27/01/2013 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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

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Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics. Tough times for Belfast


traders, but can a cash injection kick start a comeback while flag


protests continue? I'll be asking the city's Lord Mayor, Gavin


Robinson. Also on the programme: I could have made more money outside


the EU. We are not big enough to stand on


our own. Following David Cameron's pledge to hold a European


referendum, we'll be asking if we're better off in or out of the


EU? And with us to discuss all of that, newspaper editor Jim Flanagan


It's been a difficult couple of months for Belfast. The ongoing


flag protests have left some city centre traders, already struggling


with the economic downturn, battling for survival. But could a


�400,000 funding package announced by the city council turn things


round? Or could the second phase of a new bus lane project in the city


centre cause even more problems? I'm joined by the Lord Mayor, Gavin


Robinson. Gavin Robinson, what can spending �400,000 of ratepayers'


money hope to achieve in the short- term?


I think it is a hugely positive initiative. Two weeks ago, I said


it was an opportunity not only to show how responsive they council is


but how relevant it is to make sure our city truly works. It will not


solve all the problems, but the idea of incentive rising people and


animating the City it is so important for traders that have


faced difficulties. We have to spend ratepayers money on something


we should not really be on the tab in the first place, do you accept


that? They will always be issues that arise and that you cannot plan


for and it was the same in tune with the floods. When the situation


has risen -- has arisen, is it important not to stand back but


that we show our responsiveness and do our best to insure City traders


and the hotelier's and bars and restaurants, ensure they are filled


and providing for the economic survival of the city. How well the


money be spent? In one respect it is a lot of money and in another


respect it is quite a small amount. It is not about handouts, it is


about adding to the �600,000 earmarked from the Northern Ireland


Executive and adding to bargains and incentives provided by the


businesses of Belfast and it supports an advertising campaign,


you have seen the advertising campaign and physical advertising


industry, it is about and there might -- animating areas with


events that will encourage people back into the city. For the


majority of City traders, there is a toxic perception but the reality,


it is not there. We have seen at scores of people coming backing and


acknowledging the city centre is a safe place to be. The elephant in


the room is the fact that the protests are continuing. They need


to stop and that is the only way this issue will be resolved once


and for all and people will know they are safe to come back into the


city. The truth is that we can run the City alongside the protests. If


you ask whether right think they are good for the city, I don't.


There is a whole range of areas where people can positively channel


their frustrations in other ways and a one to encourage them to do


them. There was violence again on Friday night. Petrol bombs were


thrown at the police in north Belfast. No, outside of the Belfast


council area. But that is not to excuse it. There is a toxic


perception that people have that the city centre is not safe and it


is not accurate. And it is not good for city centre trade. That is why


we are incentive rising people and backing the city centre and I hope


others will also. What about the issue of the bus lane and cycle


lane project phase two? We know there were major problems when the


first phase happen some months ago. Are you concerned that could simply


poor get more difficulties on to the city in the next few weeks?


was in September or October when we felt there were issues of


communication and people did not know what was happening. We felt


those responsible had not communicated their message and


engaged with people. I had to bring people together before Christmas to


make sure that Belfast on the move went forward significantly. I


offered the same service for the Minister for roads and we have


engaged with him thought fully and he has engaged also. The importance


is there is a practical benefit for the city centre. If people want to


come into the city centre for trade or hospitality or to enjoy


themselves, it is important they can do themselves in a fast and


efficient way. The idea that Belfast on the move isn't happening


is not right. We need to know -- we need to let people know where


things are taking place, but a good story for the City is how they will


be an increase in ft fall and travel within the city. Stay with


us because I want to put some of those points to our guests. Does


let me ask you first for your thoughts about the continuing


protests and the efforts on the part of the council and other


government bodies to deal with it. I used drug with the Lord Mayor's


you that we can run the break -- the city in tandem with the


protests, do you accept that? Something like that is happening.


The protests are at allocated times. So long as the police play their


part and keep everything well clear at other times, but I think


people... Cynically, as this might sound, people are beginning to


factor this in. The money is small and it is good PR and marketing. I


am conscious of other people, not just other people who go out for a


meal or a bottle of wine but people organising charity functions at the


City Hall. Before Christmas, I was invited to take part in a diabetes


event at the City Hall which was cancelled because of the protests.


