14/10/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Andrew Neil and Martina Purdy with the latest political news, including an interview with the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Schapps and a debate on the future of Scotland.

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In Northern Ireland, the Health Minister on regulation of the first


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abortion clinic and improving Hello and welcome to the Sunday


Politics in Northern Ireland. The arguments for and against abortion


have been well rehearsed this week after the charity Marie Stopes


announced it was opening its first clinic here. Among the issues -


what critics say is a grey area around the regulation of the clinic.


We'll hear from the Health Minister on his plans to monitor its work


and investment in jobs for graduate teachers to improve our children's


reading, writing and maths skills. We will insure they can regulate


over the course of the next few months. It is a great opportunity


because you get to understand how you can improve them and get on in


your career. Joining me to discuss all of this is solicitor Tony Cahir


and journalist Suzanne Breen. The arrival of Northern Ireland's


first abortion clinic has polarised opinion here. Marie Stopes Clinic


will open in Belfast on Thursday. Aside from the moral issues,


questions are being asked about the monitoring of this clinic by


authorities. I spoke to the health minister in his Lisburn office. I


began by asking him when he first heard about the clinic. I was


notified some months ago that they had an interest in developing a


clinic in Northern Ireland. What was your reaction? Well, in terms


of abortion, it doesn't make a difference in that they will have


to operate in the same rules as abortion is carried out by the NHS.


And Northern Ireland has strict rules and guidelines than the rest


of the UK and that applies to Marie Stopes. And yet despite having no


that notice, you did not make sure there was regulation. We'll have it


confirmed in the near future. If it isn't the case we can't regulate


and the present regulations and guidance but is there, there will


be amended quickly. Otherwise, the police can regulate under the


criminal law and that will be subjected to prosecutions. You are


prepared to regulate if necessary? It has to be regulated but it will


be regulated one way or the other three police or ourselves, it will


be regulated. The Department of Health would rather be the


organisation that is doing the regulation and who will confirm


soon whether that is going to be the case immediately or whether it


would take a little longer time to put procedures in place. Are you


taking legal advice on the regulation? Yes, and we want to


make absolutely certain that the regulation would take place under


the existing laws and if their needs to be an amendment to the


regulations from the laws will and acted quickly. Are you saying they


will regulate? If they can't regulate, we will ensure they will


be in a position to regulate over the course of the next few months.


And there are no issues around getting executive colleagues on


board? I would bring it before the committee but whether you are for


or against abortion and makes no difference. The clinics should be


regulated. Dentists are regulated so well to have regulation for the


extraction of a tooth but not for the extraction of a baby. What is


regulation mean for Marie Stopes? Marie Stopes will have to keep


adequate records of what they do and particularly if they have


offered abortion services to people in Northern Ireland. Those will be


clarified by police or the body and if they had stepped outside they


would face criminal law proceedings. I would expect they will do exactly


the same as anybody in health service would do, the only


difference is the individual would pay for it but the health service


will be free. Your party says they do not want a change in the current


law, do you personally agree with the way the law stands? Well, I


look at where we are in Northern Ireland and recognise people have


had abortions and I have not heard of women are losing their life as a


consequence of the law in Northern Ireland. I am not aware the mental


health of the woman has been detrimentally impact. Where is the


driver for change? You say in Northern Ireland is a shining


beacon and example but other people say it is hypocrisy because women


are travelling to England to a double string abortion figures.


would hope the discussions taking place both in England, Wales and


Scotland are about reducing the availability of abortion and


clearly they recognise they went too far. Jeremy Hunt has recognised


that, the Prime Minister says the timescale is wrong. So, right


across the UK other people are recognising the 1967 abortion Act


has failed, it has fared miserably and we are quite right to resist


this in Northern Ireland. Are you in favour personally of abortion?


support abortion where the mother's life is at risk. And if there are


mental health issues and some on his Pemberley harmed as a


consequence of it. What about foetal abnormalities? Having had a


brother who has learning difficulties, I appreciate and love


people who have disabilities. Learning disabilities or physical


disabilities. I was brought up in a home where you got a special amount


of love from someone who had a learning disability and I detest


the facts but because someone has Down's syndrome or some abnormality


detected in the womb that the valuable life is of no value. It is


wholly wrong and that sort of selection of mankind and human


beings is something that we would what -- would do well to avoid.


say it doesn't happen in Northern Ireland but are you sure of your


facts? What? For example, when a foetal abnormalities? There may be


circumstances where a child cannot live outside of the womb. We have


to leave those things to clinicians who are well placed to act within


legislation. Isn't it time that women have the right to choose in


Northern Ireland? Choice is absolutely important. I indicated


many thousands are alive as a result of the abortion Act not


being around. I expect half those are women and those women have an


entitlement to live and that is the best position we could have.


