16/03/2014 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


16/03/2014

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


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And with their thoughts on it all, the economist Paul Gosling and

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academic Pete Shirlow. The loss of some 300 jobs at the

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Driver and Vehicle Agency could be just the tip of the iceberg if

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welfare reform is not implemented here, says the DUP. The former

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Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, has forecast that 1600 civil servants

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employed by the Department of Work and Pensions could be in danger of

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redundancy - but is he being alarmist? With me now is Mr Wilson's

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successor as Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton. Thank you for joining us.

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Let's start with the job losses in the DVA. Did the announcement that

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we were losing 300 jobs - most of them in Coleraine - come as a

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surprise? We think we knew for a long time that the jobs were under

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threat. We are mounted a strong case. We knew that the government

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and Westminster wanted to cut costs. Some of those jobs could have been

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done in Coleraine and elsewhere in Northern Ireland. We have a good

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track record of doing work like that. We also do it for benefits and

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for Social Security as well. You made a robust case, you had a

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petition of 40,000 signatures objecting to the change. It did not

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make any difference. I think a good case was made. It was not as a prize

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that the government were looking at this. It does show that this

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decision has been not -- has not been taken here but has been taken

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by Westminster. There will be a ruthlessness if we do not in

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Northern Ireland do things in welfare reform. The situation could

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get worse because in a speech on Thursday night, you warrant that the

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next four years could eclipse the last four years. It is not the sort

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of message I like to put out there, but I would feel my job if I do not

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stress that is to be ball. We are getting lots of good evidence that

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the economy is growing, unemployment is falling, the housing department

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-- area is going in the right direction as well. We are about

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halfway down that road of austerity and in Northern Ireland we will feel

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the impact for the next four years. The Treasury has signalled the 70%

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of expenditure for the next few years. What could that mean for

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Northern Ireland? If you look at the projections for 2015-16 where we do

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have data, we have ?100,000 taken out of our budget. That is coming on

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the back of all the cuts that we have had to deal over the last

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couple of years. It presents us with a choice, going for a crude front

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line cut which can be designed to protect the centre of government we

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can look at what government does and look at making changes more

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effectively and efficiently. The government has made a promise to be

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balanced the economy. government has made a promise to be

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expect. We would expect to see a reduced dependence on public sector

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employment. We have a large public sector in Northern Ireland. It has

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been too large for too long. The private sector has to be grown, that

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is why we are seeing a reduction in corporation tax. It is a challenge

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looking from where we are coming from. A third of our employment is

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in the public sector, it is hard to be balanced in terms of the private

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sector. I am determined that public sector which has provided a cushion

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of the last couple of years, the private sector has struggled in this

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country. That can be seen as a drag. If it is reformed, if we can make it

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improve, it will be a beneficial contribution to the economy. It is

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pretty bad, Sammy Wilson, your predecessor highlighted the risk. He

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said 1600 jobs are at risk in the civil service. Do you agree with

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them? I do agree with him. I have been giving the same message over

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the last few months. The lack of leadership shown by parties like

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Sinn Fein are threatening... What about the DUP? We have achieved

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quite a lot, we have flexibility that would ensure that the bedroom

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tax does not affect people who are already getting hit by other benefit

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cuts in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein and others are refusing to move

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forward. That is not just threatening further reductions, we

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have lost ?15 million this year. We will lose more in the next few years

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have lost ?15 million this year. We doing Social Security work on behalf

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of customers in England and Wales could be lost. They are likely to be

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lost. As we have seen with the DVA this week, why would an English

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minister want to keep jobs in Northern Ireland. Interesting

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figures. You have set aside ?50 million for the first penalty. It

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goes up incrementally, it will increase to 1,000,000,005 years?

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Yes. -- ?1 billion in five years. In five years it will have gone up.

