22/04/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


22/04/2012

Tara Mills looks at the political developments of the week and questions policy makers on the key issues.


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In Northern Ireland: it is a special relationship, but what does

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the rout offered the Attorney General's content case mean for

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1727 seconds

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The hello and welcome to the Sunday politics in Northern Ireland. The

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controversy over the Attorney- General's decision to prosecute a

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former secretary of state has gone harsh judgments from Westminster.

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Hanging in the balance the rights of an individual for fair comment,

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verses do respect of the independence of the judiciary.

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The Alliance Party held its conference. It prepares to lose a

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seat at the executive. It looks as though Stephen is about to

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establish a record, the First Minister threatened with the sack

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because both he and his party are successful in what they are aiming

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to do. Find of what happens when descend master paid a visit to

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Stormont. - that the Zen master. It is not that often we have a row

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between politicians and did judiciary. The go round made it to

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the floor of the House of Commons. The former shadow home secretary

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David Davies at the ball rolling on Monday. I draw your attention to an

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action taken by the Attorney- General of Northern Ireland when he

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started proceedings against against the Right Honourable Member for

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Neath. It was about scandalising the court, it was described.

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ven David Blunkett raised it again and Prime Minister's Questions and

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this was the response. I have a great deal of sympathy with what

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the Right Honourable Gentleman says. Parliamentary privilege allows

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members to express their views in Parliament. Outside Parliament,

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there are occasions when judges make critical remarks about - about

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politicians and vice versa. To meet this is part of life in a modern

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democracy and we should keep these things out of the Court Room.

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joined by Patsy McGlone. Is this exercising politicians in Stormont?

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Not particularly. We are living in a free society and in that type of

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society politicians can be criticised, but equally I see

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nothing wrong with criticism of judges and the judgments they make.

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That is freedom and the nature of democracy. Interference in the

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judiciary is something different and something to be totally avoided.

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In this case, as the Prime Minister outlined, this is the normal course

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of events. Just cut and thrust, then? No, not according to the

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Attorney-General. The judge in question was so scandalised that it

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undermined public confidence in the judiciary. That is envisaged under

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the article 10 of the Convention would the guarantee of freedom of

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expression carried with its the condition that it could not be done

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if it would undermine confidence in the judiciary. The law is there and

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has always been there and has not been changed by the contempt of

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Court Act past 30 years ago. The Attorney-General has recognised

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that the law exists and has taken the view that there is evidence

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that the scandalising of the judge was so severe that it undermined

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public confidence, therefore he has applied to bring an prosecution

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against the individual and his publisher. I enjoyed by by Nigel

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Dodds. Should politicians keep out of this and let the judicial system

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and the courts run its course? There is an a principle that

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politicians should not interfere in the way that judges come to

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decisions because that would undermine it the independence of

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the judiciary. I do think that politicians should have the right

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to criticise on the basis of free speech. However, I think there is

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an issue about whether it is up to the individual judge to bring

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proceedings. Peter Hain has written this book and there are things

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amiss but I don't agree with, but if the judge is there something

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libellous in its I believe it should be open to him to bring

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proceedings. Should the state in the 21st century be taking this

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kind of action? I don't think it should be. As David Davies said

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there in 1899 the Privy Council said it was obsolete. Ind the

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United States this concept was done away with in the 1940s. Lord to

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clock in 1985 said it was obsolete and rarely used. I think it is a

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bad principle to have an officer of the states in terms of the judicial

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appointment that it also has a Attorney-General to be bringing the

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proceedings in this way. I think it's cent at the wrong signal.

