09/02/2017 The View

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Mark Carruthers and guests review the week's political events from Stormont and Westminster and follow the highs and lows of the political week.

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The Irish language has been thrust front and centre


of this election campaign, as Arlene Foster insists there'll be


Tonight on The View, I'll be asking Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill how


she plans to do business with unionists after March 2nd.


Arlene Foster predicted a brutal campaign, but how does Sinn Fein


plan to counter her dismissal of an Irish Language Act


and her comparison of republicans to crocodiles?


Can Michelle O'Neill work with Mrs Foster after the election?


Sinn Fein could not support Arlene Foster in the executive office while


the investigation is ongoing. And her colleagues said, put manners on,


is that appropriate? No. Also tonight: As the UK moves closer


to triggering Article 50 after the lastest Commons vote,


the Alliance Party accuses Unionist parties of undermining


the institutions here. Plus, what happens when a White


House news conference goes awry? When it comes to these decisions the


Constitution gives our President lots of power.


And doing their own show-and-tell in Commentators' Corner,


Professor Deirdre Heenan and Newton Emerson.


James Brokenshire would not be acceptable as a chair


for negotiations after the Assembly election in March,


says Sinn Fein's leader at Stormont, Michelle O'Neill.


And she has insisted that Arlene Foster cannot take up a post


in the Executive Office before the inquiry into RHI


I spoke to Ms O'Neill earlier, and I began by asking her why


Sinn Fein walked away from the Assembly when she was


trying to form a policy to tackle the very real


Absolutely the reason that the Assembly collapsed was because the


DUP had orchestrated the RHI scandal. That is not acceptable. You


cannot have corruption at the heart of Government. You cannot have an


arrogant approach to some sections of society. People who are only


interested in governing for some, that is not good Government, that is


not what the Good Friday Agreement was about. That was about integrity,


equality, respect, delivering for all our citizens. That's the


Assembly has collapsed is all about RHI. I have listened to the DUP in


the last couple of days. The executive has fallen because of RHI.


We will talk about that in a moment but did issue of growing waiting


lists, asking for support from other party leaders, that you can leave it


promised not to the permanent Secretary of the Department of


Finance, to release this money, effort is not an Agreement after the


election for the Assembly to get up and running again. Of that was


necessary and people who are dependent on a decent health service


are losing out. It is your actions that has led to that. It is our


actions that have brought the executive down because of corruption


at the heart of Government. You cannot take big decisions about the


health service, the education service or any other service of


people do not have integrity in institutions and those people that


are delivering services. In my seven month since I became Health


Minister, all cross-party support, the health service needs


transformation. I have already set out the planned how we're going to


do that. We had cross-party support. One of the plans I set out was to


publish a waiting list plan because waiting lists are not acceptable. We


need to tackle those issues. We need to tackle the causes of what is


wrong in the health service. But the is the otherness scenario is because


of RHI and for other reason. You have written to the other party


leaders asking for their support. Because of the transformation to fix


the root causes, the reason I wrote to them to put on public record


their support for dealing with the waiting list issue because that is


what they have all signed up to. There was widespread support for the


transformation journey we have embarked on an health, I am


committed to that both personally and politically. It is to happen.


Health service that is more support, they are under pressure, we need to


deal with the meeting that issue, that is what good Government and


leadership is. To see all those hard decisions that need to be taken


across education or any of those public services, people need to have


confidence in the people taking the decisions, the electorate will take


a decision on the 2nd of March. People decide if they want to have


an executive that is wedded to the principles of the Good Friday


Agreement, which is always about integrity, respect and equality and


Government. Will you be able to work with Arlene Foster if your two


parties are returned as the largest parties after the election? It is


from the to decide who the DUP will choose to read them. Letters Arlene


Foster. We cannot presume to the electorate will return. Our party


will come into negotiations wanting to bring us into the modern era and


deal with marriage equality, the language act, all those things. Can


you work with Arlene Foster on those issues? In terms of forming an


executive we need a fundamental change. If the DUP are the largest


party we will need a fundamental change and a step change from them,


their attitude, it would have to be about delivering for all citizens or


not. They are not we cannot go into Government. Arlene Foster could not


take up the position while there is a RHI scandal and investigation


ongoing. Are you saying you could not work with Arlene Foster in a new


executive before the results of the public inquiry are made public? Yes,


that is what I am saying. RHI is a scandal that needs completely


investigated and no right minded person could support Arlene Foster


to go into the joint office of first and Deputy First Minister. You will


not work with Arlene Foster in the executive until we know the


conclusions of the public inquiry, which could be at least six months?


