09/03/2014 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


09/03/2014

The latest political news, interviews and debate in Northern Ireland.


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are the business consultant and commentator Joanne Stuart and the

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Belfast Telegraph's political editor, Liam Clarke.

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The controversy surrounding the On the Run letters has dominated

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politics here for the last two weeks. The Secretary of State may

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have announced the scheme is over, but the fallout out from the

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"comfort letters" is set to rumble on for months.

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So can the First and Deputy First Ministers set aside their

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differences this week as they head to America to meet investors and

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politicians? We'll hear from Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey in just a moment.

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But first, when our political correspondent Martina Purdy spoke to

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Peter Robinson on Friday, she asked him how significant the announcement

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from the Secretary of State is. The one that is still left to be

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dealt with is whether there are ongoing investigations into the

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cases were letters have been issued and that is a vital area because

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without those ongoing investigations into those cases then largely the

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cases are closed. We want that clarification from the PSNI.

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The scheme was set to be ended in 2012, what is new about what has

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been said. Since 2012 they taken further applications but there

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be an important factor. Do you believe what you have been told us

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last week you said you were deceived by the government? I happy that we

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have inquiry is coming out of our eyes and

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have inquiry is coming out of our the outstanding cases, six cases

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now. I do satisfy these are off of the table? I do not have to guess at

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this any longer that is what we have an inquiry for. It is not just those

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six cases because I still have to be satisfied that there are no other

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cases and the system. Do not forget, there have been many different

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entries into the system. The Irish government put forward under the

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terms of the administrative scheme that came through Sinn Fein and the

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also came through the prison service and I am still at odds to imagine

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how the prison service could have been action in ten cases and what

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relevance it would have to the prison service or indeed as I

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understand that solicitors have been putting in cases as well. You cannot

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be sure that those five or six cases of OTRs are the table? The Secretary

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of State has spoken about that but I do not have any knowledge and I

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cannot answer that question. The Secretary of State has made comments

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that there will be a full inquiry and the Westminster led inquiry and

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the Justice Committee inquiry and the Policing Board inquiry and at

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the end of that we will know the truth. What about the fact that you

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ask for the letters to be descended, they have not been

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rescinded? You have decided that? What does rescinding mine? I thought

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it meant making it null and void. If you no longer have those letters and

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being able to stop anyone from being arrested, from being questioned,

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from being prosecuted, they are null and void. I only need one other

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Catholic and I asked for it earlier in this interview and that is to

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ensure that those letters are not a mechanism to stop further

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investigation of the cases, the files must be open and continually

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reviewed and updated to see if new evidence can be brought about. Your

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meeting Bill Clinton ever this week. How did that meeting go? We had a

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very good meeting with President Clinton. He is well known to us and

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we have met him many times. He understands the difficulties of the

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process and we talked about the difficulties and how we may move

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forward to deal with these issues. I made it clear in the Assembly before

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that Bill Clinton met us and these were issues that could not be

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dodged. They have to be dealt with and whether we deal with them now or

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in six months' time, it is still a vital issue that must be resolved.

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Everyone was aware that the leaders' talks were carrying forward

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the agenda and in my view we have made considerable progress and I

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indicated that two Martin McGuinness and David Ford in a meeting that the

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three of us attended. We were making good progress and then this came out

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and it has derailed the process, especially for the Ulster unionist

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Party. In terms of the past, it has stayed the process until we know the

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outcome of the judge-led inquiry. Is that why there has been no meetings

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with party leaders this week? We were sitting down and trying to deal

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with issues relating to the past. One of those key elements was what

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form of justice could we get for those who still have not had justice

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for the loss of loved ones and that the same time we were uncertain as

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to what the outcome of this process would be so that is a factor. It

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does not stop us from continuing to talk to those other two areas in

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relation to parades or flags and I believe that the work that should

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continue. What about speculation that President Obama may be said

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that he does not want to meet you and Martin McGuinness in Washington

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this week? We have met the president at least half a dozen times and he

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is always glad to talk to us and we are all was glad to talk to him and

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to indicate the progress we are making and the difficulties we are

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facing. We are always making and the difficulties we are

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relation to our economy. Meetings are always set up as they have been

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in the past. I recognise the president will be very busy with

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events in the Ukraine but no one can take anyone and anything for granted

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but they are glad to have this meeting. But you are only meeting

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Vice-President Joe Biden? We will be meeting him as well, yes.

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Peter Robinson speaking to Martina Purdy.

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Sinn Fein claims the move to stop the OTR scheme is "another

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ill-informed, ill-timed intervention by Theresa Villiers in relation to

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the peace process". The party's South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey is

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with me now. What does the Secretary of State's

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statement on Friday change? Thank you for joining us. Essentially

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nothing because this scheme was agreed between the British

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Government and the Irish Government as far back as 2001. The process has

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been underway throughout all those years and we have heard of this and

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last week all of the wide range of examples that this process was under

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way and someone may argue they were not aware of any letter but they

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were aware of the process being underweight. It has been announced.

