28/04/2013 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


28/04/2013

Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including deputy prime minister Nick Clegg discussing the local elections.


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Northern Ireland: The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, on what he

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sees as a new confidence in the economy.

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2295 seconds

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Plus the challenge ahead for local Northern Ireland. Could Northern

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Ireland become the UK's economic Merkel? The First Minister thinks so

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and has used the Spring Conference and Enniskillen to hammer home how

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the devolution of corporation tax would transform economic fortunes.

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With unemployment at a 15 year high and per economic growth, we asked

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the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson what more can be done to boost the

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economy? And power to the people, as the plan to make 26 councils until

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11 takes a step forward, what do councillors make of the new

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responsibilities? Joining me to look at the political developments are

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Gerry Morriarty, Northern Editor of the Irish Times and Sam McBride

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political correspondent of the News Letter. Are you glass half empty

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glass half full? We may have narrowly missed a triple dip

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recession in the economy but are there any green shoots? The latest

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economic figures show there has been growth over the last year, albeit

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though it is low, but is the economy on the turn? The Finance Minister

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Sammy Wilson is with me. Are you optimistic? It is always important

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to be optimistic because I recognise that if people do not have

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confidence, even if the economy is doing relatively well, of course

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they will be reluctant to spend and to invest. People will be fearful of

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their jobs. Why you -- while you cannot ignore economic facts, if you

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on top of pool economic performance, took the economy down, it will

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discourage people from doing the kind of things that we need to pull

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us out of the recession. You have a difficult job. While you do not want

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to talk the economy down, it is difficult to read. Economic growth

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was not point 3% for 20 12. The construction sector is struggling at

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the moment. You cannot wish those factors away. Let me put the other

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facts to you. Normally Northern Ireland with the right at the bottom

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in terms of employment and other economic factors. We are not. Over

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the last year, the figures show we have grown by 0.4% and there are

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already signs in the construction industry of an upturn in --. Arlene

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Foster is announcing new investment in Northern Ireland. Last week over

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140 new jobs from firms within Northern Ireland and outside the

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country, at a high tech level and lower levels of income, there are

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other things where we are the second most attractive region outside

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London. I would say that yes, of course, not all of the economic

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indicators are showing a bright future. But they are not showing a

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black future that people are trying to present. Are those the green

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shoots of recovery? I think they are. The economy is slowly turning

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around, obviously not as fast as we need. In terms of employment, over

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the last year, the number of jobs are available in Northern Ireland

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has gone up I nearly 2000 in the middle of a recession. -- gone up by

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nearly. The Federation of Master builders has said that construction

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firms in Northern Ireland are showing more optimism. We are

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increasing exports. We are looking for new markets. All of those things

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show that we are not the difficult case that people are trying to

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portray, and there are reasons to be confident. What about corporation

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tax? Your party leader at the Spring Conference last night said the

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reduction of corporation tax for Northern Ireland could be a game

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changer. Is that how you see it? want to see corporation tax default.

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-- we want to see the devolution -- the devolution of corporation tax.

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How much longer can we wait Minister? It must be one of the

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elements that we look at. But the Prime Minister has made it clear

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there will be no decision until September 2014. Maybe it will come

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after that. We have been waiting a long time. Peter Robinson said last

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night there should be no plan B. are disappointed. This was a

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Conservative commitment and started off of the Conservative Party saying

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that you want to see the economy in Northern Ireland being restructured.

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This is a means by which we could see this happening and then they

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walk away from it! Politically I think they are wrong and I think

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they have given Alex Salmond a very important lever to hit them over the

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head with. But we will continue to press for it. In the meantime the

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first and deputy worst minister will be looking at an economic pact with

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the government at Westminster and there are some ideas there. --

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Deputy First Minister. Out the DUP and other parties handled the flag

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disputed did not help grow the economy in Northern Ireland, did it?

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We have been prepared to take some leadership over this and tell people

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it was wrong and damaging the economy. Hopefully with a lot of the

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work that has gone on behind-the-scenes, the problem has

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gone away, despite attempts by many people to reinvigorate the issue.

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There are many issues like that that are going to be damaging to the

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economy, but those who want Northern Ireland to succeed, including many

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of those who were in gates to the protest, they should realise it is

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not in their interests to hurt the economy of Northern Ireland, because

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they, like me, want Northern Ireland to be a place which is attractive

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and workable. I am interested in one line of Peter Robinson's speech. I

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want Northern Ireland to become known as the UK's economic Merkel.

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Did you write that line for him? He does not need me to write his lines

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for him, but we did speak about the speech. At times, and even coming up

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to the current recession, Northern Ireland was performing better than

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any other region of the United Kingdom. We were catching up in

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terms of the UK average GDP. There is still a lot of talk about the

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economic check back -- the economic package from the Theresa Villiers.

