23/06/2013 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


23/06/2013

The latest political news, interviews and debate in Northern Ireland.


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Ministers want the power to make planning decisions. Is it a power

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grab? Or does it make economic sense? We'll hear from the Planning

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2107 seconds

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Minister, the chair of the committee Politics in Northern Ireland.

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Planning decisions always have the potential to cause controversy. But

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now a row is brewing over who will make major economic planning

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decisions. A proposal by the DUP and Sinn Fein to take away powers from

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the Department of the Environment and give them to the office of the

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First and Deputy First Ministers will go before the Assembly

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tomorrow. Alex Attwood, the Minister with responsibility for planning

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joins me. And we'll also hear from the chair of the Environment

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Committee, Anna Lo, and the DUP's Peter Weir. Also today - the world's

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most powerful leaders have come and gone, but what will be the legacy of

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the G8 in Fermanagh? We'll have the views of PR expert Sheila Davidson

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and Jim Flanagan of the Ballymena conservation groups and the chair of

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the Environment Committee about his proposed Planning Bill, which his

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critics claim favours economic factors rather than the protection

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of the environment. But now the DUP and Sinn Fein have tabled amendments

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to the legislation which would take power away from the Minister and

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also make it harder to challenge planning decisions in the courts.

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The Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, joins me. Thank you for

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joining us, do you see this as an attempted power-grab by Sinn Fein

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the the DUP? I think in law and politics this is folly. In law I

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don't think they can do this. Because the amendments are hostile

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and do violence to Northern Ireland and European legislation. But it is

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also is bad politics, because we have seen over the last couple of

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years where First Minister and deputy First Minister took power on

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to themselves with a neighbourhood renewal project ap it has fallen

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flat on its face. How much worse if you had another planning authority

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that don't have the resources, the capacity, or the history of doing

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planning, what catastrophe this could be at a time when planning has

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turned many corners. Their view is planning decisions are slow and this

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is designed to speed things up. you Fawlkes to the development

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community, they will tell you, unlike two years ago applications by

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the minister, articles 31s, they are being made more quick Liverpool look

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at the -- more quickly. Look at the football ground and others, and we

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are meeting our targets for ordinary application and we are making more

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decisions is. So I have demonstrated, the planned system can

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turn corners. What First Minister and deputy First Minister is they

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want to put it back down a dead end. We have had the G8 leaders here and

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talked about a new future and a conference that will take place here

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in October of this year. This ties in with that. What is wrong with a

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fast track approach to planning decisions in economically

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significant areas. More and more there is a fast track approach to

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planning in Northern Ireland. More and people people are recognising

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that. Look at John Lewis...It is also the case that unther the law at

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the moment -- under the law at the moment we can have special planning

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zones, why would FM and DFM beat their chest about them becoming the

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planning authority when they don't have the legal authority or the ka

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pas difficult I want to get -- capacity to do it. What they would

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argue and they're not here, but we have Peter Weir, what they would say

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is they want to make sure there is no at repeat of the slow de-Igs --

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decision making process that surrounded the John Lewis

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application at Sprucefield. That is the something I inherited. There was

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a lot of delay in the planning system. What I have done and what I

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think others can do in the future is ensure that planning is fit for

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purpose and John Lewis is a case in point, as is Runkerry. Let's not

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give authority to those who don't have is competence to do the job and

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have demonstrated, be it on a shared future or the functions that they

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now have they sometimes fall flat on their face. This is bad policy, bad

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politics and in a situation where we are getting planning better. How do

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you think they can't do this? This is democracy at work, this is the

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cut and thrust of politics at Stormont F they get a majority in

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the House, they will get it through. And they will get a majority,

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because between them Sinn Fein and the DUP can do that. Democracy can

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come up with bad law and can express bad politics. The issue is that for

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example in one of their amendments tabled by the DUP on behalf of Peter

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Robinson and Martin McGuinness, it is mainly Peter Robinson. He is not

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here to defend himself, but he is the First Minister, it is being done

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in the name of his party and Sinn Fein. Whether you like it or not, it

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is a Sinn Fein o'/DUP amendment. Yes, butt #i9 is being driven by the

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DUP and Peter Robinson. Meys Most things are driven by the DUP. Under

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European law and thankfully we are still members of the European Union,

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there are certain areas in the North that are designated when you come to

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applications, you have to go through certain procedures. This law

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proposes you don't do that. That is bad law and hostile to European

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requirements. You don't like it, because it exposes you as a puppet

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in the Executive. They can pull your strings. You know, that is the

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reality. I make one judgment, are they in government, are they in

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power. I would like to think I for one around the Executive table has