There is no possibility of a return to the Assembly, and a devolved


administration, until the end of this year, is that what you are


saying? That is not correct. There is a possibility to return to the


executive and institutions and have a functioning executive, with the


other parties want to step up, if DUP was to turn up in terms of


delivering for all citizens, on the basis of equality, respect and


integrity. Only saying you should decide who will lead the DUP? Know I


am not saying that. That is for them to decide. I am saying Sinn Fein


could not support Arlene Foster in the executive office whilst the


investigation is ongoing. You said any right-thinking person would not


put themselves forward to any potential executive Rollo is a


shadow of a cloud hanging over them. That is about Arlene Foster, you are


saying Arlene Foster is off-limits in terms of playing a role in the


executive with Sinn Fein until we know for sure that she has been


cleared by a public inquiry. We have never... She says she has done


nothing wrong. Martin asked her to step aside for a period of four


weeks because of the potential investigation, that could have


produced a preliminary report. That fat little kid then, why not now? We


are not good to have a preliminary report. -- if that was OK then, why


not know. Tried to keep the scheme ongoing,


who withheld information from partners and Government. This


election is about integrity. You have known about RHI for a long


time. Martin McGuinness knew about the difficulties back in last


February but Sinn Fein did nothing about it. Let us be clear, as soon


as Sinn Fein knew about the difficulties, Sinn Fein said that


down within a matter of days. That is a matter of fact. As soon as the


head of the Civil Service came to Martin McGuinness and said there


were problems, with in days of the scheme was shut down, Sinn Fein took


action. Your colleague Michelle Gildernew said put manners on Arlene


Foster, was she right to use that language? No, that is not


appropriate. That is too far. I am interested in integrity and respect.


Have you admonished Michelle Gildernew for using that language? I


have spoken to her. That is not language I would choose. Then the


last number of weeks and months the DUP have treated the public with


disrespect and arrogance. I do not want anybody like that in team. If


you are in public life you have a job to be a leader. That means to


produce of an uncomfortable situations. To step out of your


comfort zone. It is about making sure we deliver first-class public


services. Politics is about the will to want to change things. If you do


not like things, step up and dry to fix it. That is who I am. I have


taken on the mantle of Martin McGuinness. I want the Assembly to


work, I want to do with the health service issues, the economy,


everything else. That is what politics is, that's who I am, that


is what Sinn Fein are about. Politics is also the art of


compromise so if Arlene Foster is retiring and if the DUP says she


continues to be the leader, and you are going to have to deal with her


whether you like it or not, and if all the other parties say they would


like to see devolution up and running again sooner rather than


later, you have got a problem. Can you work with Arlene Foster? I ask


that off the back of some of the comments she has made recently


Richey has said there will never be an Irish language act, where DUP


members have talked about crocodiles, those holding,


nationalists = villages, there has been colourful language fired across


the electoral airwaves in the last number of weeks. Do you think this


possible given all that is said and done in recent days, weeks and


months for you to work meaningfully and Government with Arlene Foster in


future, if that is what the electoral besides you need to do? If


Arlene Foster is leader of the DUP, and you are assuming the electorate


will return... I made that qualification. Sinn Fein will come


to negotiations with their willingness to negotiate things. It


is in the public interest to do that. We have an election because of


the RHI scandal, that issue has to be dealt with. I have said that


before, nobody should go forward for that office if they have that


clothes hanging over them. That is her choice. Bitterness of choice.