People who are fit and of a certain generation know their way around an


how to cope, it is whether more vulnerable people are avoiding the


time because of this. Gin, you have worked in Ben fast and there the


City but you are now based in Ballymena. I wonder what your


perspective and that of your readers is likely to be because


most of the protests have been located in Belfast. I was in


Belfast myself on Friday night and there was not inconvenienced in the


slightest. I went to school in south Belfast so I criss-crossed


Belfast every day for years when Belfast city centre was fetchingly


sift -- sealed off so traders have been through this before. As far as


the on the move project go, it is a pragmatic group of people and they


will put up with a bit of short- term pain for long-term gain. The


big fear here is that the surgery may kill a few patients because


many businesses are on life support and the possibility is that this


could exacerbate the situation. is clearly not as bad as it was in


the dark days, but you make the point that the violence was in


Newton Abbey. That is a distinction that might pass people by but the


fact is it is happening in or around Belfast. An awful lot of


people are affected. That is why I mentioned the toxic perception


which is not running well with the reality where people can come in.


They have been scores of successful events that have continued and that


is not a criticism of those that were cancelled. But there are


people who are nervous and don't want to do that for whatever reason.


And that is why the campaign and the funding from the executive and


Traders and all that is on offer in the city centre will breathe life


back into the city centre and we will encourage people to come in


and let them know it is safe. I will continue to do that and back


fell -- Belfast and I hope others will as well.


With me now is Malachi O' Doherty and Jim Flanagan. It's been branded


the "hokey-cokey vote". On Wednesday, David Cameron pledged to


hold an in/out referendum if the Conservatives win the next election.


He described it as a decision on the UK's destiny, but just how


important is Europe to Northern Ireland? Would we be better in or


out in future? In a moment, I'll be putting those questions to David


McNarry from UKIP and the SDLP's Conall McDevitt. But it's the


farming community that's often quoted as the big beneficiary of


our current relationship with Europe, so Conor Spackman headed


off to Ballymena livestock market to sample opinion.


So much of our income is derived from the subsidies from the easy so


I think most farmers would like to see as staying in but there are so


many will then regulations. It is difficult to answer. He in my young


days, I could have made more money outside be in new. It is a way


you're trade is and we are not big enough to stand on our own here. At


the end of the day, that's where things go down so you have to be in.


There is too much paperwork now for farmers. You need to be a clerical


worker. If you are not in the team you cannot win. We are not an


imperial nation anymore so we have to. We have to go with our European


partners. It is dependent on the industry. I don't think it is ever


as clear cut as a yes or No. It is good for business to have that


connection. It makes it easier. You suddenly don't want a massive


border that will cause problems whenever they are trying to sell


between Europe and ourselves. think we are better staying in.


That is what we get the EC money for, isn't it? If you can the


thoughts from the community there. The SDLP's Conall McDevitt and


David McNarry of UKIP are with me now. Is there any need for a


referendum? It is an unhelpful development and reduces us to


something like a flag wicking -- flag-waving contest between


nationalists and people who understand their history and that


60 million people died in Europe at the Second World War. As a result


of those deaths, a pledge was made an the pretty -- Treaty of Rome --


to build an ever closer union between the peoples of Rome and to


remove the causes of potential future conflict. If we tinker and


mess around with their huge benefits of integrating with Europe


over the past 50 years we do so at our peril and no one should reduce


this to a political football and I regret that is what is happening.


assume you remain unconvinced? don't see those benefits and I


don't think the people of the UK see them. What we have had from


David Cameron was smoking areas. We have a British prime ministers


saying we will have a referendum provided a win an election. As --


at this moment, I wouldn't give his chances to be very good to win. His


Coalition partners are not with him and he is deceiving the public. I


think it will be a matter of trust. In so far of the benefits of Europe


to the people of the UK, I think the rise of the UK it demonstrates


the people of the United Kingdom do not see them -- the United Kingdom


Independence Party, and they do not share... It maybe they just don't


understand what the benefits are. Looking at Northern Ireland


specifically, Farmers benefit hugely from EU membership. CAP


brings in �100 million for farmers, peace programme backed projects


totalling �73 million in recent years. In the past six years,


Northern Ireland has received �800 million from EU - �154m a year!


