01/05/2012 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 01/05/2012. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. The worst experience of my


political life, says the Health Minister as he responds to a motion


on the pseudomonas outbreak which killed four babies. Telling people


bump their babies had died and perhaps that was a voidable was one


of the hardest things I had to do. Also on the programme, with prison


issues high on the political agenda, my guest is Olwen Lyner from NIACRO.


And as he attempts to jump start the economy the Finance Minister


gives it his all. 1, 2, 3! But we start tonight with that


debate on pseudomonas. A Sinn Fein motion called for the creation of a


regional neonatal intensive care unit to be speeded up. A sombre


house heard criticism of some of those involved, but also praise for


the minister. One we talk about the new women and


children's hospital, we talk about maternity services in Belfast and


neonatal services across the region. It was in the early 1990s that it


became clear that radical change was needed for maternity services,


not only at the Belfast City back at the Royal. Everyone knew that


they were not equipped and the services were split between two


hospitals. In June at the 2003, it was announced that the new deja nor


hospital for women and children will be sited at the Royal. In 2005,


it was announced that funding for the new building, which would lead


to one of the best maternity facilities in the world was


available. So there are a number of questions that go back to that time.


What happened to that funding and where is the state-of-the-art


facility? And as members would recall, there was a pseudomonas


outbreak, or an incident in Londonderry. That led to the issue


of an internal memo on 22nd December when the chief medical


officer at made an announcement. That has been made available to us


and I have read it many times. In my naivety, that document did not


indicate the gravity of the situation that had developed.


Fundamentally, but documents and -- the document did not mention that a


child had died. It should have been in that memo. And although it has


been refuted by the Department, it is inevitable that that memo may


have sat in an in-tray for action after Christmas and that would have


been entirely understandable, but not justified. There is no evidence


that following that alert that there was much action taken.


have to get the systems in place. It is a dreadfully painful lesson


to have to learn for the whole surface and the families, but we


have to put in place a system where we can identify pseudomonas early.


-- health service. We look and expertise from around the world but


will enable us to respond to this quickly. The motion refers to the


recent pseudomonas outbreak. The death of those babies is


devastating. Also, families who have had babies in neonatal units


across Belfast will be concerned. I know that many people felt a lot of


pain and for me personally, it has be the worst experience of my


political life having to deal with this, and having to deal directly


with the families involved. Telling people that their babies died and


perhaps that was a voidable was one of the hardest things I have heard


there had to do and I trust I will never have to do it again -- I have


had to do. We need to have answers as quickly as possible. Mr Alastair


is right in that sometimes inquiries can be put up as


blockages? -- blockages. How long will they last?


How safe are prison officers from attack in their place of work?


lot safer than they used to be, according to the Justice Minister.


He was was asked about a recent assault at Maghaberry. We'll hear


that in a moment, but first here's the Health Minister again,


answering a question on the treatment of eating disorders.


cost is significant when families have to go to go different


jurisdictions. It's not just the cost of the facility, but the


charge on the health service. Family members need to be close to


the location for visits. The cost is extensive and since 2005, �2


million had been invested in the eating disorder services. Since


2010, in patients eating disorders treatment had been provided. There


are specially trained psychiatric staff. This provides a seamless


service. Following on from the previous supplementaries, what is


the situation in terms of the number of referrals in terms of


eating disorders? Given the size of the population in Northern Ireland,


it would be difficult to sustain a specialist unit. And the current


economic climate, it is not money we will tie up directly with the


development of such a unit, but the private sector have expressed


interest and had been in discussions with the health service


as to how many clients they would provide. Individual patients might


benefit from care outside of Northern Ireland, but indications


are that over the last few years, there has been a reduction in


contractual referrals and that trend is expected to continue as we


develop our own local expertise. The future of the causeway hospital


in collaring has been causing concern for MLAs. Well Coleraine


continue to have an accident and emergency provision? In terms of


the causeway hospital, population plans are being looked at through


the trust and the Commission bodies and what is important is that what


is thought to myself is a sustainable model for the future.


The easiest thing for me to do as the minister would be to indicate


that I would not be altering or changing everything in the causeway


hospital. Only for six months, one year, two years down the line for


the whale colleges to withdraw their services, I would rather make


a decision that will allow for a sustainable model for a hospital.


It will include an emergency department within that. I am not


sure whether he or I should be more concerned, but I find myself on the


same pages as the MP for North Antrim Ian Paisley. He says that


the hospital will close. If one of his own MPs finds no reassurance,


why should anyone think otherwise? Well, I note the member quoting


from a certain publication and it does not always give things right,


or of course. As the Member knows, the aforementioned MP the


participate. In highlighting the problem that the European Working


Title States, by not allowing doctors to come into Northern


Ireland who would have previously been allowed in to support services,


I appreciate the fact that the Member of Parliament is putting up


a vigorous campaign on a regular basis. In fact, he tortures me


about it. Justice next, and the minister was questioned about


prison officer safety at Maghaberry. The safety of prison officers is a


priority. Him enough three years be recorded assault has Haft.