You know our Sinn Fein Stormont leader, he became a leader in


January, but it is not quite clear how that process worked. But looks


more like a coronation than an open and transparent election. That is


not that damage credibility as the leader? It does not. I am so


honoured and privileged to take on the role from Martin McGuinness and


to lead our party into the selection and into the future. It is a


tremendous honour for me and I will come at it with such energy, I will


carry on the great work from Martin McGuinness, why I was chosen not an


issue. We did not see democratic principles at work in your


appointment as your party's leader in the north, Eileen Foster said you


were installed by Gerry Adams and you will be instructed by him in


future, you are his puppets, he is your boss. Gerry Adams as party


President of Sinn Fein, that is no secret. He has asked me to take on


the role of leader. Martin McGuinness has passed on the mantle.


Gerry Adams at any other political leader made an appointment as other


leaders do. It was endorsed. I am comfortable with it. You have been


specific about the cost associated with sorting out the waiting list


issue, ?31.2 million. How much would it cost and an Irish language act?


There has had a lot of scaremongering in relation to the


issue. I do not have a cost that does not believe any reply have


heard. It is a key issue, how can you not cost of that? If you look at


where we are at in society, whether the Irish language, marriage


equality, we are the only part of these islands that has not put


forward legislation on these issues. We are a society that is backward


looking because of unionism. I am talking about the cost of permitting


an Irish language act, opponents say it could cost hundreds of millions


of pounds, you should be able to lead that that by saying it will


cost extra load of money but you cannot give me a figure. We have


looked at Scottish language act, for example, it was nobody knew that


sort of cost. Give me some idea of a figure. Let me tell you this. Last


week we saw the DUP trying to deflect from the fact that the


election is about the RHI scandal. It is not about the Irish language


act, it is about the RHI scandal. You have made that point. People


understand that. But the Irish language act as an issue you have


talked about. You want to see an Irish language act. Is that a red


line. You do not draw red lines on any issue. I would like you to be


drawn on whether it is a principal or not. An clear on the issue of


Arlene Foster and suitability to be First Minister at a time when the


RHI issue has not been resolved and the judge has not reported as far as


public inquiry is concerned. You should be equally clear about the


Irish line with Jack, how much would it cost to implement? The Irish


language act, the Bill of Rights, the legacy issues, they are key


issues in this election. So you must have costed them? This


is a wispy block by the DUP before and whenever legislation comes


forward we would look at the minister who tabled the situation so


it would be pretty hard to cost. You should be able to put a figure to


it. I don't think it is an unreasonable question to get some


sense of whether or not your political opponents have actually


got it right and it will cost a lot of money or whether your analysis is


that it would cost a lot less and if it is a lot less to should be able


to give me a figure. Our political opponents, the DUP, I tried to scare


about the Irish Language Act and Boxer said. Evidence shows that when


Scotland voted on a Scottish Irish -- Scottish language act it didn't


cost much. How much did it cost? Don't you know? The British


government if it committed to an Irish Language Act it could do so


and it could finance it. Don't let anyone distract from the fact that


this is about the RHI scandal. James Brokenshire recently said the


current system is not working and we are in danger of seeing the past


reborn. Can he be an honest broker in the elections? No. If you look at


his actions to date, if you look at his comments in relation to British


soldiers receiving immunity and how he is ignoring the views of the


people in the North who want to stay in the European Union and if you


look at his one-sided than partisan views on a lot of things I don't


believe James Brokenshire is an honest broker, no, I don't. Does


that mean you would have to bring in some external facilitator to hold


those talks together? It would absolutely be preferable. The


British government and the Irish government Arco guarantors of the


Good Friday agreement and they have a job to step up to the plate. The


British government have banded to the DUP for the last number of years


to each negotiation and tried each failure to implement the issues that


they signed up to. We can't have British government who is only


interested in one section of the society. If you are going to be a


leader, be a leader for everybody. That is who am.


Michelle O'Neill talking to me earlier, and on next week's


programme I'll be speaking to the DUP leader, Arlene Foster.


