07/10/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


07/10/2012

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


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And coming up in Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland:

:01:26.:01:29.

Have local politicians left it too late to rebel against planned

:01:29.:01:32.

welfare changes? And does life experience count for anything any

:01:32.:01:42.
:01:42.:01:42.

Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2124 seconds

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Hello, and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland. As

:37:06.:37:08.

the Tories gather for their annual conference, their planned welfare

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changes hit the headlines here with the DUP accusing Sinn Fein of

:37:11.:37:17.

dropping a welfare bombshell. So, how far can local changes to the

:37:17.:37:21.

proposed legislation go? Joining me to discuss this is the SDLP MP Mark

:37:21.:37:25.

Durkan. Plus, the twenty-somethings taking some of the top jobs in

:37:26.:37:30.

politics here. PR consultant Sheila Davidson and commentator Paul

:37:30.:37:34.

McFadden will be joining me with their thoughts on all of that and

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The Prime Minister has defended the government's plans for welfare

:37:42.:37:45.

reform as deeply progressive and thoughtful. The controversial plans

:37:45.:37:48.

will no doubt be on the agenda at the Conservative Party conference

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which begins today in Birmingham. Locally, Sinn Fein has infuriated

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the DUP by calling for this week's debate on welfare to be deferred.

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We'll hear from Mark Durkan very shortly on what, if anything, can

:38:00.:38:03.

be done at this late stage. But first, our Political Reporter

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Stephen Walker joins me now live from Birmingham.

:38:12.:38:15.

How much do you think Northern Ireland is likely to feature on the

:38:15.:38:20.

agenda? I think it will be on the agenda, not just on the conference

:38:20.:38:25.

floor, but in the meetings taking place in and around the conference.

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Welfare reform very much so will be on the agenda. There of a series of

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events happening. The new Secretary of State will be giving her speech

:38:38.:38:43.

to the conference. On Wednesday, were the have David Cameron. There

:38:43.:38:47.

are rather a whole series of French events touching on Northern Ireland.

:38:47.:38:51.

On Tuesday, there is the now infamous Ulster fried breakfast

:38:51.:38:56.

where politicians from across Northern Ireland come together.

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Arriving tomorrow at the conference will be families and relatives who

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have been campaigning for a number of years to have an inquiry into

:39:03.:39:09.

the events of 1971 when 11 people were killed. They're calling on the

:39:09.:39:12.

Prime Minister to meet them and they're calling for a full inquiry.

:39:12.:39:15.

In an interview with the Prime Minister, I asked him if he would

:39:15.:39:20.

meet the families. I would have to look at my calendar and have much

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time I have to do all the different things. I understand the strength

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of feeling. Buzz about so many cases from the deeply troubled and

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difficult past of Northern Ireland. That is what the historical inquiry

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teams are about. I will look carefully at that. I hope there

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will be met on spoken with Andersen to Poplar, as we have done with all

:39:40.:39:44.

these cases. How much pressure do you think

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David Cameron will be under this week? I think there is quite a lot

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of pressure on him this week. He is getting advice by the bucket load.

:39:54.:39:58.

He has been pulled in a number of directions. Modernisers want him to

:39:58.:40:01.

show that the Conservatives are passionate, they are not the party

:40:01.:40:05.

of the rich and they actually care for people and they want to see new

:40:05.:40:09.

measures to help economic matters. And then he is being pulled by the

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traditionalists who want him to stand firm on issues like defence,

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law and order in Europe. He is getting lots of advice. The other

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thing he will be thinking about his last week, Ed Miliband had a very

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successful conference. His speech was well received in the press.

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Particularly in the Tory press. There is a lot of issues floating

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around the David Cameron smiled at the moment as he is writing a

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speech for Wednesday. You have had an opportunity to talk to the party

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faithful yesterday and today. It is the mood among delegates? To be

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fair, they have mixed emotions. Some people come here and see it as

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a social event. It is there an opportunity to catch up with people

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and get new ideas about the election and campaigning. Other

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people are coming here perhaps with the sense of trepidation. The

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Tories are behind in the opinion polls are they want to leave

:41:04.:41:09.

conference on Wednesday galvanised and enthused. They want David

:41:09.:41:13.

Cameron to me about this road map to explain where he wants to take

:41:13.:41:16.

Britain over the next few years and they want to leave this conference

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feeling enthused. Thank you very much.

:41:23.:41:26.