Tony Cahir and Susannah Breen a with me. You heard what the


minister had to say. Would you think, with the regulator? It is


likely. They are fairly adamant they are not going to regulate,


they released a statement. They say they were not be regulating in


there prison situation but the Department of Health has obligation


to ensure but this medical treatment, the after-care, is


properly regulated so in addition to that the guidance that's


available to medical practitioners and health professionals and the


current regime are available to those who practise in the Marie


Stopes organisation. Can a stoppage using the law? I have heard people


threatening to take judicial reviews, I do not think there's any


apparent breach. A lot of work has gone into preparing the ground for


the Marie Stopes organisation. I do not think there's anything unlawful


about the current intentions. impact will it have in Belfast?


think the clinic is of symbolic impact because abortion it does


happen, Northern Ireland women have abortions and the trouble to


England to access the pills by Marie Stopes under certain criteria.


When are axing tablets on the internet so it is of symbolic


performance there will be a clinic in Belfast city centre but is


offering abortion services to women. The law is disgracefully ambiguous.


A do not think disgrace is the 1967 abortion Act, the disgrace is the


failure of our politicians here too probably address this issue.


politician's afraid of the issue? think they are under leads to all


sorts of problems, for example, the case were 14-year-old girl was


pregnant, in a children's home, she said she would commit suicide if


she was forced have a baby and she was beating her stomach in an


attempt to abort the baby. The case would court and the judge said she


could have abortion yet no medical practitioner was found in Northern


Ireland to actually give her an abortion and 14 you will travel to


Britain. These cases do happen but we don't hear about them.


important is it for politicians to ensure the law is clarified?


law is clear, what's essential is the guidance is made available to


all of those in the field, the decision as to whether a woman's


health will be adversely affected in a serious and long-term weight


is a subjective decision on the part of the commission. They need


guidance. Perhaps that has not been clear in the past. There is work to


be done. The Department promises guidance will be published, it is


an issue. But what is the widest possible interpretation of the law?


Well, the law is clear at the moment. You can only have an


abortion if the woman's life is in danger or she will suffer permanent


and serious ill-health. Some commentators say the law makes its


beleaguered to procure a miscarriage and there was being


prosecuted. No one has been prosecuted in Northern Ireland but


the law has changed considerably over the years since 1861, the 1945


statute allowing for abortion in limited circumstances and is being


interpreted in various cases including once Suzanne talked about.


The law is Clare but the interpretation and guidance and


guidelines are still in a state of flux. Cezanne, is the first


abortion clinic on the island of Ireland, we see people crossing the


border? Some will choose to travel north rather than having to book


flights and go to Britain. However, it's not as simple as it looks. In


Britain, women are able to have consultation in a day and tablets


in the same day. In Northern Ireland they will have to stay


overnight, they will have a consultation and they were not be


given tablets until the next day. The law as it stands is more


liberal in Britain when for example they do not have to have


psychiatric to stick before having an abortion. Women here will and we


are talking about only nine weeks, the first nine weeks of pregnancy,


that's all that is offered to women seeking termination but in Britain


the law is up to 24 weeks. The situation is substantially more


liberal in Britain. Women with a foetal abnormality, that a


potentially would not be diagnosed until 20 weeks so the clinical be


of no use to them. Do you want a change in the law? I would like to


see the 1967 abortion Act applied Funding has been given by Stormont


for newly qualified teachers to give tuition to children who are


experiencing problems with reading and math skills. It's one of a


number of projects just announced by the First and Deputy First


Minister. Here's what they had to say about the scheme.


It is precisely because we recognise the potential but with


indicated we are talking about a recently qualified teachers, people


looking for a career, it will be up to the part of education to bring


forward the mechanism but the schemes will have to be approved by


cars so it is an issue we have identified as being required for


Stowe while we are talking about the jobs it creates, let's be clear


about was the key issue. What we are attempting to do is get behind


and give people a start in life. Let's be clear this is about 230


effectively new jobs and it's about bringing newly graduated teachers


to work stream. I think it will be hugely welcome by the unions, the


schools he will benefit, the People's and the families and


business community who recognise this is a fairly innovative


approach, an approach we need to continue to explore. We've spoken


with student teachers at St Mary's college in Belfast. We study


regularly and learning ideas. It's a great opportunity to practise.