Now, what are we to make of last night's rejection by unionist MPs


of an SDLP attempt to ensure the government takes on board


the Good Friday Agreement during forthcoming Brexit negotiations?


The UUP says it received assurances from the British government


that the agreement will not be affected, but the Alliance Party


says the situation is deeply worrying and leaves the institutions


Lord Empey and Stephen Farry from both parties join me now.


Welcome to you both. Thank you for joining us. Lord Empey, you are


concerned enough to seek assurances from government that the Good Friday


agreement will not be affected, why not vote for an amendment that could


have locked it into the Bill? We have been working at this for a long


time. Back in September we produced our own, the only party that has


produced a vision for Northern Ireland outside the EU, even the


executive has not produced one. We went to see Brexit Department


ministers before Christmas and we went to see, I spoke to David Davis,


the Brexit secretary on Tuesday and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson


on Wednesday. We have a meeting on 22nd April with the Brexit ministers


from Downing Street to follow this up. We have been doing a lot of work


to ensure the border remains open and that the governments remain


committed to the agreement and I got an answer. Did you get the


assurances? I got the man that got them on Hansard because earlier this


month I asked the Minister a question on these very issues and I


got absolute clarity. Do you just hope you can ensure? Boris Johnson


gave me a one word answer, yes. The question was Will you ensure there


is an open border as it currently stands, and will you ensure that


there are commitments under the Belfast agreement that are met. He


said that in front of 80... The negotiations haven't even started!


He said it in front of 80 other people in the Prime Minister has


said it in the House of Commons and I think we should not contemplate


two separate issues here. He is prejudging the outcome of the


negotiations. He is not in a position to give you a guarantee. It


is the government of the United Kingdom 's decision that there will


not be a hard border. The Prime Minister has said it, the Brexit has


said it -- the Brexit secretary has said that the Foreign Minister has


said it. It would never get through Parliament has anything else. But


they can't tell you exactly the nature of the border. We know it


will not be concrete and barbed wire border. The Irish ambassador came to


speak to the Northern Ireland affairs committee on Wednesday this


week and he made it clear that the governments were committed, both of


them, to ensuring that there was no damage done to the agreement as a


result. Are you reassured? Certainly not. There are two sides to any


border so the perspective of the European Union will be important in


this. They will not want Congress and barbed wire either. We could


hear the phrase about no returns to the borders of the past but it means


nothing. There is no reassurance on what the border will look like. You


are not reassured by the comment from Boris Johnson which was enough


Lord Empey? Or the experts say that if the UK leads the customs union


which is our current stated exec -- objective you cannot avoid customs


border and that has to be a physical check, there are country of origin


issues that have to be checked and they have to be physical. You cannot


do it through electronic means. You want recognition of the special


circumstances in Northern Ireland and you want guarantees put in


place. What does that mean precisely? We want some sort of


special status for Northern Ireland which is a special relationship with


the European Union and I believe that can be... Special status for


Northern Ireland rather than the island of Ireland? There may be


special measures that need to be put in place for the island as a hold.


At the moment Northern Ireland have voted to remain with in Europe and I


believe special status can be made with the Good Friday agreement and


the principle of consent. There are issues that we remain on the right


side of the customs union and part of the single market and the four


freedoms and we have access to funds and European funds but the wide


apart around this issue is the Good Friday agreement and the


reassurances that have been given in that regard. They do not stand up to


scrutiny. The issues are that the structures of the Good Friday


agreement may continue but that fails to understand that the


European Union and the joint membership of the UK and Ireland


behind that give effect to the Good Friday agreement because we have the


east-west and north-south relationship in tandem. Brexit means


putting up barriers. Someone will lose in this regard and it has


political implications. Are you worried that this would be the


dangerous uncoupling of the union? Of course it well, it's nonsense.


