21/10/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


21/10/2012

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


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In Northern Ireland: the AA, may was the slogan. After Ulster are to

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protests, we asked politicians, how are the improving the local

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2279 seconds

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Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics. It's been another bad

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week on the economic front with unemployment here up once again

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while it is on its way down in the rest of the UK. The issue is on the

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agenda in the Assembly tomorrow. The SDLP's Patsy McGlone and Sinn

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Fein's Daithi McKay join me to discuss what, if anything, they can

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do about it. And after trade unions lead a rally against austerity in

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Belfast, we find out how the cuts are now affecting people's lives.

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63,400 people are jobless here and a large number of them are young

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people. The SDLP is bringing a motion to the Assembly tomorrow, so

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what is its plan of attack? With me are the SDLP's Patsy McGlone, chair

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of the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, and Sinn

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Fein's Daithi McKay, who chairs the Finance Committee. You have got a

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plan, Patsy McGlone, and you have brought this motion to the Assembly.

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What is it? There are a number of issues we must look at and we have

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spent time on this matter and I am the chair of the working group and

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we have had deliberation. Firstly, we want to see increased support

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for small and medium-sized businesses. We want to see a

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sharpening of research, development and innovation because that is

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where growth is. I was talking to a director of a major firm in Belfast

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who cannot get people to work in software development and they have

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to go to Poland. That involves skills and different departments at

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the Assembly, enterprise, trade and investment, education, working

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collaboratively for the future to offer those many young people

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currently unemployed and 21% are in that 18 - 24 or year-old age

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bracket. You are not saying anything I have not heard

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politicians say six years ago. is about bringing sharpened focus.

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What does that mean? Holding the Minister to account and I am

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disappointed that Invest NI could not say it within their remit to

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have somebody come along today. They need to sharpen up. I'll give

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you an example. We did and on it in the constituency and what I'm

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hearing from small businesses is they cannot get access to

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information about funding, which is there. At the EU and local level.

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They cannot get information. At the community, we had a report into

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research, innovation and development and we held the

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department to account and we have seen the proposals being brought

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forward to address those measures. Is there anything in the SDLP

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motion that will be tabled tomorrow that you disagree with? The debate

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has to be welcomed, regarding the New Deal and the jobs plan. One of

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the main issues in the jobs plan was chasing up the issue of

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Corporation Tax and the transfer of that. The executive in its entirety

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are not only a feeling of the tools they have but also, we only have

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half of the economic levers. We need to look at boosting eco-

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tourism and opening up new flights and the legislation going into

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place regarding the New York flight, we need to research how the other

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band things will be affected if this was abolished. Or what is your

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assessment of why the economy in Northern Ireland seems to be

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lagging behind elsewhere. We are above average in terms of

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unemployment figures at the moment. It possibly seems to me that the

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corners have been turned elsewhere but not here. It is a very

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different economy and we need different economic policies to

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adapt. The certainly, if we are looking for economic recovery, the

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way to do that isn't by cutting so deep that the economy grinds to a

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halt. Obviously, not only will we be pursuing the British government

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in terms of the likes of Corporation Tax but also ensuring

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that we invest in the whole economy on projects like the roads,

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Altnagelvin and things that the executive are pushing for. A what

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is your assessment of why be you are lagging behind? We have to

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sharpen up in what we do much better. That is a local government

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level thing and through the investment strategy but also,

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through the week we had an internal party meeting and we saw the level

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and scale of patents in Northern Ireland, new products, which can be

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put into the overseas market to increase jobs to Northern Ireland,

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and that is very low. That reflects on our inability to have research,

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innovation and development at the scale that is needed. You mentioned

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Corporation Tax. Let's talk about that. We know that it is a Prime

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Minister's call as to whether local politicians will be given power

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over Corporation Tax rates. Peter Robinson spoke to us when he

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returned from his final meeting with the Treasury and asked them

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the burning question. How much? They depends on the mechanism. You

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might start on Treasury figures then the 300 - �400 million mark

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but using the mechanism the Treasury wants, it could even go up

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to around �700 million within the next 15 years. The Secretary of

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State in her first interview sitting in that's it said she was

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going to be a persuader for this development. Is that how she played

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it? Teresa and her predecessor, Owen Paterson, have been supportive

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and they have been speaking to the business community in Northern

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Ireland and they can also saying a the impact that we are undergoing

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with the recession and I went to the meeting today through the

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Belfast Telegraph on the table to give them some sense of the

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difficulties we were facing and I was in to getting at furrier

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sectors that we're down by considerable percentages. If it was

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right when the Prime Minister came to Northern Ireland when we had a

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lower level of unemployment, it must be even more right that we

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have the issue addressed now. you had to call it, do you think

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this is going to happen? We have done our work. It is now with the

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Prime Minister and he indicated stoutly during a campaign that he

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was in favour of rebalancing the economy. He had his ministers

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extending a very considerable amount of time and energy on this

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and officials have been working on this for years. I hope that is the

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road they will take. There were four ministers representing today,

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three from the DUP and one of them from Sinn Fein. Were you singing of

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the same song sheet? Completely. And we have been at all meetings.