It's a great opportunity. You get to understand how you can improve


and you can take it on in your career. St Mary's students are well


equipped to teach numeracy and maths. It has set us up for the


task. We are delighted and think we can raise the bar. How badly is the


investment needed? The Investment is to be welcomed but it's a drop


in the ocean given the problems in numeracy and literacy in Northern


Ireland is experiencing. In terms of creating jobs, we have to


remember there are 4,000 young teachers here who can't find work.


It is to be welcomed but it's a drop in the ocean and I can't see


it making a substantial difference. If we're talking about improving


people's job opportunities after the leave school, we have to


remember there are people unemployed who have degrees and


masters so improved literacy and numeracy is not automatically go to


mean a job. People with well qualifications are not go to work.


Do you come across problems in your everyday work? I am afraid I do.


Bad grammar is reflected in a lack of literacy skills all the time in


that Larne. Really, the application of law is to make sure people can


persuade and dreadful grammar and an inability to express themselves


and inability to put forward an argument then that means that


person is not particularly persuasive. It is important that


people can show competence in all areas of life. Competence in


numeracy and literacy is extremely important and this has to be


welcomed across-the-board, not just from the point of view of providing


jobs but to ensure standards are improved in Northern Ireland.


hard to believe someone can go through years of education as they


struggle with basic reading and writing. Yes, it is a damning


indictment of the education system but we have to look at cultural


attitudes in some areas. I think that unfortunately some children


are brought up in homes were parents regard good parenting as


may be being on spending thousands for First Communion and Christmas


and birthday as opposed to focusing on their children's education.


What's important is the environment that child returns to when they


come home. A lot of work has to be done in terms of improving that and


improving our cultural attitudes. It is also a role for parents.


Perhaps more important parents and take that. Many years it, though


books lying around everywhere and parents ensured there were books


for children. It is dying out and it's to be regretted. Our teachers


spending too much time on transfer and not on the basics? On the


transfer test? No, I am in favour of the 11 plus, I do nothing that's


the case. They are -- they Rushall falls in the system that have not


been addressed. Parents and families really need to look at


what the child is doing, they need to liaise with the school and what


happens at home is important. Children have to be encouraged to


read and be pushed by their parents and to be motivated as opposed to


parents putting money for birthdays and First communions, tens of


thousands of pounds spent on children rather than simple things


like sitting down at teaching a child and reading with your child


and educating a child a home. What happens after 3pm in the home is as


important if not more so as what happens in school. Some people


might see it as a contribution and they are closing libraries. --


contradictions. It is regrettable libraries are closing, it seems to


me the services have been improved, is disgraceful libraries are being


closed and I would hope this is a first step on the part of the


executive to realise we must ensure that those skills are improved and


opening libraries is one feature. Welfare reform, banking


compensation and loose marbles. Just some of the goings on in our


look at the week's politics in The Chief Constable hit back over


an Audit Office report. The report doesn't use the word damning or


failure. The executive announced new jobs the teachers. Derry City


Council was asked if it can get a culture train back on track.


have talent, resources and expertise. More importantly we have


a city that can deliver. Ulster chiefs faced MLAs. The incident was


a disaster. Alex fought for women's rights during the debate. Some of


my best friends are men but some are men are not good with money in


a pocket. The Bill passed its second stage. But all I've got to


say. And as part of World Mental Health Day, the MLAs fought to hold


There were 10 hours' debate on the world far -- Welfare Reform Bill.


am not sure anybody would have wanted to spend more than half an


hour watching what went on in the chamber. The majority of people did


not do that but it's a welcome change they are discussing a


meaningful matters and that rather than taking up endless hours about


flags and such like which do not benefit the population here. It is


a welcome change. This is a controversial bill, it is tricky


for politicians because they haven't got a lot of room for


manoeuvre. They haven't. In some ways it is a talking shop in terms


of the debate. A lot of ordinary people will feel the politicians


are out of touch with ordinary people's lives and what people


would like to see, for example the money paid to advisers is


scandalous. People are struggling on minimum wage and less. They


would like to see that tackled ahead of the politicians


pontificating on welfare reform when they are living lives but is


beyond ordinary people's dreams. Peter Robinson gave a speech


talking about streamlining Stormont and reducing the number of MLAs.


And moving towards a political coalition. The voluntary coalition


I am not sure is very likely in the short term. A number of politicians


have spoken out against that. In terms of reducing the bureaucracy


and numbers of people involved in the executive, that would be


welcome across the board and that part of the speech was welcomed.


you see any gradual changes at Stormont in terms of a voluntary


coalition, Peter Robinson indicated changes in funding in opposition.


don't but it would be welcome. His hugely undemocratic there is no


opposition at Stormont. I would be in favour of a voluntary coalition,


a mandatory coalition goes against every principle of transparency and


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