The biggest economic, political and social link that we have is with the


rest of the United Kingdom and I know Stephen 's party is not


committed to the union, they are diagnostic about it, but that is the


point. It is the most important unit and if you go down the road of


special status it is Gerry Adams speak for moving us one more step


out of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland voted a certain way and the


referendum but it was a UK referendum and we accept the result.


It also means that if you try and keep us locked in some bizarre


mechanism to keep us in the United Kingdom, what happens if the UK goes


and does new trade deals with other countries? As a Unionist, if you are


concerned about the best interest of the people of Northern Ireland in


these new circumstances, if it can be proven that the best interests


are represented by a closer relationship between Northern


Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, what would you have to fear from


that? It doesn't mean the end of the union, just redefined relationship


on the island of Ireland. The European Union is a union of member


states. You are either in a state or you are not. Sinn Fein and others


want to make Northern Ireland into effectively a protectorate and that


is the worst possible position for us to be in. The Republic isn't


interested in this sort of thing at all. They want, and the two


governments are working extremely closely together, and they are


ensuring that they are going to solve these problems. There is a


unanimous political will across all parties. The worst possible outcome?


Brexit affects all the people of Northern Ireland, when a Unionist,


nationalist or a whole mix and range of different identities. It was a UK


wide referendum but Northern Ireland is not as British, we are in a very


particular place and there are anomalies in Northern Ireland.


Anyone born he has an automatic right to be an Irish citizen so


European Union citizen and we have a very integrated economy. Real damage


will be done to our economy in the context of a hard Brexit. What is


important is we decouple the concept of special status from the National


desire for a united Ireland. Special status is something that should


appeal right across the political spectrum. It is a pragmatic response


to the problems we are facing and can be entirely consistent with the


principle of consent. We have to appreciate that the Good Friday


agreement is a balanced settlement. Strand won the internal dynamic and


also the east-west is also an synchrony. Brexit upsets all of that


and it is potentially very serious. At the moment people through the


European Union, can trade north and south and east and west and get


through their lives as they see fit. Brexit means putting in place a form


of barrier somewhere that creates winners and losers and zero choice


for some people and that is not the underlying spirit of what the


agreement actually meant. Where will the barrier be? It may not be a


concrete and barbed wire frontier between North and South but there


will have to be a frontier. Where do you think it will be? First of all,


in respect of what Stephen has just said, the most important trading


relationship we have is with the rest of the United Kingdom. We have


strong links with the Republic but they pale into insignificance


compared with our links. Cut adrift? Absolutely not. We are committed and


one of the people who set up the bodies such as tourism Ireland, this


trying to link the Brexit with the destruction of the institutions of


the Belfast agreement is a very dangerous road to go down. Get back


to the point. Where will the border be? If it does not run through Derry


and Strabane and ran to Newry, will it be on the Scottish ports? UK and


GB airports? We have pursued that with the government and we were told


under no circumstances would they contemplate any internal borders


within the United Kingdom. Where will it be? Electronically we can do


a lot because invoices have to be generated, vehicles can be


bar-coded, the Republic can change its border processes. That will not


solve all of the problems, it might contribute to some of it. I am not


finished. The public and is too great controls itself on its own


ports. Why shouldn't have to do that? The Republic wants to ensure a


open border and they are our strongest allies in the European


Union and we will also ensure intelligence sharing between the two


countries. There are ways in which, lots of ways in which we can do


that. How do you respond to that? Ireland cannot separate themselves


from the rest of the European Union. The Irish Republic can't go


unilateral in terms of having a differential border with the rest of


the European Union. You want us to adopt the euro? That used to be your


policy. What Brexit is doing is deciding whether it is better to


stay economically with Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland and the


European Union and it is a false choice and we should look to do


Let's hear what Deirdre Heenan and Newton Emerson make


Good to see you. Let us go back to the top of the programme and talk


first of all about Michelle O'Neill and her interview. She is now the


party was Maxtor want leader. What did you make of her performance


tonight? That is the first time I have heard Sinn Fein give a specific


red line on any of these negotiations, about Arlene Foster 's


tenure and even that red line this time limited. The enquiry will take


about six months and that is projected. Gerry Adams has already


said that he considers corruption, to be an issue that is being dealt


with just by the existence of the enquiry so Sinn Fein has set itself


a target here that will resolve itself. Everything else is totally


up in the air and we must bear that in mind. The alleged corruption she


mentioned several times in the interview. She was crystal clear


about what Sinn Fein will accept and not accept about Arlene Foster 's


role in an executive or outside an executive unless and until she is


cleared by the public enquiry. She was clear and many in the DUP


will be spitting feathers. You would love to be a fly on the wall and


Arlene Foster's front room. I would. She talked a lot about leadership.