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There appears to be a difference between how some people in the

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legal world here arguing this case compared to barristers who have

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given their opinions. The general view I have picked up in

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Westminster, and I think it is fair to say even here in Belfast talking

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to legal figures, that there is a great sense of caution about

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whether this is the right thing for the Attorney-General to be

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involving himself in. And it is not often that you get an early day

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motion begets immediately 120 MPs signing up to its, which he has got

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on this issue. Including former Home Secretaries, former

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chancellors, senior backbenchers. It totally cross-party motion. It

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was no good for Northern Ireland's and I would say to the Attorney-

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General that he should step back, reconsider and withdraw this

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misconceived notion which she is bringing to the court. It is up to

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the judge to bring libel action if you so which is, and he may well

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have a case for that. I think it is wrong for the Office of the

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Attorney-General to be used in this way, to bring an action which is

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something that is regarded as obsolete in many other

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jurisdictions. Do you think it is a storm in a teacup or has it

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damaging ramifications for the future given that having a locally

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appointed Attorney-General is still relatively new? Title think it has

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major ramifications for devolution, but I do think it has some

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implications for the reputation and standing of the Office of the

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Attorney-General. The Attorney General is a more independent

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appointments in Northern Ireland than in England and Wales, were it

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is a political point. Here in Northern Ireland it is an

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independent position. He is that legal adviser to the executive, but

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he has threatened to bring action against apartments and so on.

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you back in for another term? remains to be seen. He still has

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two years to go. I do think you would be well-advised to

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concentrate on the core responsibilities of his office,

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which is giving legal advice to the executive and looking after the way

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in which the devolved settlement operates rather than getting

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involved in this operation, which I don't think has gone down well

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anywhere. I think it will damage his reputation more so than

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anything else. Thank you for joining us. Tony, let's look at

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this issue of public money. That is something that people have given

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their opinions on, but it shouldn't be up to the public purse to pay

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for this sort of case? The public pay for prosecutions in every case.

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But what a libel action not have been the way forward? The judge has

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decided not to bring a libel action. It is difficult for a judge to

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bring a libel action as it could have far reaching consequences on

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the preceding independence of the judiciary. There is no suggestion

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that this particular judge has given any approval or encouragement

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to the taking up this prosecution. The Attorney-General has taken the

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view that there is evidence of a such defamatory material that it

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undermines the principle of the independent judiciary. What about

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the case undermining the principle of free speech? There is such a

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thing as free speech but it has to be constrained. It is even

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recognised under article 10 that there is free speech but people are

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not allowed to say things that can undermine certain organs of the

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state. This is a common lot that has been in place for hundreds of

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years and no one has taken a decision to repeal it. Parliament

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could do that it did so wished. It is not a question of the cut and

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thrust of criticising judges and politicians, that happens on a

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daily basis and no one is saying that should not happen. What we're

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- what is alleged to have happened here is that there was such gross

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defamation that I can amount to a criminal prosecution. The Prime

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Minister doesn't agree. He isn't always correct. I'd think it is

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improper for the Prime Minister to have expressed the view on the

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actions of the judicial officer before the matter has even been

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brought to court. I think it was wrong for him to do that and wrong

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for parliaments to pass that motion on an action which has not been

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brought before the court. I think it is interfering. You are going to

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be sitting on the justice committee and they have asked to see the

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Attorney-General. What will you be saying? To get back to the centre

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of this, it goes to the harder free speech. It is not about

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interference with the courts. It is about freedom of speech. I'm sure

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judges are up for criticising politicians. Likewise, if there are

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issues to be addressed within the judiciary we are elected to do that.

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The one concern I do have is that this could potentially cost the

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He wants a party of the fringes, the Alliance Party is now at the

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heart of government. It is enjoying the most successful period in its

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history with an MP and two ministers in the executive. Some

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troubled times lie ahead as they are about to lose some of its power.

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That will prompt some big decisions for the party. It can be popular to

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be among the movers and shakers, colourful, even fashionable. It is

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fashionable these days to be in government. Two places in

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government or even better. For one Alliance minister this will soon be

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a passing fashion. The big players in the executive are cutting the

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number of departments by one. is nothing other than cynical

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politically motivated manoeuvres to reduce our influence. Those who

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think that alliance can be prevented from delivering by

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lifting the bar higher clearly don't appreciate our determination

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and skill when it comes to overcoming all barriers. When the

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minister goes, but will lead to David Ford as the sole minister in

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justice, not by right but gifted by the two parties to are now pushing

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his party colleague out. How do you feel about being elbowed out of the

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way? We will see what happens. What I most care about is insuring that