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Never mind what the Chancellor will pass on in terms of the cuts across

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the whole of the UK. These are self-inflicted fines which have been

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as a result of a lack of leadership from parties like Sinn Fein. It will

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have a real affect on people on the ground. It will have a devastating

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effect on public services Northern Ireland. It is not a lack of willing

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this on my part or members of my party. -- willingness. We have been

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making this clear to the SDLP, Sinn Fein and others. We cannot afford to

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take this hit, vulnerable people will suffer because of the impact of

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this on public service deliveries. Thank you very much. Paul, what do

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you make of those figures? It demonstrates the difficulty we have

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with devolution. Theoretically, although we have devolution,

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politicians have very little choice to implement the vast majority of

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the welfare reforms. to implement the vast majority of

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to work together. I think that is what the focus in Northern Ireland

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will be, not whether one particular party is blocking one particular

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part of welfare reform. But an ability to work together to better

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Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein take a very different view and says the

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other parties are causing the problems. Somebody needs to do

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something very quickly to sort things out. If there had been a

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solution at around Richard Haass, these would sort themselves out. We

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have a political system that is not functioning. The failure to reach an

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agreement on welfare reforms just a symptom of that. Pete, how do you

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see it? I think given the complex geography is we have, the impacts of

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this will be even. It will affect constituents more. The other issue

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is, what is the response to this in terms of the third sector and how we

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develop other areas in the public sector so we have more than just the

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argument about we said no, you said yes. We have seen success in other

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areas, other parts of Europe where they have looked at different ways

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to improve the economy. Do you see any sign of political will or desire

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to make that choice? There is a lack of knowledge just -- not just with

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politicians. We have not come to terms with our modern

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Simon? Is there any truth in that politicians have been focused

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elsewhere. We are putting ourselves at a disadvantage? What you

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described as the other issues are incredibly important. How they fit

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into the grand scheme of politics in Northern Ireland. Are they holding

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us hostage? We have been in Stormont for seven, coming on eight years. We

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have made progress in bread in the areas. This is not an issue we are

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facing. Given the issues are steady is giving us, reality is starting to

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bite. We will have to make difficult decisions, some that we may not like

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in their entirety but we will have to do something about. What we have

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done in terms of welfare of, and flexibility is that we have

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negotiated, shows that we can use devolution to work again some of the

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worst things we come against from 's -- Westminster. The cost of not

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receiving and losing ?1 billion will make it incredibly difficult for us

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to take better decisions on the cuts. This is not the only issue. We

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need to improve social housing. We have blockages in other areas across

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the reform. Thank you all very much indeed.

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St Patrick's Day has turned into St Patrick's 'Week' it seems,

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especially for politicians from this island who made their annual

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pilgrimage to Washington for a series of high profile engagements.

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The Taoiseach met President Obama while the First and Deputy First

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Ministers met Vice President Biden. The Secretary of State was there too

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and Martina Purdy asked her if she agrees with Richard Haass's comment

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that the peace process here might not be quite as robust as people

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think. No, I think there are in many parts of the

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think. No, I think there are in many particular model to other parts of

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the world. I genuinely think that political readership in Northern

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Ireland should be proud of what they have achieved. But they also

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recognise there is more work to be done. That is something that

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President Clinton emphasised in his visit to Northern Ireland. It is

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something the Prime Minister recognised. Ensuring that many more

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children have ways out of their barriers based on religion. What I

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have been taking to Washington as a message is that this is what has

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been achieved in Northern Ireland, real progress. A recognition that

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further work could yield tremendous further benefits and taking Northern

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Ireland further forward, that is a message that has been

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sympathetically received by Washington. It seems we are further

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back than we were a few months ago. What is this that is of the six

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cases, can you shed any light? The controversy around OTRs and what

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they have been positive than a setback. There still appears to be a

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willingness from the party of all political leaders in Northern

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Ireland to work forward on this. I hope that the OTR crisis will not

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see the party leaders meetings abandoned altogether. On those

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excuses, we have set up an enquiry, headed up by one of the most senior

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and well respected judges in the country. We are determined to

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provide the facts of how the scheme operated. Including what the current

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position is in relation to cases which

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that London is not handling those excuses now? No, they are not.

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The Secretary of State talking to Martina Purdy.