Well, Sinn Fein has put the cat among the pigeons by calling for

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this week's Assembly debate on the government's controversial Welfare

:41:29.:41:31.

Reform Bill to be deferred until significant amendments are made to

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it. The Bill is widely seen as the biggest change since the

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introduction of the welfare state, and so far, the government in

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Westminster has resisted all attempts to water it down, despite

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opposition, not least from many MPs. And one of them is with me now.

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Mark Durkan, can this Bill be improved by Sinn Fein's call for a

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deferral? I am not sure about the issue of

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the deferral as they are talking about it. They seem to be same

:42:02.:42:06.

deferred the bill, let somebody else make changes and then that the

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Assembly pass it. It seems to me to make this point that the Assembly

:42:09.:42:12.

isn't actually acting as the legislative Chamber that it should

:42:12.:42:18.

be acting as. It is Sinn Fein making the mistake. Leave

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everything to ministers and the discussions between ministers and

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Whitehall. The opportunity was there early this year when the SDLP

:42:26.:42:29.

proposed that the Assembly should give the Bill pre-legislative

:42:29.:42:36.

scrutiny. That might have actually influenced some of the been in

:42:36.:42:40.

Westminster, as well. It is quite complicated for people to get their

:42:40.:42:43.

heads around. There is the idea that MPs at Westminster are

:42:43.:42:48.

grappling with the issue of on a UK-wide basis, but we have got our

:42:48.:42:53.

local people trying to legislate. Is there a power struggle between

:42:53.:42:57.

two chambers are tottering to have the final word? It is not a power

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struggle. You can see how it looks like that. Absolutely. There is a

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serious process difficulty here. The way to resolve that is to make

:43:05.:43:09.

sure that the Assembly can have its input far earlier rather than

:43:09.:43:12.

leaving the Assembly waiting to pick up the bill as passed by

:43:12.:43:17.

Westminster and just go through this exercise that we can use

:43:17.:43:21.

Durham accent, but we have to stick to the actual words that has been

:43:21.:43:31.
:43:31.:43:33.

laid down by my tour is wrong. People wanted pre-legislative

:43:33.:43:38.

scrutiny. We have to make sure that we can have as much influence as

:43:38.:43:42.

possible. One of the reasons we wanted that was to make sure we got

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more discretion. There is party and I do not pretend 21 that we can

:43:48.:43:55.

likely Becker parity and nobody should. It could cost a fortune.

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could. A lot of people's benefits to rest on that. If we become

:44:01.:44:06.

slaves to parity at which do not give us the measures we need to

:44:06.:44:11.

have, such as in housing, the hall implications of that tax. That is

:44:11.:44:16.

wrong in any part of the UK. It becomes community and politically

:44:16.:44:19.

sensitive in Northern Ireland. If you start telling people in certain

:44:19.:44:22.

communities, you should not be in that House, you should move

:44:22.:44:27.

elsewhere, you end up with demographic, Geographic sectarian

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sensitivities are none of that. Whether it is in north Belfast or

:44:30.:44:33.

other places. There are particular issues here that it be thought but

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when it comes to whether run not these changes are wearable and

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bearable for the Assembly. obviously the driver as far as the

:44:41.:44:44.

Tories are concerned is to make sure that the taxpayer gets value-

:44:44.:44:47.

for-money. That means the people most in need have the most

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available resources available to them. If you have got a couple

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living in a four-bedroomed House, it might cost as -- it might not be

:44:55.:45:00.

the best use of public resources to support that. But the tax is a

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crude way of dealing with that, particularly if the consequence of

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that as well as telling social landlords in future, you will have

:45:06.:45:10.

to design your supply of housing stock according to benefit rules

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because there were people who cannot afford to take the housing

:45:13.:45:18.

stock that is there. It is not valid for money either for the

:45:18.:45:22.

taxpayer nor does it make sense for those who need those benefits.

:45:22.:45:26.

is one example. There are lots of other issues we can talk about.

:45:26.:45:29.

What you think happens when this issue is do you to be discussed

:45:29.:45:32.

this week? I know why you would like us to be, but we're not there.

:45:32.:45:37.