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we do the right thing for the people of Northern Ireland. You're

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the one who will have to fall on his sword? I don't see it in those

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terms. I see it as doing the right thing for the people of Northern

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Ireland's. We have been pure as a party that we have to protect the

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mandate that was given to us. are heady days for the Alliance

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party with more public representatives than ever before,

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all the way from local government to Westminster. With success comes

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new challenges. Can't Naomi Long hold her Westminster seat when a

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new boundary changes are introduced? Should David Ford

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continue as party leader and that any minister in the executive? A

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more pressing question for the Alliance party is should it even

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stay in the government when Stephen Farry moves aside? What is more

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important, principle or pragmatism? It'll be principle, but based on

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the realities of politics are Northern Ireland. We won't be

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throwing the toys out of the pram. We feel that we deserve the second

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post so let's hope we will be able to be accommodated. We want to see

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an alliance member making a contribution, but it needs to be on

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a clear and fair terms. Pragmatism for me, always. No absolute

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certainty amongst the delegates, so would be a speech from the leader

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give more of a clue? It happens all over the world but ministers used

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their posts. It looks to me as it Stephen is about to establish a

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record. He is the first minister anywhere in these islands

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threatened with the sack because both he and his party are

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successful and what they're aiming to do. That was pretty much it on

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this issue. They still have to decide if they stay in government

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or walk away. These delegates are very aware when a party like the

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Alliance party mixes with the big beasts of politics at Stormont,

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these big parties can give, but also sometimes take away.

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A I caught up with David Ford. He said he would like to see the

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Alliance party break into the big four parties. I asked me that was

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realistic. If you look at the trajectory of other parties

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compared to ours, it is realistic to say that we are no longer in the

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territory with the four parties are bigger significantly than us.

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your performance in the two ministries that helps you with

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electoral success? Wants to use a minister are you in danger of

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slipping back? Naomi Long got the largest swing in the United Kingdom

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in 2010. I had only been minister for two weeks! That didn't require

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us to be in government to get that victory! There wasn't much talk of

:46:48.:46:58.
:46:58.:47:00.

opposition, though. The talk was about what we have achieved bands

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about solid work we had done about building assured future. That was

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the mood of conference. Clearly there are issues that led about

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what will happen in the future of the department and what's affect

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that will have on justice. could have used the conference to

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say we are pitting a marker down, we will not nominate again for the

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Department of Justice. Can we say that one not happen now? You can

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say that because that wasn't the issue - you can't say that because

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that wasn't the issue of Today. I did put down a strong marker about

:47:38.:47:48.
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saying we should have a strategy on integration. What happens now with

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the Ministry once Stephen Farry goes? When you continue in the post

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of Justice Minister or would do step aside as party leader and the

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calm growth towards the next election? Those are issues that

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have to be discussed. I have been asked by journalists this week

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because I had been leader for 10 years. When the party is successful

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there is confidence in the leadership. We have a coherent

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party, we know what we are working for and are going forward together.

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They will come a point and we have to decide on changing posts around,

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but I personally think the department of justice needs

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somebody to be in post for a couple of years to start to get a handle

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on how things are going. We have a party with plenty of people with

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talent and we are happy to share jobs around the. Thank you very

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much. It is time now for our regular look at the political week

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and 60 seconds. - in 60 seconds the Attorney General's decision to

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begin content proceedings against Peter Hain was widely criticised.

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Public money is being used to take this action and the public offices

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being used as a vehicle for taking this action and I think that is

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wrong. Careful words were demanded at Stormont on whether Edwin Poots

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could call Kieran McCarthy a village idiot. The language used

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did fall short of the standards I expect and I asked the minister to

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apologise. Calm was restored when the Vietnamese Zen master arrived.

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The Orange Order got a million pounds to redress the legacy of the

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Troubles. It is that the most ambitious project that the Orange

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Order has taken on. Last orders for the bride and groom. The Arts

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Minister got her rappers mixed up. I was thinking am an EMS, chocolate

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or peanut! That is it for this week. The

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Attorney-General's contempt it is up in the Royal Courts of Justice

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