01/07/2014 Stormont Today


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

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As the Assembly once again discusses parades, the focus narrows in


Returning home on the Twelfth night along the main Crumlin Road to their


starting point at Ligoniel. Is it too much to ask?


Edwin Poots criticises the Belfast Health Trust over the


Management of the flow of patients, in the Royal Victoria Hospital and


across the Trust as a whole, could have been handled better. I am very


disappointed by the Trust's apparent inability to identify and


plan for those anticipated pressures.


And I'm joined by Steven McCaffery, editor of the news website


It was the last scheduled sitting of the Assembly today and,


perhaps fittingly, proceedings were dominated by a continuing point


of contention - parades, protests and how to police them.


The Ulster Unionist motion called for everyone involved to show


"respect, restraint and tolerance", but in


And once again the ongoing stand-off at Twaddell Avenue was


It is unfortunate that during the multiparty talks that we could not


find agreement on the issue of parades and related protests. I


suppose we came reasonably close to an overarching agreement. But even


if we did it was not going to deal with a number of those contentious


parades. That is a major difficulty that we will have even if we do find


that resolution we are looking for. I do hope that these words will see


positive actions to follow. We have seen on a number of occasions


statements put forward by the executive and this assembly and that


actions following that have not met the high standards of the statement


put forward. We have seen members of the opposing party, the Ulster


Unionist party, put up tension by telling international mediators to


go home. When their party leader was in negotiation with that


international mediator around these difficult issues. I was part of a


joint delegation to the Parades Commission. When the chair said in


relation to Ardoyne, I quote, there is absolute rejection from what we


have heard from all nationalist parties to an evening parade. So


accommodation, shared space, shared future, tolerance and respect, there


is not any. There is absolute rejection from all sides. This is


not an issue that only cropped up in the past number of years, it is not


something conjured up by Gerry Adams or Jerry Kelly. It has been going on


for hundreds of years. It is part of our history. Going back to the


1800s, the early 20th century, there have always been issues around


parades and they have not been resolved. In the times we are living


in, in the debate that we are having, does it not come down to


this. Clever people in every party are prepared to say today that


whatever happens in the next two weeks, that they themselves as


parties and that they will advise people wherever it might be in


Northern Ireland to accept the decision of the Parades Commission.


Three small lodges and one band returning home on the Twelfth Night


along the main Crumlin Road to their starting point at Ligoniel. Is it


too much to ask? Is there sufficient respect, restraint and tolerance on


that side of the chamber to allow them to do that? They may vote for a


motion that speaks about these things, but the reality is there is


no respect and there is no tolerance.


I think it is late in the day, this is already the 1st of July. The


Richard Haass talks are over six months. We have had a period of


party leader discussions on and off for the last several weeks. So


tomorrow dolls commence a set of negotiations, none of us know where


they will go. Certainly from our party 's point of view are committed


to making sure they're successful and we do conclude on the business


laid out by the Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan final paper.


Sinn Fein as the party are those who demand shared government. But not


repaired to share the public road. -- prepared. The audacity to say, we


demand as of right to share in government, but we will not


tolerate, permit, allow, the sharing of public space.


Steven McCaffery joins me in the studio.


Steven, it did seem an odd time to be debating the parading issue,


It was one day that created the impression that Stormont is


sometimes in a bubble. But more positively at least the motion was


aimed at sending out a positive message. And the debate itself was


calm except that the DUP representatives from North Belfast


came maybe more agitated than the others. But there and sit in the art


in the eye of the storm. Dashed their constituencies. We have had a


debate about parades involving politicians that did not deal in any


detail with the data that exists showing there are more parades than


ever before. We have reported on this for three years. Over 95% go


ahead with no restriction whatsoever. And further research


from Queens extended that vision even further to show that wider


loyalist culture is enjoying something of a golden age. That does


not seem to impact on the temperature of the politics around


this issue. Not necessarily help people from that community would


interpret things. That is the disconnect. Parades being discussed


by the five parties tomorrow in this pick-up from the Richard Haass


talks. You any optimism of a kind of resolution? Given that since the


talks themselves collapsed at the start of the year, we have had


nothing but critical recrimination and infighting on all kinds of


issues. The climate could not be worse. I do not know anyone who has


expectations. And parades is the example of where the reality does


not match the perception. And the realities of these issues does not


impact on the political dynamic. The first and deputy first ministers


will not even be at the first day of the talks. Important meetings are


taking place in London on that day but it will give the impression that


the talks will begin with a whimper instead of a bang. The Sinn Fein


delegation meeting the Prime Minister in Downing Street tomorrow.