But we actually go? There are some issues around delivery where more

:45:37.:45:43.

insurance need to be given. We met with Lord fight back in February

:45:43.:45:47.

and he told us that there would be no problem to make sure that the

:45:47.:45:51.

direct payment of housing benefit could go to landlords. They would

:45:51.:45:56.

make sure that the computer system could accommodate Northern Ireland

:45:56.:46:04.

doing it differently. But those aren't parity issues. There seems

:46:04.:46:09.

to be a problem now. Of the Assembly had directly taking its

:46:09.:46:13.

hands on those issues in the spring a we wanted it to, the assurances

:46:13.:46:16.

that were given could actually have been nailed down publicly through

:46:16.:46:20.

the Assembly. Instead, we now have a situation where Iain Duncan-Smith

:46:20.:46:24.

could not assure me that the computer system he was taking

:46:24.:46:28.

charge of, and he was saying he was taking charge of the computer

:46:28.:46:31.

system, that it actually would be able to give that flexibility to

:46:31.:46:35.

Northern Ireland. Those are serious issues at the Assembly in terms of

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being able to get its own policies reflected still needs to get a hand

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on. Of deferring decisions, I do not think they should defer debate,

:46:44.:46:50.

but if deferring decisions to get more debate, if that means we can,

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then we should. But Sinn Fein are too late in waking up to those

:46:55.:47:05.
:47:05.:47:06.

issues. It does not bite individual politicians, it's about the people

:47:06.:47:11.

who need the benefits. -- it is not about it.

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With me now are the commentator Paul McFadden and the PR consultant

:47:14.:47:20.

Sheila Davidson. Where do you think we are as far as

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this is concerned? You could forgive people watching for

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thinking it is a bit of fun and Holiness. -- a bit of a mess.

:47:32.:47:36.

the very strong feeling that the big battle in relation to this was

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fought out at Westminster this some time ago and all at the Assembly

:47:39.:47:44.

cannot now do is tinker at the edges. It is important in the sense

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that there are deportment -- important decisions. If it tinkers

:47:51.:47:56.

too much, they could be penalties. Absolutely. In terms of benefits to

:47:56.:48:01.

people, they could be problems. In terms of jobs will support servants,

:48:01.:48:11.

there could be implications. It is a serious issue. -- civil servants.

:48:11.:48:15.

They are deeply empathetic to people who could suffer as a effect

:48:15.:48:19.

of these cuts. People will suffer from that. I think she believes

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that essentially, the game is up. If the Assembly can sort out those

:48:24.:48:27.

things that need to be resolved at the benches and finesse that and

:48:27.:48:34.

sort that to people's satisfaction, but in terms of stopping the

:48:34.:48:41.

process, I think that is impossible. She is a regular broadcaster on the

:48:41.:48:45.

local radio. I do you stand on one of this? Can you pick your way

:48:45.:48:51.

through it? I think what is very interesting is that Mark Durkan is

:48:51.:48:55.

so eloquent in explaining best. Parliament is actually still

:48:55.:48:59.

prevalent in this. I took the opportunity to take a look at the

:48:59.:49:03.

act as it was going through and it is so open to interpretation on a

:49:03.:49:07.

local level but in fact, the ability it for people on the ground

:49:07.:49:11.

to to actually make this work properly for individuals here, is

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actually quite why it in my reading of it. I think that the politics

:49:16.:49:22.

around on of this is important and how it applies is important, but it

:49:22.:49:26.

is how it is delivered on the ground that is most important. So

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much is devolved down to ordinary people in benefits offices,

:49:31.:49:34.

Jobcentres and how they do with people on a one-to-one basis. That

:49:34.:49:38.

is what actually matters to ordinary people on the ground, not

:49:38.:49:42.

what is happening in Parliament or the Assembly, which they do not

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understand. But they understand is when the walking to a JobCentre,

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how are they being dealt with and how was that being applied to them.

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The resources it needs to be put into this is into proper training

:49:53.:50:00.

and proper delivery to people on the ground. To what extent can the

:50:00.:50:03.

politicians leave the party politics out of it and focus on the

:50:03.:50:09.

issues that Sheila Davidson has just talked about? The fact is, it

:50:09.:50:13.

does have to boil down to what does this matter to people? Does not to

:50:13.:50:18.

get the credit, it is to get the benefit. What is this do? What the

:50:18.:50:22.

changes make? Average age -- thereof a couple of positive

:50:22.:50:27.

aspects. But there are other very difficult aspect. But the Assembly

:50:27.:50:31.

needs to remember, when it is passing the legislation, is the way

:50:31.:50:35.

in which that Bill passed Westminster was Eric open. A lot of

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the things that were not detailed in the Bill were not left to local

:50:39.:50:47.

discretion. They were left to be continuing regulation by ministers.