Nonetheless, there is no room for complacency. Recently, staff were


able to respond to an manage incident safely and swiftly and no


injuries were sustained. Although assaults on prison staff, nurses


and teachers cannot be tolerated. Tensions are often a fact of life


in a prison setting. On many occasions, staff can use their


training to bring situations to a successful resolution. Whilst 30


other prisoners were in the facility on certain incidents, they


did not join in and some of them actually aided the prison officers.


What assessment is carried out when it comes to the number of staff


ratio to the number of prisoners? They are the 30 prisoners did not


get involved, but if they did, it could have been serious. Given the


Governor of Maghaberry is a minister, can he give assurance


that senior management at Maghaberry can ensure the safety of


the staff but were they? We do have ratios of officers to start on the


landings which are large be comparable with, and in many cases,


higher than more stop poor prisoner than our neighbouring prisons. The


fact that the last three years has seen, despite the increase in a


number of prisoners, the number of incidents like this going down is


an indication of good work being done by prison staff and management


in dynamic security to ensure these incidents do not happen with any


regularity. We heard there about prisoner


numbers going up and with me now is Olwen Lyner of the prisoner welfare


group NIACRO. We've heard repeated calls for a


re-evaluation of business rates, but the Finance Minister has again


I think in terms of looking at rehabilitation, we must look not


just at the Justice Department but a number of departments that should


be helping people when they are coming out of prison. The majority


of people will be coming out and looking for housing in the public


sector. Public sector support. That will affect the housing executive.


Many will have a form of benefits and we meet the Social Security


Agency. They need to be brought to realisation of what life will be


like back in society and the issues they will face. And how they will


integrate into society again in a way that it means the behaviours


that brought them to that place our behaviour is they can work to


reduce. Prism is an important opportunity for people to consider


life choices. -- prison. Some of the debate in recent times has been


a debate between hang a heady and hard a goody. Severe punishments


compared to a liberal view. purpose of prison is to bring


people that have been found to be guilty of some offence to serve a


period in prison. The period of being outside society is a


punishment in itself. After we have taken away their liberty and they


are there for six months, one year or whatever, we must engage with


people to look at what is required when they come back into society


began. I am interested in the term a liberal. It is not easy for


people to face up to their behaviour and make these changes.


What matters is that people come out and that they did not commit


offences again and we do not have people victimised and have more


crime. That is not so much liberal as sensible and a good use of


public money. We are trying to We've heard repeated calls for a


re-evaluation of business rates but the Finance Minister has again said


that won't happen until 2015. I asked Sammy Wilson why that's the


case. I have heard this said, that because the value has gone down,


and therefore be rates should go down. But of course when the Dow


you was going up four and five times in the middle of the boom, it


went up four or five times because that is not the way that it works.


We set a certain amount of money in which to raise it from taxation. If


it goes down, for example, by 50 %, that does not mean the rate will go


down by 50 %. We still want to get the same amount of money from


business rates but it might mean that it would double and equally


the value of properties go up and the amount you pay per pound would


half. If people think this will be a panacea for getting rates down,


it might change relatively for some people and some areas getting an


increase and other areas getting a decrease but it is not going to


solve all of the problems. What about changing the system


altogether with a local sales tax? That would not necessarily be all


that fair. Because you might find that some stores cover a big area


and meet demands on public services, but the value of sales is quite low


and vice versa. And so with every kind of system, we will always have


an upside and downside. A sales tax for example, it will only have, it


can end the be based on declared sales. What about fly-by-night


stalls? Before accounts are published, they are bankrupt and


whatever. That could be a recipe for people that wants to avoid


paying any tax at all. These are the kind of considerations we have


decided and unless the Assembly asks for a total change in how we


did local taxation, we have done a valuation of property and we will


have a where shinned down and that will be done in a way that will be


robust and in place by 2015. Rather than the gaps that we have, we want


to do a five year valuation and an evaluation of property on a regular


basis. But we did not want the turbulence in the market. I think


that is the right decision because we did the way the recession went


and property values went all over the place, we could not have a


proper valuation. Why should government revenues be protected?


Because they are used for the very services on which businesses depend.


Every week, I have got organisations coming and saying


that we would like to spend more money in a revamping town centres


and on infrastructure and protecting businesses, the police


service and so on. People pay for a service. That is why we collect the


Revenue. And if we stop the service is because we did not collect the


Revenue, people could equally say that is having an impact on


Students in Northern Ireland who want to go to university in


Scotland are being told they can qualify for free tuition, as long


as they have an Irish passport. The Ulster Unionist Employment &


Learning spokesperson, Basil McCrea, has called for fairness. He joins


me now. What do you mean by that? It is not fair that you can have


one set of people in Northern Ireland that can go to university


for free and another person 50 ft away that cannot. That is not fair


and it is not equality. everybody can surely apply for an


Irish passport? That is about different value choices people make.