That is an enormous amount of money. If he took that out, we would


notice the difference. I don't believe coming out of Europe we


will displace that money. In terms of the United Kingdom being a net


contributor to something like 8 billion pounds, that is on top of


what we already do. In value, these figures... But on average, the UK


is sinking up to �50 million a year. In so far as what is happening to


our farming industry and the fishing industry, I represent the


fishing industry and a farming industry constituency. The fishing


industry has been decimated because of Europe. I think we need some


semblance of reality... Just finish that point. In so far as the single


farm payment is concerned, I am quite sure the money that isn't


given into Europe will compensate for that. Farmers will not lose


their single farm payment if we come out of Europe. Can you give an


assurance like that? I don't understand how he could give that


assurance. If you are a millionaire farmer sitting on prime land, you


may have an issue with the Common Agricultural Policy but there isn't


a farmer in Ireland, Wales or Scotland he will not recognise the


fact that the way the farming is structured would not be possible


except because of the EU and there are good reasons why we continue to


be in there. It is about the says - - sustainability of the rural


community and if you don't buy those arguments, what about the


fact that Europe has been at peace for the longest periods -- period


ever in its history. We tinker and mess around with the sort of


poisoned politics at that sent Europe to war at our peril. We can


talk about the figures... But there is a no shame that the United


Kingdom Independence Party has sat into about interference by Brussels


and people do not like it. That is what they read about and they are


wary of. I think what they are tapping into... The evidence does


not suggest the wider might of political interference. In many


ways, people like me would argue there is a democratic deficit at


the heart of Europe and that the EU parliament is not strong enough.


What I think they are tapping into other British nationals and some


sort of nonsense that we can return to the Empire in the same way some


people here think we can return to the old Northern Ireland. Is that


what the UK Independence Party is about? I don't think so. Here,


there is a name that goes with us who are British and cling on to it,


self-determination. It is a big thing here. The people of the


United Kingdom are not going to vote for political union with the


United States of Europe although it to be governed by France or Germany.


They are not going to. No one has suggested that, have they? We are


legislators and 70% of the legislation and laws that are taken


through the United Kingdom actually our European laws. Europe is


governing the United Kingdom. The people of the United Kingdom are


saying, we want self-determination and we want to govern ourselves and


make our laws and look at them. We want to take those laws through. We


want to be able to be accountable. It is the case that there is a lot


of UK legislation which has to beat the you compliant and it is the


case that the highest court in the land it isn't in the land. Very


often now things have to be well done by European judiciary figures.


A highest court in the land, the European Court of Justice, isn't


part of the European Union. People start these myths about the EU


being the root of all evil when it is not true. If it was true, the


United Nations is also the root of all evil. No one is right -- no's


one an right to threat self determination is threatened by the


Treaty of Rome, but what is set and his these stability in socio-


economic terms. Let us drill it down to one thing. Week in the


United Kingdom are so lucky we are not in the eurozone. Isn't that a


godsend? We will see if that happens. Plenty of opportunities to


discuss it between now and the referendum, if it happens. Thank


you David McNarry and Conall McDevitt thank you. We'll hear the


final thoughts of my guests Malachi O'Doherty and Jim Flanagan in a


moment, after a look back at the week's political headlines in 60


The DUP said it may call Sinn's Fein bluff by agreeing to a border


poll and was accused of doing a U- turn, which is what drivers


standard by heavy snow would love to have done. If there are lessons


that can be learned from the experience over recent days we will


apply those. Extra cash was promised, but the Finance Minister


was annoyed that the MLA was not there to hear about it. I have good


news for the Green Party that don't even turn that -- the M -- the


Green Party didn't turn up. This commentators said it wasn't that


simple. It is not just about getting walls


down but making people secured in Interface areas so they know when


the walls come down -- than they Inez McCormack died after a long


illness. Now a few final thoughts. A word on


the debate we have just had about Europe and whether Europe is good


for Northern Ireland or whether there should or should not be a


referendum. It was right to be located in identity politics and


that is what is really going on here. I take that back to Northern


Ireland and say, how would I feel as a Northern Ireland person in a


devolved region is Britain pulled out of Europe and we ate in --


ended up with a United Kingdom Independence Party. I would feel


more Irish. A I would rather be in the union of Europe through Ireland


than in a little Britain through Britain. I think that we have these


discussions about Britain in Europe and don't consider enough how the


it affects people in the regions and their sense of identity within


the regions. Do you share that perspective? I have no issue with


the referendum and I thought that was what the essence of democracy


was. I think it is a perfectly reasonable position all the way


except that... It is reasonable to say that we will have all the


arguments for and against and then ask the electorate to make a mature


and informed decisions. But we can't have the Ballymena editor


reverse without talking about what will happen tomorrow. Liam Neeson


will be conferred with the freedom of the borough tomorrow and that


will be a big day, won't it? It is the hottest ticket in town.


Hollywood stardust on our doorsteps! It is a measure of how


far northern Ireland has come because you have eight council


dominated by eight Unionists and there will be a nationalist mayor


hamming over the highest accolade that can be bestowed to a member of


his community. If you could bottle that and feel to it through to the


rest of Northern Ireland we will be moving in the right direction.


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