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We recognise that it is advantageous and it has to be done

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in the context of something that is affordable. But all of us were

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arguing the same case. That was Peter Robinson talking to be. The

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First Minister says he were all singing from the same song sheet.

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One when the Prime Minister decide in one month. What is Plan B? What

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if they say no or, it is deemed too expensive? We then need to focus on

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the first plan. Within a number of weeks we will have the decision

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from the British Prime Minister regarding this. That all the eggs

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in one basket? No, there are other avenues. This is hundreds of

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millions. Air Passenger Duty is interesting, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

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said it could be equally as beneficial to the economy as

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Corporation Tax. The British Prime Minister has a decision and he will

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make a political decision based on what is going on in Scotland.

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has to happen? Yes. We have to bear in mind that Corporation Tax is

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only one that lever. Companies who wish to invest in the North will

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want to see a very highly skilled workforce, good infrastructure.

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has been built into this enormous issue. So many people have so much

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riding on this because they see the potential that exists to attract

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overseas investment and they see us on a par, able to compete with, the

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rest of the island of Ireland. It is only one lever. A very expensive

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one, it could cost hundreds of millions. It is a big gamble.

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it has the potential to generate thousands of jobs, increased

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expenditure in the economy. It is probably arrest that has to be

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taken. Let's talk about something else. The First Minister thought

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that Sinn Fein is looking over its shoulder at the SDLP and that is

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paralysing decision-making. Are you? The First Minister is having

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something and a hissy fit regarding this. I am obviously not looking

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over my shoulder today. When we talk about the tail wagging the dog,

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we have seen the Orange Order was wagging the DUP. He has some

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chicken coming out with comments like that. Are you wagging her tail

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and that is wagging the big Sinn Fein dog? I am proud to stand up

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for people and their rights. We have taken a motion of no

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confidence, which eventually Sinn Fein supported us with. And we set

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up for people's rights and welfare reform and introduced a petition of

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concern which Sinn Fein it back. You support is an elegy. It is good

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news a Sinn Fein is looking over its shoulder? FEC is a standing up

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for our constituents, that is what we are elected to do. We shall

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discuss this further later on. Thank you both very much. MLAs will

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discuss the controversial Welfare Reform Bill once again tomorrow. It

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follows a march and rally in Belfast yesterday against

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government austerity measures. Around 1,000 people took part in

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what was part of a series of demonstrations across the UK

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organised by trade unions. Seamus McAleavey of NICVA is with me.

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people making these cuts, they will propose changes to welfare, they

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will impoverish the workers who are dependent on welfare. The people

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who are not working, they depend on benefits, and they will have

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changes imposed upon them not by Westminster but Stormont. If that

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is what the politicians have to wonder stand. -- understand. Do

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demonstrations make any difference in the long run? It showed people

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the opposition the rest are some aspects of government policy. But

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it does require more. Our organisations and the community and

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voluntary sector have been lobbying and influencing government at

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Westminster and local level regarding these issues. The biggest

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changes that will take place regarding the welfare system, we

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have had a lot of them put to get something that suits Northern

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Ireland. The situation is difficult and unemployment is up and output

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is down. People tell us that the welfare reform could have a bigger

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impact on people in Northern Ireland than it might have

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elsewhere. Disabled groups, for example. How bad is the situation

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and how much worse might get? reckon about �400 million is coming

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out of the system and we will see reductions in housing benefits and

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things like that. Our situation in Northern Ireland is very different

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than in England. We have an economy that is at least 66% driven by the

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public sector and they want to reduce jobs. One of the big

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problems will be finding work for unemployed people and we are saying

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to the Northern Ireland Assembly regarding welfare reform and the

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new unemployment programme, if we simply copied the mechanics of

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these things as carried out in England, there isn't much point in

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having to volition. There has to be a local solution? Yes, we have to

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think about the greater difficulties there will be

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regarding helping people find employment. The cleric, we are

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trying to attract jobs in Northern Ireland and we have to be able to

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match the skills. Do you get a sense that local politicians are

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aware of that and agree with you and have the knowledge and skills

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necessary to actually get this right in terms of legislating?