The first time they have met David Cameron in that way since he took


office. Yes, it is incredible and the funny element is that that


conversation is likely to be dominated by the fact that the Prime


Minister has a close relationship with the DUP. It will be one of the


more interesting ones perhaps, what made come out of the talks that day.


And there is another meeting to discuss the Northern Ireland


economic pact. Well you might save this is important mood music to help


the talks. If you were more suspicious you might say it is


choreography to give the impression of action when there is not any.


It was a busy day for the Health Minister.


In his first appearance before the house, Edwin Poots criticised


the Belfast Health Trust for its management of patients, particularly


prior to the declaration of a major incident in January.


His comments followed the publication of a review by the


Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority into unscheduled care


The RQIA has identified planning and systems failures by the Belfast


trust in the period leading up to be inserted in January. Management of


the flow of patients in the Royal Victoria Hospital and across the


trust could have been handled better. I'm disappointed at the


apparent inability of the trust to identify and plan for these


anticipated pressures. I am contacting the chairs and acting


chief executives of the Belfast trust and health and social chair


board to ask them to account for these systems failures. I required


their assurance that they have learnt lessons from the findings of


RQIA and are taking steps to prevent this happening in the future. RQIA


has made a number of recommendations for concerted actions across the


region to improve the delivery of unscheduled care. I believe the


floor to secure improvements in the delivery of unscheduled care, then a


reasonable approach is essential. -- regional. I am announcing my


decision to establish a regional task group to take forward the


recommendations under the leadership of my department?s Chief medical


Officer Doctor Michael McBride and the chief nursing officer who will


co-chair the task group. I want to see results and have set the clear


aim for the task group of eliminating all avoidable 12 are


waiting time breaches from this winter onwards. And over the next 18


months make significant process towards achieving the four hours


waiting time standard. The findings are back in the five years covered,


83 serious adverse incidents were recorded. Of those 48 involved death


of a patient. 13 of those identified some element of delay in aspect of


their care. Delays arose from a range of reasons. Including issues


around the triage process, a misdiagnosis, the accurate and


timely communication of information and the speed with which medications


or treatments were delivered. It is impossible to definitively say to


what extent any delay has contributed to any death. It is


clear that RQIA have identified that there were planning and systems


failures by the Belfast trust. But what is quite stark in the


Minister?s statement is his comment that I am very disappointed by the


trust?s apparent inability to identify and plan for these


anticipated pressures. Can the Minister therefore give this


house and insight as to first of all what were the systems failings and


indeed what recommendations will be progressed and also, if he would go


as far as to comment on the response from the ombudsman this morning


around high levels of dissatisfaction with the complaints


processes within the health trusts. I think it is important that we


ensured that when we are dealing with complaints coming in from the


public, but they are dealt with in a very clear and consistent way. Some


trusts perform better in terms of managing complaints than others and


I have experienced that myself. Therefore I would like a greater


level of consistency applied throughout the trusts in terms of


their response to complaints. There was no let up for the


Health Minister. During Question Time,


he was asked about the impact that failing to reach an agreement


on cuts to the welfare system was Mr Poots began


by outlining the savings he planned to make in order to accommodate


his department's share of the Some ?160 -- million pounds of


additional resources are estimated to be required to balance the


books. The deficit remains in spite of my commitment to deliver some


?170 million of savings. I have requested further resources in the


June monitoring round and is not forthcoming the executive will


effectively agreed to a number of serious implications such as pay


constraints on hard-working staff, reducing the standard of services


offered and the addition of dashed the introduction of additional


charges. Longer waiting times for scheduled care. I have not and will


not take actions by myself that will have an impact on front line care


for patients and clients. And I will not plan for cuts in vital health


and social care services to pay for the current refusal of some members


of this house to take the necessary decisions in relation to welfare


reform. To do nothing is not an option. The failure to agree welfare


reform is unforgivable and as financial penalties are imposed by


the Treasury there are surely better directed at meeting the real and


pressing health and social care needs of some of the most vulnerable


people in our society. Hit in the present financial year. If the


welfare reform issue is not settled soon, what are the indications for


future budgets of this department if we have to pay penalties to


Westminster because of our inability to deal with this issue? Every


departure and will feel the pinch. Dyas the


departure and will feel the pinch. Dyas the minister if we would be


better served not following his campaigns Aleem Maqbool ideological


campaigns on welfare reform... The rough finds which have not even been


implemented by the executive yet. Irony despair at the lack of


knowledge demonstrated by the member who has just spoken. Order, order.