Integrity. She said she would be a leader for all of the citizens. I


think she is coming across or depicting herself. Arlene Foster


comes across as belligerent, insular, but as she is more affable,


saying this is about the future, and I am quite sure they will be reeling


against that the election. Importantly as well, the future is


starting to shape up, as Sinn Fein sees it, letting DUP twist in the


wind for six months I would take the rest of the issues to the British


Government. She said James Brokenshire cannot be an honest


broker in future negotiations and tonight he has said he is not


contemplating any other outcome but a resumption of devolved partnership


Government. Yes, but she would say that, because it has been partisan.


It would have been more interesting if she had said something different.


I thought it was interesting that she was willing to slap down


Michelle Gildernew and see that type of language was not acceptable to


did not want to get into that kind of slanging match. In the past that


they have been smoothed over but was clear that is not the type of party


that she wants to read. What did you make of what she had to say about


the Irish language act? She could not or would not put a figure on it


at all in terms of what it might cost? That is not good preparation.


What struck me, Gerry Adams has this raised with the Irish Government,


the Irish Government has raised this at the Brexiter conference with


Theresa May, it is becoming clear that they know they will not get


this past the DUP saw the ball to score over the DUP's head. She said


it was not a red line but she had already pointed out that Arlene


Foster as leader was a red line. There are many different kinds of


Irish language act. They are going to have to get something and be


ankle to have to go to London to get it. They are not the did tie


themselves in knots before it is to see what it will look like and how


much it will cost. There is no detail about how much it will cost


but that is a realisation that people are interested in health,


education, the economy, and they are the key issues, and she was try to


focus on those. She has attempted to leave the Health Ministry on


autopilot. That would also tie in with the idea of a six-month hiatus,


civil servants can sign the checks, the DUP heads can explode while she


runs to London. What did you make of this, if talks are not successful,


it gives a Green light to release ?31.2 million, she seems to be


suggesting. It is meaningless. It is a promissory note. The reality is


health needs radical transformation. This is a sticking plaster to


address our waiting list issue that should have been addressed long


before now. The report is out over six months and absolutely nothing


has happened. That is dressed up as doing something when in fact we have


been sitting on our hands watching the problem getting bigger as months


go past. It does not mean anything. Interested to hear with Arlene


Foster has two C in response, hopefully she will be on the


programme next week, Michelle O'Neill said tonight she did not


want to trade insults but what she said about Arlene Foster, will it be


winding? It will and there is no question of the DUP coming into


this. That is all for now. Join me for Sunday Politics


at 11.35am here on BBC One, when I'll be talking to the leader


of the Ulster Unionist Party, we leave you with Melissa McCarthy's


brilliant impersonation of White House spokesman,


Sean Spicer. If only all news


conferences were like this! Settle down, settled down. I want to


ask about the travel ban on Muslims. The travel ban is not a ban which


makes it a ban. You just call that a ban. I am using your words. You


treat it if the ban were announced with a one-week notice... Exactly.


You just said that. He is quoting you.


It is your words. When it comes to these decisions, the Constitution


gives our President lots of power. The key adviser. Our President will


not be deterred.


Join Mark Carruthers and guests on Thursdays for The View - the week's political news, comments and expert analysis. The View reports events at Stormont and Westminster and how they are affecting issues such as health and the economy. It follows the ups and downs of the political parties and debates the highs and lows of the political week. It also has an alternative view on the week's political headlines.