances are or, people in 2008 were prepared to give hope and

:56:57.:57:00.

change a real chance and over the course of the past four years and

:57:00.:57:04.

of a lot of people who thought there would be hope and changed

:57:04.:57:09.

think it has been more of the same and feel are disillusioned. It is a

:57:09.:57:12.

bit like 2004, you have an incumbent president who is not

:57:12.:57:18.

entirely popular, but you have an opponent whose huge chunk of the

:57:18.:57:24.

electorate are not persuaded on and it is then into genuine neck and

:57:24.:57:29.

neck territory in that regard. depends how many people bother to

:57:29.:57:33.

turn out and of course Super Storm Sandy could impact on that. Do you

:57:33.:57:38.

have a hunch if you have to plump one way or another? I am of the

:57:38.:57:45.

opinion that it is up to the American people to -- at who they

:57:45.:57:51.

decide on. President Obama's policies are more progressive, but

:57:51.:57:56.

it is up to the American people. Sinn Fein have had a good

:57:56.:57:59.

relationship with all the administrations and we hope we can

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continue the work with the peace process and encourage investment in

:58:03.:58:08.

Ireland. To come back to young people, do you think of that them

:58:08.:58:13.

of voting would have a big bearing? When you take Ohio, there are so

:58:13.:58:18.

many people here who are undecided that at this stage it will come

:58:18.:58:23.

down to what actually happens on the day President Obama I think so.

:58:23.:58:27.

Young people tend to have more liberal views so that might have an

:58:27.:58:33.

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