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First of all, there are two elements. The first element is that

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the suggestions which come forward from the Executive and we are

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working on that, and secondly, a commitment from the Westminster

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government. Our argument is this. We want to make the Northern Ireland

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economy less pendent upon the Exchequer. There are things which

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need to be done, and things which can only be done by central

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government. We will not run away from our own responsibilities. We

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must work on this collaboratively. You are confident this will find its

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way onto the table? The other issue you were going to mention, is

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whether it is linked to cohesion sharing and integration? Peter

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Robinson said you do not need a document for that, but you need to

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deliver on the ground. Really the only people who want a document

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which is meaningless to the general public are the anoraks! Would it

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be? Of course it would. People causing the problems in Northern

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Ireland will not read a shiny document from the Executive.

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envoy do you bother spending money and strategies? Because it

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influences policies, that is why! The point that I was making is if

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you want to have people feel that they have a connection to Northern

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Ireland, you have an economic policy which gives them a job and enables

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them to have a house, and have responsibilities. Those who must

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work tomorrow those who can work, must work. Give me a clear answer to

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this. Would there be a CSI document published by the Executive? I am

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sure there will be eventually. I would not hold too much hope that a

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document like that will radically change the situation on the ground.

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What I believe is that the situation on the ground will change when real

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practical things happen and people have a stake in society. We must put

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in place policies which enable people to feel part of Northern

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Ireland. Thank you. Let us hear from Sam McBride and Gerry Morriarty.

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Cannot help asking you for your response to the Minister's comments

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and the aspect and cohesion sharing and integration? I thought the

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Secretary of State made a point that she is addressing sectarianism and

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Division two an economic plan. How foreign she prepared to push it?

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While you need an economic plan, you also need a social plan that people

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can work on. I take the Minister's point that it is what is happening

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in society that is important, but you need something concrete there.

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That is the basis for how we will tackle this problem. Sam McBride, do

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you get a sense talking to politicians that there is an

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appetite for this? Quite recently it was Peter Robinson who was pushing

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for the strategy to be published and it seems to be Sinn Fein who are

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blocking it. In some ways, I suppose what Sammy Wilson is saying is that

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this will not be published for while. If that is not such a big

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thing, actions are more portent than strategies. The parties cannot agree

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on that. What about the issue of corporation tax? It has not gone

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away, you know? A lot of people who are not doing business are not

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affected by this and are probably quite weary of this. We seem to be

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going round in circles. Every time the economy is mentioned,

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politicians push this idea of corporation tax. If it happens, it

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will be a considerable -- considerable period down the line

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and we need to look at other areas where politicians can help the

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economy. It corporation tax .com, it is not going to drag us out of

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recession because it is in the future. Gerry Morriarty, do you buy

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into the notion of optimism as far as the economy is concerned? We do

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not know whether the green shoots are there. There seem to be

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indications North and South of the border, and across the water, that

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things are happening. My colleagues who write and talk about economics

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here, are correct when they say it could be a game changer. Next year

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is not that far away. I think the ministers should keep the pressure

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on, but whether it will help not, I do not know. The last time you sat

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in that chair, you were at best lukewarm to changes to corporation

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tax. Have you been warmed up a little? My position on this is no

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different than the position of Peter Robinson. It is a big risk. It will

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require us to pay money upfront and it will hopefully lead to the kind

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of traction from new investment that we have seen another parts the

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world. It Robinson recognises it as a risk as well. If we need a lever

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which will see work elsewhere, this is one of the leverage that we

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want. We must push for it. Thank you. It has been a long time coming,

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but the full extent of the changes in local councils were confirmed by

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the environment Minister Alex Attwood to the Assembly on Tuesday.

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In April 2015 the number of councils will be reduced to 11. In a few

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minutes we will hear from councillors affected by the changes

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but our correspondent brings us up to date on the Review of Public

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Administration. Politics in Northern Ireland has

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been transformed in recent years. So much has changed but one thing has

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been left unchanged - local councils. There has been numerous

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delays at councils are facing a big shake-up. There will be 11 instead

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of 26 and if everything goes according to plan in the next few

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years, here in Belfast and elsewhere, things may never quite be

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the same again. This is how the new local government map will look.