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demonstrated a difference. The problem is that you can end up with

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politicians in power who have bad policy and bad politics as part of

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their story. That will be bad for Northern Ireland and the economic

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aye hope the DUP and Sinn Fein think again. Stay us with. I want to hear

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more for you. Peter Weir has proposed the amendments for the DUP

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and Anna Lo chairs the Environment Committee at Stormont. Fear Weir --

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Peter Weir, he says it has been driven by the DUP and Peter

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Robinson? It has been driven by both. We are seeing a knee-jerk

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reaction. This is adding to what is there. If Northern Ireland is going

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to show a signal that it is open for business, it will need every

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economic tool. Without taking power from the minister. We are not

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creating a new planning authority, we are enabling the authority to

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make application for economically significant planning zones. The work

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will Gou through planning service -- go through planning service and at

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the end it requires the approval of the planning service or the

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Assembly. So you know, Alex is wrong in relation to that. He mentioned

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about the European law, but within the amendments we have put in

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provision that in terms of judiciary review that any planning decision is

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still challengeable on the ground of breach of European law. That side is

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protected. This is about trying to give the maximum amount of economic

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too manies to Northern Ireland. We have an investment conference coming

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up. If we're saying we are ambitious for investment and jobs. But other

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people see it as you being ambitious for you. Sinn Fein and the DUP being

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ambitious for their own parties. we are ambitious for the people of

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Northern Ireland. The biggest challenge is the economy and lack of

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investment, lack of jobs. We are making no apology for ambition in

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trying to grasp every aspect we can. We want to use the current system

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and add to it where necessary. I don't see a great deal wrong with

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that. The minister sees a great deal wrong with it. Well he is having his

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nose put out of joint. Do you have no sympathy with that? I'm sure if I

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was a minister and saw a role for the Executive to hold in my

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department, tinge reaction -- I think the reaction is natural. But

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it is not looking at the wider issues. And a lot of parties such as

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the Alliance Party, they will be, they will talk the talk about

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supporting the economy, but when it comes to taking action to Su fort

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economy, they are not prepared to do that. Let's hear from Anna Lo. You a

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chair the environment Committee, you're not happy with the proposals

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being put forward. Why not? Absolutely no. This if it goes

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through it is very bad law. I don't always see eye to eye with the

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minister, particularly on Runkerry. But I support the minister this time

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and it is setting a very bad precedent of taking away power. This

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is really power-grabbing. This is taking power. Any proposal can only

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take effect if it is endorsed by the DOE or the Assembly as in relation

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to any application, it will have to have that approval. How is it taking

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power away? No ministers now outside of DUP and Sinn Fein should feel

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safe and nowhere in Northern Ireland will be safe when this planning

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amendments go through. If and when they go through. What needs to

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happen tomorrow? Alex Attwood said he doesn't think they can go

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through. Do you think they can? I am asking the minister to postpone for

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this for us to look at it. The committee of the environment has not

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scrutinised this. This is our role to scrutinise planning role to see

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that we also talk to our stake holders and ask for their view.

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Dropping this like a bombshell on the Friday morning, to let us know,

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it not right. I have been open with my colleagues in the committee that

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I oppose the clauses two and six, they haven't the courtesy to tell us

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that they have have been working on this. The alliance put down eleven

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amendment, most haven't been discussed. But not as dramatic as

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those put forward by yourself. the esigned to put two fingers up to

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the Runkerry development. Let's not get into that. Minister, there is a

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clear plea from the chair of the environment Committee, that you not

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bring this to the House tomorrow. That is one way of trying to deal

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with it. So everyone gets a chance to draw breath at look at the

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implications of the proposals. DUP/Sinn Fein amendments are about

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bad law and bad politics. If somebody tomorrow should not move

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amendments understand it should be the DUP and Sinn Fein. Because they

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have created the problems. They can't move amendments if you don't

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move the main body of the legislation. The authorities of the

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Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been diminished by the way this has

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been handled, I'm not going to say to the people of Northern Ireland,

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let's abandon the law, let's abandon politics, because of the conduct of

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others. This is the fundamental point, the DUP and Sinn Fein for

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four and five years have had responsibility for the office of

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first and deputy First Minister and stumbled around. You have made that

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point. Why would you want to give to those who have stumbled around on a

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range of issues more responsibility to stumble around planning? What do

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you do tomorrow, will you ignore the call from Anna Lo to draw breath and

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think about it again, will you move the motion tomorrow? I intend to

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move the bill tomorrow. Which is my responsibility as a minister further

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to the committee stage of the bill. Even though you're not happy and you

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know what is coming down the tracks? Yes, it may be as weight of numbers

