07/10/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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:


Have local politicians left it too late to rebel against planned


welfare changes? And does life experience count for anything any


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2124 seconds


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


the Tories gather for their annual conference, their planned welfare


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


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


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


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


politics here. PR consultant Sheila Davidson and commentator Paul


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


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


reform as deeply progressive and thoughtful. The controversial plans


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


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


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


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


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


Stephen Walker joins me now live from Birmingham.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


On Tuesday, there is the now infamous Ulster fried breakfast


where politicians from across Northern Ireland come together.


Arriving tomorrow at the conference will be families and relatives who


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


these cases. How much pressure do you think


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and get new ideas about the election and campaigning. Other


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


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


conference on Wednesday galvanised and enthused. They want David


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


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


feeling enthused. Thank you very much.


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


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


Reform Bill to be deferred until significant amendments are made to


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


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


Westminster has resisted all attempts to water it down, despite


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


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


deferral? I am not sure about the issue of


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


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


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


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


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


everything to ministers and the discussions between ministers and


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


proposed that the Assembly should give the Bill pre-legislative


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Westminster and just go through this exercise that we can use


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


elsewhere, you end up with demographic, Geographic sectarian


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to design your supply of housing stock according to benefit rules


because there were people who cannot afford to take the housing


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


make sure that the computer system could accommodate Northern Ireland


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


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


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


that were given could actually have been nailed down publicly through


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


could not assure me that the computer system he was taking


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


this is concerned? You could forgive people watching for


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


so eloquent in explaining best. Parliament is actually still


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


much is devolved down to ordinary people in benefits offices,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


profile of those walking the corridors of power here is getting


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


fledged politician. The is an obvious link between school


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


senior people consider casting their vote for someone a lot


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


newbies making such a splash in the local political pond?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


actually think the political parties could be doing a lot more


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


interesting to see whether the profile we see received, whether


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


gay marriage. There were tensions for some political partnerships.


Traffic chaos in Belfast left the regional development apartment in a


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


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


Martin McGuinness had a chuckle at the Ulster Unionists expense.


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


Ulster Unionist Party, but what about the sacking and the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


political parties about collective responsibility. How ever, in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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