22/04/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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


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


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1727 seconds


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


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


former secretary of state has gone harsh judgments from Westminster.


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


verses do respect of the independence of the judiciary.


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


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


establish a record, the First Minister threatened with the sack


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


started proceedings against against the Right Honourable Member for


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


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


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


the Right Honourable Gentleman says. Parliamentary privilege allows


members to express their views in Parliament. Outside Parliament,


there are occasions when judges make critical remarks about - about


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


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


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


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


society politicians can be criticised, but equally I see


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


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


judiciary is something different and something to be totally avoided.


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


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


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


undermined public confidence in the judiciary. That is envisaged under


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


public confidence, therefore he has applied to bring an prosecution


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


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


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


politicians should not interfere in the way that judges come to


decisions because that would undermine it the independence of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


legal world here arguing this case compared to barristers who have


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


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


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


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


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


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


on this issue. Including former Home Secretaries, former


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


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


General that he should step back, reconsider and withdraw this


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


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


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


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


something that is regarded as obsolete in many other


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


damaging ramifications for the future given that having a locally


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


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


implications for the reputation and standing of the Office of the


Attorney-General. The Attorney General is a more independent


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


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


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


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


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


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


concentrate on the core responsibilities of his office,


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


in which the devolved settlement operates rather than getting


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the preceding independence of the judiciary. There is no suggestion


that this particular judge has given any approval or encouragement


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


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


undermines the principle of the independent judiciary. What about


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


thrust of criticising judges and politicians, that happens on a


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


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


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


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


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


actions of the judicial officer before the matter has even been


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


fashionable these days to be in government. Two places in


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


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


number of departments by one. is nothing other than cynical


politically motivated manoeuvres to reduce our influence. Those who


think that alliance can be prevented from delivering by


lifting the bar higher clearly don't appreciate our determination


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


party with more public representatives than ever before,


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


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


new boundary changes are introduced? Should David Ford


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


more pressing question for the Alliance party is should it even


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


record. He is the first minister anywhere in these islands


threatened with the sack because both he and his party are


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


realistic. If you look at the trajectory of other parties


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


territory with the four parties are bigger significantly than us.


your performance in the two ministries that helps you with


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


saying we should have a strategy on integration. What happens now with


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


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


calm growth towards the next election? Those are issues that


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


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


there is confidence in the leadership. We have a coherent


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


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


but I personally think the department of justice needs


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


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


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


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


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


begin content proceedings against Peter Hain was widely criticised.


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


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


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


could call Kieran McCarthy a village idiot. The language used


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


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


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


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


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


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


or peanut! That is it for this week. The


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


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