The fact that members will close their eyes. You take your decision,


stand by it. Come to this house and say, we believe that we are better


spending this money on welfare than on health. Stand up and say it. Do


not be a coward. People need to be very clear that money is being taken


from the Northern Ireland budget. The consequence of that money being


taken is impacting health and education and justice. And the


members opposite are the people who are doing it. Would this argument is


not have greater weight and credibility in the wider public mind


if he was able to demonstrate some measure of ability in transforming


his care plan against the 1999 targets so that people would


understand not just that he needs the money but where the money is


going? The SDLP's Fearghal McKinney.


Steven McCaffery from the Detail is still with me.


Steven, thank you. Welfare reform seems to be the goal


to defence for any DUP Minister? It seems like the argument really


involved the DUP and Sinn Fein but I'd think that today's debate, it


was obvious that the STL P was launching in on this idea that the


DUP are using it as a blanket defence in health at least. I


thought eye detected a little bit of annoyance on the part of the


minister when that was put to him. Do you have any sense that this is


an issue which is nearing some kind of resolution or is it as


intractable now as it was six months or a year ago. The same reasons that


lead to it being blocked are still in place so it is hard to imagine


that it will be blocked. Given that Sinn Fein are talking about some


kind of movement if and when the government is replaced next year in


London, that would suggest that we are in for a long haul and not a


short solution. There has to be some sort of resolution. It cannot drift


for ever with the current state of play. There has to be ultimately


some kind of compromise. We have been in this position on other


issues at Stormont, issues that have gone on for quite some time and have


involved important issues. Irony think that the parties reluctance to


accept the reform are digging in their heels. It will be interesting


to follow. The damning report into A here in Belfast that we reported


on a few minutes ago, the Health Minister is clearly not happy with


the performance of the Belfast trust. Yes. His defence was to go on


the attack. That was something that did not wash with the Ulster


Unionists. They accused him of spinning the figures away from the


wider problems. But that is a row that is also not going away any time


soon. Thank you indeed. Steven, thank you.


Yet another health related story, and MLAs today called for the


setting up of a biomedical research centre in Northern Ireland.


Members also asked the Health Minister


for more cancer research and greater access to experimental drugs for


those suffering with the disease. The SDLP's Fearghal McKinney


brought the motion to the house. We can approach this issue from a


number of different angles but we will not achieve the full ambition


and -- unless we see this as a journey which will affect them all


equally. Cancer patients benefiting from diagnostic treatments, drugs


developed here and trials here through well-paid jobs which are


based here, bringing income which they see. A global centre of


excellence. We need to do more to see the development of a world-class


centre of excellence in cancer research and the development of


drugs here in Northern Ireland. In relation to cancer drugs, there is a


real need for access to the 38 drugs are available in the rest of the UK.


There is a strong lobby out there for such treatments and I know the


Minister has a lot of sympathy for the provision of such drugs. Whilst


there are significant of elements that I have alluded to, in terms of


research and treatment, as the proposers of the motion, we rightly


state that we have equality issues when it comes to access to the type


of drugs that are required. And it is very clear to us all that access


to drugs and treatment should not be by dint of postcode. How do we


develop a dedicated cancer drug fund for liberally funding those of very


high cost drugs, sometimes experimental drugs that are very


expensive. I think that is something I've wanted to see people across


Northern Ireland having access to. And I think that is vital that they


have access to them. I want to see that. We are lagging behind the rest


of the country in that and that is something that this assembly should


be aiming to put right. One of the members said he wanted equality with


England. England charge ?8 a head for prescriptions. I am not


proposing we do that. I want to do something less. The member said, and


that will take an intervention. But does he want an ?8 prescription


charge? I want to do something considerably less. Ten years ago, I


was diagnosed with cancer and given the treatment. I was given the right


drugs. Are you really saying no to people like me today?