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We know that all of the parties were aware of this process so why did

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they not bother to find out whether there was a letter or a phone call

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or how was this information to be translated to the people who had

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sought clarification? It does not change anything.

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So the Secretary of State is correct when she said these letters will not

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amount to any amnesty or get you out of jail? That is correct? No one

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ever claimed anything different. Only politicians who try to make

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more out of it than what it was. That is the irony of all of this.

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They are worth a lot on two bases. The letter is clear in number of

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individuals who wants to come home and

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individuals who wants to come home clear them on the fact that there

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was nothing against them. The word cleared could be misinterpreted. It

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cleared the status. Anyone could go forward today, it is the legal

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entitlements, to go forward today and asked for clarification and say

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that this particular scheme, anyone has the right to look at it. It is

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important for two reasons, on the good faith, all of the recipients of

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the letters are able to rebuild their lives. The second, an

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arrangement was reached by both arguments as far back as 2001 and

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any resistance to that would be poor.

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So, was Ian Paisley right when he said on Thursday night that what

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OTRs now have in their pockets are a "beaten docket"? He's right when he

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says those individuals know "we're coming after them" as he put it? Ian

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Paisley has said a lot over the years. His comments are totally

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irrelevant to me. So you had a deal and the British

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Government has now broken that deal? He was happy that the British Prime

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Minister is looking at this inquiry. But Peter Robinson seems to be happy

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one day and not the next. What does he really want? Peter Robinson and

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others have created a storm and they do not know where it will end up and

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they may end up regretting creating this storm, they have created a

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crisis. Let us be clear, a crisis was created that did not need to be

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met. It would have been better to be is this other one. They say that

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this was a side deal that they knew nothing about and would never have

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been agreed to. Rosett -- misrepresent the truth.

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They have welcomed the fact that there are four inquiries. We have

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had a number of announcements. Is Sinn Fein prepared to co-operate

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with the multiplicity of inquiries which are happening - Westminster,

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Stormont, the Policing Board and David Cameron's judge-led inquiry?

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Will the party give evidence? Will you encourage republicans to

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give evidence? We will have to look at that. People will make their own

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judgements. We will be party to that. We will see how these

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processes unfold but the reality is there is an outstanding issue of a

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number of OTRs which was an agreement between two governments

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which is why we have said that Peter Robinson's announcement does not

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amount to a lot. What is very clear is that both governments made this

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announcement, a joint announcement so they came to the agreement. It

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was not Sinn Fein who conjured up the process. The process was reached

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between the British Government and the Irish Government and that is

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where we are. Would you envisage members of the

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Sinn Fein party attending the Select Committee? We will have to see how

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it goes. We have addressed some of those divisions in the past. Our MPs

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attend Westminster on a regular basis and we have spoken to a select

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group before. I would not rule it out. But people need to wait and see

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where we want to go with it. Alex Maskey, thank you.

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Much to discuss with our guests of the day, Liam Clarke and Joanne

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Stuart. What did you make with the comments from Theresa Villiers and

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the comments by Peter Robinson, we are on this? Theresa Villiers set

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out the position of the government formally but it does not change

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much. My understanding is that charge at the moment, that is what

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the letters are saying. They will now be checked to ensure that there

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is no mistakes that of John Downey where there was evidence and there

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will be a search for new evidence and if that is brought in then

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people can be questioned, charged and the old evidence used against

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them. Not coming from this from a political viewpoint but a wider

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civic society viewpoint, argue heartened that we now have four

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investigations looking at this, does that help us understand what

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happened and where the confusion came about, what precisely the

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position is on OTR or are in danger of simply making it even more

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impossible to work out what happened the more we examine and re-examine

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the facts? I think there is a bit of both the, Mark. No one is under any

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illusion as to the difficulties that are going to come up as we move

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through the peace process. And it is basically how we deal with them.

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Having these inquiries enables people independently to look into

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what happened and what the situation as an provide that clarity is very

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important, but from a civic society and business perspective, it is the

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length of time that these inquiries can take and also it is making sure

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that it does not derail any of the progress that we're making, June,

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particularly on the likes of the Haass talks. The Deputy First

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Minister and First Minister go to LA tomorrow to meet the Vice President

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of America. How do they achieve anything and fly the flag for

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Northern Ireland, forgive me, when they have these difficult domestic

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issues? It is about mood music going to America. Peter Robinson talked in

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terms of the Cold War with Sinn Fein. Diane Dodds would be the sole

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candidate? That is correct because there is a Cold War on but it is

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hard to talk in those terms and still have a productive relationship

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with government. I do not see the government breaking down but we are

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getting into the position where other, it is not healthy.