:50:47.:50:51.

On a party issue, if the Assembly simple goes -- simply goes along

:50:51.:50:57.

with this, if they have to change this without going back to

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Parliament again, local ministers will say, you have to take that by

:51:01.:51:05.

way of parity. The Assembly need to exercise its better chance to have

:51:05.:51:12.

an influence on this. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

:51:12.:51:15.

You may well have a view on this next report, because the age

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profile of those walking the corridors of power here is getting

:51:18.:51:22.

lower and lower. Stormont now has the youngest parliamentarian in the

:51:22.:51:25.

UK or Ireland, Sinn Fein's Megan Fearon, who's 21. While the new

:51:25.:51:28.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Gavin Robinson, is a mere 27. Chris Page

:51:28.:51:38.
:51:38.:51:49.

Politics here has had a drink from the fountain of youth. The young

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people are taking some top jobs. Just a few months ago, a student

:51:53.:51:57.

called Megan Fearon was sitting her finals here at Queen's University.

:51:57.:52:03.

Since then, she has gone from studying politics to being a fully-

:52:03.:52:07.

fledged politician. The is an obvious link between school

:52:07.:52:12.

attendance and deprivation. At the age of 21, she has swapped lectures

:52:12.:52:19.

for legislation. We definitely need more women and more young people in

:52:19.:52:26.

politics. I could not be an advocate for that and not attempt

:52:26.:52:36.
:52:36.:52:37.

to break the glass ceiling. Gavin Robinson, DUP's choice to

:52:37.:52:41.

lead the council. He is 27. The Lord Mayor thinks jobs do not get

:52:41.:52:46.

much better than his present one. You try to do your bit to help

:52:46.:52:49.

people and it is a very satisfying part of my life where you do get to

:52:49.:52:53.

engage with people. Being actively involved and trying to assist where

:52:53.:52:59.

you can, provide solutions, it is very rewarding. But would more

:52:59.:53:03.

senior people consider casting their vote for someone a lot

:53:03.:53:06.

younger question at a thing for a young man in their late twenties,

:53:06.:53:12.

he does not have enough experience in life. I think some are too young.

:53:12.:53:17.

If they have the experience, they could do it. But I doubt it.

:53:17.:53:23.

Megan Fearon Gavin Robinson think their voices are fallible. I do not

:53:23.:53:26.

think Mike life experience is any less valid than anyone else's

:53:26.:53:30.

because it is shorter. Everyone lives -- everyone looks different

:53:30.:53:36.

lives. I may only be 27. They may not have been on the earth as long

:53:36.:53:39.

as others, but I would like to think that my view is as important

:53:39.:53:45.

and equal as someone else who might have more experience. They are

:53:45.:53:48.

passionate about promoting young people's interest in the places of

:53:48.:53:54.

power. Answer a mere lifetime in the political limelight late lay

:53:54.:54:01.

Sheila and Paul are still with me. So, how do you feel about these

:54:01.:54:03.

newbies making such a splash in the local political pond?

:54:03.:54:08.

I am very enthusiastic about it. By the look the more young people get

:54:08.:54:14.

involved in politics, the better. - - I think. I think the editor of

:54:14.:54:16.

parachuting into a place in the Assembly is interesting. I would

:54:17.:54:21.

like to see more young people going through local council and earning

:54:21.:54:25.

Vespers before they jump straight into a legislative place. There is

:54:25.:54:28.

absolutely a place for him, but I think there is a wider aspect here,

:54:28.:54:32.

as well. That is the nature of the and people coming forward. I am

:54:32.:54:38.

very supportive through my working of graduates coming forward, but I

:54:38.:54:40.

actually think the political parties could be doing a lot more

:54:40.:54:44.

to engage with young people that are not in a crutch what kind of

:54:44.:54:50.

politically aware frame of mind and bring a very young people, the ones

:54:50.:54:52.

that are creating more problems on the streets here, into politics and

:54:52.:54:57.

given them an opportunity. There is a balance fundamentally to be

:54:57.:55:01.

struck between youth and experience. It will be interesting to see. We

:55:02.:55:05.

have had the example of a couple of very competent and people who are

:55:05.:55:08.

fairly new to politics, but I wonder to what extent they will be

:55:08.:55:13.

allowed to make their own stamp on politics here. We have seen in the

:55:13.:55:21.

very recent past when one of the major parties was allowed to lead a

:55:21.:55:27.

senior party... Whether these and people would be allowed to really

:55:27.:55:30.

make them ask in politics, it will be interesting to see. It will be

:55:30.:55:33.

interesting to see whether the profile we see received, whether

:55:33.:55:37.

that will mean that more young people turn out and out and become

:55:37.:55:41.

actively involved in politics. I would be a great success.