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There will be smaller local councils gripped together. It is a major

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overhaul. The new councils will be bigger and more powerful. The

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Minister in charge says it will happen very soon. There are 700 days

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to grasp an opportunity for change. I would urge all of those with

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influence and all of those involved to ensure we maximise the

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opportunity. This is a once in a political lifetime opportunity to

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get this done and get it done right and on time. The deadline is April

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2015. The list of new powers for the councils include banning, housing,

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urban regeneration and local tourism. The extra powers mean that

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members of the new councils will face new challenges. They will also

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face a very old challenge - which flags to fly outside the new council

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buildings Western Mark I am joined by Sinn Fein Magherafelt councillor

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Sean McPeake and Mark Cosgrove, and Ulster Unionist councillor in

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Newtownabbey. You are also the president of the Northern Ireland

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Local Government Association which welcomed the money made available by

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the Minister to push the change through? Do you think there is

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enough money available and make it efficiently and on time? There will

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never be enough, but we have to be realistic! The announcement in

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January from the Executive for 48 million was a welcome step, no doubt

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about it. The whole finance issue had clouded the process to date and

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in some ways, still affects the momentum going forward. It creates

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uncertainty. We have to look back and be realistic stop the 4 billion

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cut to the Conservative budget was a major factor. If it has to be paid

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for, it will either have to come from local ratepayers through the

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councils, or there will have to be cuts to important sectors like

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education. We have to look at the root causes of not having enough

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money to move forward. We do believe that Alex Attwood is talking the

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right language in saying local government has to be invented in

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bridging that gap. Mark Cosgrove are you happy with the money and the new

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responsibilities that will be given to the 11 new councils? No, I think

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is the answer to both of those questions. The last report indicated

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that local government reform would cost �118 million, and while there

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has been a �40 million agreed by the Executive, that leaves a shortfall.

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It is nearly 50 million. It leaves shortfall. It is very difficult to

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go to -- door-to-door and talk about efficiency, you might have to ask

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people for more money. The business case put forward, namely �118

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million up front, and an overall saving over five years of over 400

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million, indicates some saving. I would note like to have to go to the

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bank manager in the current economic climate and make that argument. The

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two major things that were meant to be devolved to the two major things

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that were meant to be devolved when we first talked about this were

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planning and local roads. We now have planning devolved and local

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roads still has not been devolved. The events of the last month show

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that clearly, while Roads Service and their staff do a fantastic job

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on main arterial roads, having something like that close to the

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people, could deliver very serious improvements to the service.

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course the Minister says there will be a review of powers in April 2016.

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Perhaps that could be extended? Some people, Sean McPeake, are concerned

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about the extent to which new councils will be given

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responsibility in areas like urban regeneration and neighbourhood

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renewal? That is an awful lot of responsibility for a group of

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individuals who have not had that level of responsibility in the

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past? Do you accept that? I do accept that. Are councillors going

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to be up to that? There will have to be capacity issues and there will

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have to be money set aside for the new set of councillors to skill

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themselves up. They will have to step up to the plate? They will.

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Councillors have been mere consul tees at this time in dealing with

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planning issues. They will be the decision-makers, 2015. They will

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need to know what they can and cannot do. As well as stepping up to

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the plate as far as those responsible of these are concerned,

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they will not have to get bogged down in other issues, for example,

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such as the flag dispute? First of all they will have to talk about

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what flag will fly over the new 11 headquarters? That is the last thing

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anyone needs. About the capacity of local government, let us be honest,

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many counsellors provided the only democracy in this part of the United

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Kingdom from the early 1970s until recently. I have no doubt about the

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ability and capacity and that is why I think more things should have been

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devolved. Our local government is a diminished vehicle compared to the

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rest of the United Kingdom. Thank you both. Time for a look back at

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the political week in 60 seconds with Martina Purdy. Children's heart

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surgery looks likely to move out of Elf asked to Dublin following a

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health report. Parents are periods. They are going to shut down

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children's surgery from the Royal Victoria Hospital. -- parents are

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furious. The First Minister and Deputy First Minister had a day out

:01:06.:01:13.

and MLAs were confessing they are weaknesses about smoking. I plan

:01:13.:01:22.

meetings around cigarettes. Same-sex marriage brought harmony. The reason

:01:22.:01:27.

that we have marriage in society is because it has a special place and

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it is about the nature and rearing of children. How do modern MLAs

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compared to the predecessors? are dull.

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That was Martina Birdie reporting. Final thought from my guests, some

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muck right and Gerry Moriarty. Peter Robinson is speech was strong?

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dealt with a lot of issues. He and the Deputy First Minister are still

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in for a long haul. In relation to the flags, he spoke about the issue

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of being a settled but delicate equilibrium. What we have had in the

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last few months shows the veracity of that. Sam McBride, looking ahead

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to the same-sex marriage issue which comes up at Stormont tomorrow.

:02:27.:02:31.

Andrew Neil and Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg discussing the local elections.


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