The Justice Minister, David Ford, also faced questions today


and he was asked to introduce legislation aimed at compelling


former RUC officers to give evidence in Troubles-related cases.


The SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley raised the matter, referring to the recent


Police Ombudsman's investigation into the murder of RUC Constable


Can ask the minister a question regarding the police ombudsman's


report into the matter of Sergeant Joe Campbell of the RUC? Is the


minister concerned that attempts to frustrate the ombudsman's


investigation through the symptomatic destruction of evidence?


I need to be very careful, especially as Sergeant Campbell was


murdered long before I came to office and under very different


circumstances. That is exactly the first thing high would wish to


save. I will record my sympathy for Sergeant Campbell's family because


of this publicity. It would be a matter of concern that if evidence


was destroyed as part of any investigation. There are other


factors about witnesses. I wonder if there is division in this house


about these issues. On that point, with the Minister agree that there


is a need for legislation to ensure that retired members of the RUC


cooperate with the ombudsman's investigations? Well, I have a paper


before the executive looking at the issue of a number of matters


relating to the ombudsman's work, including the compatibility of


retired police officers. It is clear that there is no political consensus


and it is unlikely that legislation would pass the house, but I can see


why members of families like the Campbell family would mesh the lack


-- would wish to see compelling ability. We have the knowledge that


if we go back that far there might be no valid evidence forthcoming in


such circumstances but it is understandable why people would wish


to explore that. Can ask the minister if he agrees that the only


way to avoid the criminal justice issues that have come out of these


controversial parades are the only way to deal with that is for people


to get around the table in the same way that happened in Derry, and top


out the issue, to ensure that we can have respect and tolerance across? I


am happy to agree, between an MLA from foil in the speakers chair and


one asking the question, there are definitely was the examples of


instances where people from Derry and Londonderry have got together to


deal with the issues. To get that kind of mood into certain areas of


Belfast is lacking at I hope that the leadership in this house would


provide some of that joining up. How do you respond to criticism,


Minister, levelled against your department by sinister is for


solicitors for the most senior coroner that the access to legacy


issues is an enormous embarrassment to the state? As I said to other


members of this house, it is absolutely clear that there are


fundamental issues of resources. Issues like obtaining all the


necessary information for inquests are enormously complex and demanding


of time. Skilled personnel, of whom there are a limited number, are also


in demand. There have been difficulties encountered in doing


that. That has never been denied. What is at issue is to ensure that


we provide the system in as joined up a way as possible. That would


best be done if we can agree on some of these outstanding issues and find


ways that we could collectively deal with them without using the existing


inquest system to deal with legacy matters which are more complex.


The Enterprise Minister announced that an updated tourism strategy is


to be developed following a review of the Northern Ireland Tourist


Board which is to have its name changed.


Arlene Foster explained that the executive summary of the report


highlights ten key recommendations including a review of the skills


needs of the tourism sector, and greater collaboration between the


The chairman of the Enterprise Committee questioned the updated


Note that in the tourism strategy, the consultation document referred


to the executive, which should publish an up updated strategy for


tourism. Given that this came before the assembly in 2010 and then


disappeared into the black hole of the executive, does the Minister


rate any higher the chances for success of a fresh strategy for


tourism? I thank the member for those points. In relation to the


tourism strategy, he is right to say that the last strategy, which was


actually brought about after an industry lead panel brought forward


recommendations, we brought that aura to the executive.


Unfortunately, that was just before the assembly elections and it never


came back out again. Therefore, the reviewer has indicated that we need


an updated tourism strategy. I have to say that the fact that we have


not had an officially endorsed tourism strategy has not prevented


the tourism industry from growing and I'd pay tribute to the way the


tourism industry has continued to grow during that important year of


2012. It will be an updated tragedy taking into account the fact that


business tourism has grown, particularly in and around Belfast.


Mr Hunter points to the success of visit Belfast in that regard. It


will also take into account the whole experience, and the five


pillars he talks about. Those need to be reflected in the updated


strategy. Finally, the review of public administration will have to


be factored into any tourism strategy because rules and


responsibilities have changed in that regard.


The Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster.


Do join me for The View on Thursday at 10.35 on BBC1.


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers 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.