:55:41.:55:45.

Let's pause for a moment to reflect on disunity in the UUP and yet more

:55:45.:55:48.

traffic gridlock. Martina Purdy looks back at the political week in

:55:48.:55:58.
:55:58.:56:04.

His speech on Unionist unity left Ulster Unionists and running again.

:56:04.:56:09.

John McAllister was sacked as Deputy Leader. He took the sunshine

:56:09.:56:15.

into unity as an attack on him. political power caught the decision

:56:15.:56:21.

of brittle. He was not in the room. John McAllister was. He put out a

:56:21.:56:26.

statement. Not everyone in the Assembly was united on the issue of

:56:26.:56:30.

gay marriage. There were tensions for some political partnerships.

:56:30.:56:34.

Traffic chaos in Belfast left the regional development apartment in a

:56:34.:56:40.

jam. Is it time to say sorry? are willing to play a rule, but the

:56:40.:56:50.

back stops with them. At the chance encounter led to a new recruit.

:56:50.:56:54.

Martin McGuinness had a chuckle at the Ulster Unionists expense.

:56:54.:57:04.
:57:04.:57:09.

Ulster Unionist Party could be You mentioned -- you mentioned the

:57:09.:57:13.

Ulster Unionist Party, but what about the sacking and the

:57:13.:57:16.

justification for giving the speech when he appeared on the evil on

:57:16.:57:23.

Thursday night? He would say he is and has to have -- and that he has

:57:24.:57:27.

done nothing that deviates from party policy. I think the who thing

:57:27.:57:32.

is a car crash from the point of view of watching UUP almost to

:57:33.:57:37.

implode. He is a tremendous loss. You wonder how long he will remain

:57:37.:57:42.

in the party. There was speculation and one of the parked -- papers of

:57:42.:57:45.

are the people leaving the party and baby setting up on its own. It

:57:45.:57:52.

is quite disastrous. He spoke about trying to attract some of the

:57:53.:57:56.

people who do not vote in Northern Ireland. A think this is quite

:57:56.:58:01.

disastrous. Do you agree? You think they have got this wrong question

:58:01.:58:07.

at the iron fist on form as the greatest advocate, particularly in

:58:07.:58:09.

political parties about collective responsibility. How ever, in

:58:10.:58:14.

politics, you have to be able to have your own fair. You have to be

:58:14.:58:18.

honest and be able to express a view. John McAllister had a very

:58:18.:58:21.

real fame and should have been allowed to do it. He did it in a

:58:21.:58:25.

constructive way and a way that he was able to make his point, not be

:58:25.:58:30.

critical overly, but actually, have that six. And I think that actually

:58:30.:58:35.

was very good for UUP. I think the mistake he made was to come in too

:58:35.:58:39.

hard on something and make it look like he is totally unreasonable and

:58:39.:58:43.

drain -- ruling with a what of iron and trying to be strong in an area

:58:43.:58:51.

where he could have showed a more attitude. What about the rule from

:58:51.:58:58.

independence to you care? Were you surprised, bemused, intrigued by

:58:58.:59:04.

any of that? One of the above to an extent. I wonder long term would be.

:59:04.:59:14.
:59:14.:59:15.

Will be. Want impact it will make. -- what impact it will make. Long

:59:15.:59:22.

term, I wonder what future there is a net for the party here. But and

:59:22.:59:24.

the other issue we need to talk about his traffic gridlock.

:59:24.:59:27.

Everybody seems to be talking about that before the talk about anything

:59:27.:59:36.

else. I sat in an hour-long traffic jam to go to a business meeting the

:59:36.:59:40.

other morning. I was not happy. Let's see how this pans out. I'm

:59:40.:59:45.

sure that we will all lent go somewhere else. The answer is to go

:59:45.:59:49.

and move elsewhere. I had no problem getting here. We had

:59:49.:59:52.

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