It does seem strange that legislation says not just Irish


passport but Belgian, French or any European Union passport would get a


free education in Scotland. The only people that cannot get it for


free in Scotland are people in Northern Ireland, England or Wales


and that is discriminatory. people can get eat here within


reason if they apply for the Irish passport and gave for a course


where there is not a cap. Discrimination is not right, ever,


under any circumstances. And if you talk about discriminating against


English people in Northern Ireland or Irish people in Scotland, the


whole of Northern Ireland is based on equity and fairness. What is


very strange for me in this debate is that people that shout loudest


about equality are strangely quiet about this. If we want a civilised


society it should be equal for everybody and if it is free for one


person you should be for others. He should charge the same fees for


everybody. But surely the equation is that the students are faced with


a question, even if they are Irish passport holders, they are not sure


if they will get their choice because of the competition. It they


say that they will pay the fees, that is very unfair to put them in


that position. I did not have any problem with people taking an Irish


passport and saying that entitles into that is presumably some form


of Merit and suitability. That seems fair and equitable. But what


seems unfair is that an equally qualified person going for exactly


the same course and the same timescale and place will be charged


money. We do not have any way around that. That is totally unfair


and discriminatory. The DUP and Sinn Fein should be speaking up for


this because they speak up on an awful lot of similar issues.


are we not doing the same thing, we are not offering it for free but


they will have to pay a higher rate than the students here? The idea of


discrimination has broken down because of the fee structure that


is operating. If you offer to one it should be offered to another. I


did not have any problem with a regulatory regime that says that we


think that if we charge more fees we can offer a better course. Or it


people say that we do not want to charge fees because that can


discourage participation. That is valid but what is not is charging


one set of fees to one set of people and another or not charging


another set of people. That is blatant and absolute, no getting


away from it, this is discriminatory. It is not equality


and it shows the paucity of arguments from other parties like


the DUP and Sinn Fein and its his country means anything it is about


being fair. We must realise the trauma in society and we have to


fix that. Looking at Justice, you have just left de Justice Committee


but what do you think the committee and the Assembly must do to make


things better for your organisation in terms of rehabilitation? I think


the projects generally, I think we have got an issue about the justice


committee and continued scrutiny. We need to be moving forward in a


positive direction and the committee provides that scrutiny


and they will continue to do that. But we need the Executive, anyone


minister on their home must have the support of other parties, other


departments, other ministers to make the Executive work at them. We


have to work together -- make the Executive happen. That is something


We talked last week and last night about the lack of business here at


the Assembly. Well, there was a development today as Gareth Gordon


told me earlier. We have not had much action in the chamber for


weeks. We had a situation which is indicative of the fact that we do


not have enough for MLAs to be discussing but the business


committee have communicated concerns to the DUP Minister and


will go back to the Executive to tell us what has been set. I have


been told by that committee that things are looking better and we


have got a much healthier order paper for this month and more


executive business. But at least one MLA said more can be done.


are working on this, that and the other but I would rather they came


clean and told us that and we knew what to expect. By not coming


forward, there appears to be a suspicion that maybe they do not


have something. I would not like to think that but if that is the case


we had better have a review of what they are doing. But we have got


problems for Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness as well. It is


not just today but it has been dominated today here by health


matters and that has been causing concern in the officer of the first


and Deputy First Minister. They have got a trade negotiation to the


United Arab Emirates and India and they are feeling decidedly unwell


and in the past few months it has been bad and I think that we need


to look at that. We have been looking at people being sent to


prison in this way and it does not happen in the UK any more. Does


that deeds to be reviewed? It is really disproportionate. At the


time when the offence is committed and the individual is in court, the


judge determines if that is an offence at once a prison. A much


lesser outcome -- that is warranting prism. That is like


community service and a fine. -- prism. -- jail. People can choose


to go to jail instead of paying.... Some people end up defaulting and


they have owed less than �500. Some of them have them for motoring


offences. In the big picture of who should be going to jail, one a


fence that warrants it, I did not condemn for one second what has


happened but I do not think that is what the majority thinks that prism


Now you may have heard of a dead cat bounce - that's when there's a


temporary recovery on the stock market. We didn't have that today.


What we did have was a finance minister bounce. He wasn't trying


to jump start the economy, but launch a family fun day which will


take place at Stormont next month. And Sammy Wilson wasn't shy when it


1, 2, 3, go! That is better. You see the way I do that? Better milk.


Not very good? What a minister. That is good. And that is on 4th


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.

Download Subtitles