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His interest in Northern Ireland was long-standing and he helped keep the

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issue on the Westminster agenda - just one of the many tributes paid

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to Tony Benn who died on Friday. During his long and sometimes

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controversial political career, Mr Benn gave support to Sinn Fein and

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advocated a united Ireland. But despite - or maybe because of that -

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he opposed the Labour Party formally organising here. Mark Langhammer

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campaigned for many years to change the policy and is with me now.

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Welcome to the programme. You knew Tony Benn a little bit, you met him

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a couple of times. I met him at a conference in Blackpool in a tearoom

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with a senior education official. Who was from north Belfast and who

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had access with all of these men. We met in context of the Labour Party

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policy at the time. It was for unity by consent. It meant that the Labour

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Party government had the vote. Ed Miliband was governor of Northern

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Ireland. It was a colonial position. Eamon had spoken with two wings,

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there was our view that Labour should get in and contest

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elections. Those with the view that Labour should get out. How did he

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justify it to you? He topped about socialism and Chrissie. How did he

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see his position about a democratic one? -- he spoke about socialism and

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democracy. He was a very humorous man. The one thing about Tony Benn,

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he was very rooted in the movement. He was really from the Methodist

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tradition than anything else. His He was really from the Methodist

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of the day. He was a conviction politician, he was quite partisan

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politician, I think. He was an national figure in the way that

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nobody else in the Labour Party was. You agreed with them in terms of

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left right politics. He was a bit of a hero in terms of that. Not really.

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At the critical time, I think Tony Benn did the wrong thing. What he

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said that he was a cynical as and he supported as a technology Minister,

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Meridian. Whenever the Bevan Atlee consensus started to break down in

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the 70s. It was about full employment, the NHS, putting people

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first, essentially. At a certain stage the labour movement was

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working at a surly. -- adversarial way. There was Barbara Kassel and

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Ted Heath, at a critical time, he voted and went against bullet and

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industrial democracy and effectively open the door to Thatcherism.

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-- Bullock. Insofar as that he was able to bring Sinn Fein in from the

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political called, was his contribution helpful or not? I think

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it was a good contribution through his diaries. When Callaghan visited

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Northern Ireland, you will remember that footage of him speaking out of

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the window, at that stage Callaghan was introduced with the notion that

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Labour should govern. When it got into the government -- Cabinet

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meeting, the critical thing was avoiding responsibility.

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The Foreign Minister said exactly the same thing, keep it arms length.

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Keep it out there. If you did nothing else, you opened a window on

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the adverse resolve the middle-class at that time. Let's hear from Paul

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and Pete. at that time. Let's hear from Paul

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He was to a lot of people and at that time. Let's hear from Paul

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contradictions. There were a whole case of those. His stanza Northern

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Ireland did change somewhat over time. He called for United stations

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to come in here. He was when I met once in England many years ago he

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did have a capacity to learn. He made a speech once that I was that,

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it was talking about unionists as colonialists. I challenged him on

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it. I said my family have been in in Northern Ireland and 500 years in

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which time we have become indigence. He would engage with you, but he

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would be sharp if he disagreed with you. -- indigenous. We have to

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remember, an intellectual and capable man. But also had his

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faults. I met Tony many times. He was a lovely man and should be

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remembered for his engaging personality, the fact that he

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brought ideas of democracy and accountability to the forefront and

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we should remember that way. Let's take a look back at the week in 60

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Seconds with Rosy Billingham. We are not going away. A message

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from victims as a widower accounts to MLAs how she lost her husband. --

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a Wood Hill. 17 bullets were put into his back. Richard has had a

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stark warning for us in Washington. The passage of time will only create

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an environment and social division will intensify, violence will

:22:49.:22:52.

increase. Jonathan Powell joined the peace process stands by his claim

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that the DUP knew about OTR course versions. What we want to try and do

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is have politicians solving some of these problems of the past, not

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trying to beat each other over the head over it. An enquiry into

:23:12.:23:13.

trying to beat each other over the not sharing it very well.

:23:14.:24:30.

Meet one of the most famous storytellers of all time.

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discover another of his classic stories.

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Plus a chance to see the secrets of how the animators

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