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as often happens is greater than the weight of argument. Maybe that will

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happen again. If that were to happen, I would make one guess and

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that is that this law will be challenged all the way to the

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Supreme Court if not beyond on the basis that you cannot do what they

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are proposing to do under the Northern Ireland Act and around

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European convention. You will see them in court, that is what you're

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saying? Somebody will see them in court if they don't pull back and

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let good argument prevail and good planning prevail, the way it has

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been in the last two years. Peter Weir, what are the chances of that

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happening? I don't think that challenge would be successful. We

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have made provision where any application is incompatible with

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European law, it can be challenged. We will move our amendments, because

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we want to see investment and all the tools that can be there to bring

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jobs. Although there has been no proper consultation. That is the

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same with every amendment that has been put and that is the nature of

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consideration stage. Its not as dra mat yibgt as your -- dramatic as

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your amendments. Others have put forward amendments that have not

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gone forward. It is there to make law. This is the point. First, the

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First Minister says he won't take your advice. I think we will have a

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debate on Monday. Nobody would say that they do not support economic

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development. But we are not going to give developers blank cheques. We

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need sustainable development. need to leave it there. We will hear

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more about this in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you all very much

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indeed. For two days this week Northern Ireland was the focus of

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international attention for the G8 summit. From President Obama's

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speech in Belfast to David Cameron's early morning dip in Lough Erne,

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2107 seconds

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here's a look back at some of those Davidson and Jim Flanagan. Let's

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talk about planning first. Clearly there is a row brewing in the

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Assembly tomorrow one would imagine. Fouled FFDFM be trying to muscle in

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on the Environment Minister? there are issues around planning and

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they have been rehearsed for years, I have been involved in a number of

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thing, such as an insit rater in my area. -- incinerator. One thing that

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come out of the row, the biggest deficit is for ordinary people who

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don't have the resources to be able to appeal anything. The problem is

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there is no overview for what guidance there is for developers or

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communities. So this kind of debate about how will take control over an

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ultimate decision is for me a way from where ordinary people are. They

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will want to watch a debate that has nothing do with them. Do you have

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any sympathy for the minister, he is feeling bruised at the possibility

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of the First Minister and deputy First Minister taking decisions over

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his head. Some may say fair enough. The whole debate shows the

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difficulties when you have five-party coalition government. We

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have three parties all disagreeing with the way ahead. I will predict

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it will all end up in the court. Because there doesn't appear to be a

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meeting of minds. The sooner the question of planning is devolved to

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the new super councils in 2015 and local people will take decisions,

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the sooner the better that happens. The last thing people would want is

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for the this to get mired in the courts again. That is what often

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happens with planning. That is where it will always end up, because

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people have a right to their opinion and a right to be able to express

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what they want in their own backyard. But you have to give

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people that opportunity and you have to have clarity in where they are

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going. If its not one First Minister and it is go to another #2k79, there

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is no -- department, there is no sclarty. It -- clarity. Anna Lo's

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point that no other minister other than a DUP or Sinn Fein minister can

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feel safe is the biggest message from this. Thank I yochlt Now for a

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look back at what proved to be one of the more entertaining weeks in

:57:11.:57:14.

political life here with Stephen Walker. -- thank you now for a look

:57:14.:57:19.

at what proved to be one of the more entertaining weeks in political life

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with Stephen Walker. As for how to prepare for a hard day's

:57:26.:57:32.

negotiatation, I can recommend a swim in the Loch. In Belfast the

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president and the first lady took centre stage. To those who take the

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path of peace, I promise you, the United States will support you every

:57:42.:57:51.

step of the way, we will always be a wind at your back. Similary Wilson

:57:51.:57:57.

and Gerry Adams got up close and personal. We get with the guy with

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no talent on the football field goes and kicks everyone. I have been on

:58:03.:58:08.

the pitch longer than you. Japanese company said they would

:58:08.:58:13.

create 400 job, but one minister was asked to fund a flute band.

:58:13.:58:23.
:58:23.:58:28.

haven't any money on me, but... Stephen Walker reporting. A few

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final thoughts. Jim Flanagan, your thoughts on G8, as successful as we

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might have expected. Yes it is only good that we are here. The new

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teenager stole the show and took the spotlight from the world leaders,

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her speech was positive and talking to want to live for the future was a

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powerful message. So I predict she will be at the White House next

:58:55.:59:00.

March. What about the legacy, we have got this G8 economic investment

:59:00.:59:06.

conference in October. A thought on that? I think this a positive and we

:59:06.:59:12.

need to get behind, whether you're in the business community or

:59:12.:59:17.

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