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think they do. We have been talking and we have talked to Lord Freud

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regarding the English situation and Nelson McCausland and they can

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certainly hear those forces. We need to produce the mechanics that

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will make things suit Northern Ireland. Let's hear from the

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politicians. Do you accept his. But you just cannot take the British

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template and superimpose it on to Northern Ireland? The absolutely

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not, we have a very long legacy of problems here and does reflect the

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benefits. For example, people on disability and living allowance.

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That reflects a lot of the problems that we have had and the legacy of

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the path -- the past. That has affected in any other stress issues.

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But the overall policy drive is the same as across the water? Posterity.

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-- austerity. We did try but Sinn Fein would not support us. There is

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a human face to this. We cannot ignore that. We do advocacy work on

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Tribunals and we see the face of this. People in distress who have

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had their benefits cut. That is the first point. We cannot ignore that.

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Daithi McKay, you will not be an advocate for any Great British

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solution. But let me put the same question to you. There is very

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little you can do? You can talk a lot and bang the table but you

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cannot magically produce hundreds of millions of pounds? We need to

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be imaginative. In terms of the welfare, it was interesting is a

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minister did not vote in the Welfare Reform Bill bit to which

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she refers. We have to mature. There are a number of stages still

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to come and there are other opportunities to be presented. But

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we need to focus on mitigating as much as we can against the impact

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of these cuts. What is your thought when you hear these politicians

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talking? They say they take on board what you think. But can they

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do anything? They cannot do a lot about the budget. Many of the

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things that come up across Northern Ireland is the fear of the monthly

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payment. We would like to see people paid more often than that.

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At least fortnightly. The notion that the Government in the UK has

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had, creating monthly payment makes it look as if you are in work.

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People who earn less than �10,000 do not get paid monthly. But given

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the overall policy drive, that is a tidy note in the margins? The jury

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will be out regarding this. I say this as an observation, we need a

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local solution. Thank you very much indeed. Corporation tax, adoption

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and razor blades all feature as Chris Page takes a look back at the

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:56:57.:56:59.

political week in 60 seconds. Ministers had their final meeting

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with the London governments about devolving Corporation Tax. The

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decision is down to David Cameron. Peter Robinson accused Sinn Fein

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are taking a responsible positions on important issues but said the

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DUP were getting on OK with their main partners. If you had set the

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Conservative and Labour Party down and said, he will have to work

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together, I do not believe they would have done as well as we have.

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Dozens of demonstrators on both sides of the argument came to

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Belfast as Northern Ireland's first private abortion clinic opens. The

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High Court ruled that gay and unmarried couples should be able to

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adopt. If the Health Minister said he was going to appeal that

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judgment. After angry opposition, the Environment Minister said he

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would not impose any national park in the Mourne Mountains and Danny

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Kennedy led us into one of the secrets of his successful political

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career. Do not underestimate my own inability to talk at length! One

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very little! The it Danny Kennedy let the cat out of the bag, there?

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He can stand up on his hind legs for a very long time and talk about

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nothing? That isn't something I would do. The but we have a welfare

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did it a couple of weeks ago that went on to midnight and there were

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enough long-winded politicians in that particular scenario.

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secret of success, talking about nothing? We would think that we do

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not talk about nothing but many others thing we do. I would like to

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think, particular debate on welfare reform, if any members were coming

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in with very sincerely held views and they try to work to keep it --

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articulate the needs of the community. And he was smiling when

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he said that, he was being ironic. Earlier, you said you have the

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option of a petition of concern as far as the Welfare Reform Bill is

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concerned? You could kill it in the water? There are a number of stages

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to go through and the Social Development Committee or are

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currently considering this and welcome back for consideration

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before it is concluded. That is an option. You cannot and then we have

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a bigger problem? A we don't mean to kill it, there are a number of

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other opportunities that we can put forward that will not reach parity

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as the DUP is so concerned about. And we can improve the lives of

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those who represent. You are a member of the Justice Committee,

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what about the offer to assist if there is an investigation into

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Marie Stopes? I have no problem with that, the Attorney-General is

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a very qualified man. Thank you. That's it for now. You can see this

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programme again tonight at 10:30pm over on BBC Two. Join me for

:59:53.:59:56.

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