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An attempt to tighten Northern Ireland's human trafficking laws

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shouldn't be controversial. But a move to tie it to a ban on paying

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for sex at the same time is proving to be just that. Opponents say such

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a move would be counterproductive and not enforceable. And then

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there's the position of the PSNI which has moved from not supporting

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the proposal to not opposing it. So what's going on? Here's our

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political crrespondent, Gareth Gordon.

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This dementia in and exploitation Bill is making its way through the

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Assembly. It is not being an easy journey. -- Human Trafficking Bill.

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Most of the controversy has been quite by Clause six which makes it

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illegal to pay for sex. At one point even the police thought this was a

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bad idea until a senior officer appeared before the Stormont

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committee which is going through the Bill line by line. We're not opposed

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to cause sex and we have qualified support because of the consequences

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that may flow and we have talked about this at some length will stop

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we have looked at the vulnerability of the prostitutes. The supporters

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of the bill said this about turn by the police was a vital breakthrough

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but the opponents claim nothing has changed. When the PSNI comes out and

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says emphatically that this is not a good piece of legislation, they then

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get worried as to whether it was the place to actually get involved so

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all the police are doing as saying, listen, you make the laws and we

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will implement them, but in terms of are happy and do they think it will

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be effective? All of the discussions I have had suggested it is

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counter-productive and ultimately it is not necessary or doing a good

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service to the people be trying to help. They say they do not object to

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the inclusion of Kos sex but that does not represent an endorsement.

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They also talked about the relationship that sex workers would

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have with the PSNI. -- Clause six. relationship that sex workers would

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The sponsor of this bill says they require nothing of the kind. Most of

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my opponents and those opposed to this bill have kept pointing to the

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fact that the police are not supporting us. From last week that

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particular argument has been destroyed. It is support for Clause

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six. We can play about with semantics and say it is this, that

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and the other, at the end of the day they are supporting this clause and

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why should women be used as a commodity? In this enlightened age

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have we not moved far beyond that? Have you brought pressure on the

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police? How could we do that? The police have changed their mind. That

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is up to them. But absolutely, I welcome what they say, very much so,

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and it was unfortunate that some of the stuff that was coming out from

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the police before that was not good. I regret that but I accept that that

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was where they were on the issue and I am delighted they have changed

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their position. The Justice Minister opposes this new clause and regrets

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the way that prostitution has come to dominate the debate over the

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humans in Bell. By focusing so much on prostitution and we are taking

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away from some of the other issues of human traffic and, the forced

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labour and issues of domestic servitude and even organ harvesting,

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all those issues that are ignored because they focus on prostitution.

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Prostitution is not entirely dependent on human trafficking and

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it is not solely about prostitution. Lord Morrow says the bill is

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gathering support today by the but what will Sinn Fein do. Sinn Fein

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already backed a campaign that calls for an end to sex trafficking and

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prostitution and the South, so does that not inevitably mean the party

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will back a similar change and the North? It is one thing to endorse a

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campaign that has brought this courses, one which is paying for

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sexual actions. This does not take account of the impact this will have

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on people working in the sex trade and we think this will impact people

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who will then receive bad consequences. We do not know the

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scent of prostitution, we have not heard from those who are it will

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impact. The decision that Sinn Fein beaches will have a huge bearing as

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to whether this controversial Human Trafficking Bill will ever become

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legally binding. Gareth Gordon reporting.

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Now for a look back at the political week in 60 Seconds, and the

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Secretary of State was at the centre of not just the On the Runs

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controversy. Here's Mark Devenport. The Secretary of State said a mental

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health charity would not be compensated for money spent on its

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Hillsborough cottage shop. They always knew the terms that they were

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allowed to go with. OTR has remained on the agenda at

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the DUP took comfort from a speech by Italy's abilities. They have a

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beating docket in their pocket and that changes the game considerably.

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Those On the Runs tonight have squeaky bottoms because they know

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they cannot count on those letters any more, we are coming after you.

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President Clinton returns and asked us to get the job done. You have

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inspired the world and you must finish this.

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Scowling over a scarf at City Hall. Is it appropriate for a member to be

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waning a football scarf? I ordered you to remain seated. You are

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choosing to defy the ruling of the chair!

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Mark Devenport reporting. Let's have a few final thoughts from Joanne

:23:06.:23:10.

Stuart and Liam Clarke. It was International Women's Day

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yesterday and it remains a challenge to get women engaged in politics and

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taking up their seats in the boardroom. Are things improving?

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They are getting better but they have not gone far enough. We still

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have issues and the private sector and the public sector and nearly 50%

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of women are

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