02/07/2012 Stormont Today


02/07/2012

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.


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Transcript


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Good evening and welcome to Stormont Today. We've been kicked

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out of our usual studio in the bowels of Parliament Buildings and

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are coming to you from Broadcasting house. It's nothing personal. Last

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week's weather has played havoc with the Stormont facilities.

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power to Stormont had been cut off on Wednesday evening as a result of

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the problem with the transformer on the estate. Following that, that

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power was off on terms to an Friday and the weekend. Also... The Conor

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Murphy discrimination row spills over to the chamber. In order to

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ensure that the Unionist community believes that in terms of

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ministerial appointments, there will be fair play. There will be no

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upper limit legislation in this society because the manner up as it

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has always been an opposition. return to the Stone Age for a

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debate on archaeology. And we consider the Assembly's performance

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this year with Professor Rick Wilford from Queen's University.

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The heavy rain which brought so much misery last Wednesday also hit

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Stormont's facilities. Earlier, I spoke to the clerk and director

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general of the Assembly about how it was affected. As you will have

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understood from the news, the power had been cut off on Wednesday

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evening as a result of a problem with the transform work on the

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estate and following that, the power was off on Thursday, Friday

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and over the weekend. But staff have been working very hard with in

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a e to get the power restored and it was restored last night and we

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are operating normally again today but in these situations, we have

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got contingency plans and the standby generator cake tin and we

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could operate with a limited level of electricity but normal business

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was maintained. The committees met as normal and business continued.

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Nothing has fallen behind? Indeed not. We have managed through the

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plans and good work of everybody to keep business running and B are in

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a good place. Just the BBC is affected? You might have your own

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problems! Everything has gone extremely well for us. The plans

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have worked well and we have worked well particularly with Northern

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Ireland Electricity who have worked tirelessly over the weekend to get

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things back online. Because of the location, yes, it has been

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inconvenient but in terms of the water damage, you have not

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suffered? Thankfully, we are at the top of the hill and the water has

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gone down below was so the building's lower on the estate have

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suffered but everything is drying up here and our feet are drive.

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exactly a good way to see out the session, but how has the rest of

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the year gone for the Assembly? With me now is Professor Rick

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Wilford of Queen's University. Overall, what Mark would you give

:03:28.:03:38.
:03:38.:03:43.

them? The plus. B plus. They could do better and the Assembly, it

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looks like a scant return to many members of the public and we are

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all familiar with the polls that show that the public holds our

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ministers in relatively low regard. It is an admission that they need

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to up their game. Much of the early part of the year was spent dealing

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with private members' business rather than executive business

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because there was not any. We had to wait for 12 months for the

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programme for government to be approved and the SDLP was supposed

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to be for the programme and they voted against in the chamber and

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that has had the knock-on effect of slowing down legislation so it

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looks that the Assembly chamber has not been particularly busy but the

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committees have, producing 20 reports over the past year. They

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have been beavering away and scrutinising government and what

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little legislation there is but if you think about this in terms of

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what has happened in the Assembly building after the rain, it is now

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underpowered and people would say the Assembly itself is also

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underpowered. He said the committee's have performed well.

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Are there any departments or ministers that stand out?

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really. I don't think anybody has had a stellar performance, but

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there has been steady progress. When you think back, we had this

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agreement among parties to allocate the departments so there was a

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relatively smooth beginning, not as tricky as the first time around,

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but the slowness in getting the programme going, the slowness in

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getting the legislative package together. If you remember the early

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part of the year, the speaker himself was complaining about the

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lack of legislation and on the economy there has been some attempt

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to promote growth in Northern Ireland. The issue has been the

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imbalance between the private and public sector and a lot of parties

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are pinning hopes on the reduction in Corporation Tax but that looks

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as though it is flailing in the water and drowning. That will

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affect any prospect for the economic minister and Arlene Foster,

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who has an opportunity to shine, but she will be hampered as a

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consequence. Thank you. More bad news for customers of the Ulster

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Bank as it emerged late this afternoon that the problems aren't

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going to be solved this week. It is nearly a fortnight since a computer

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breakdown left thousands of customers unable to access their

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accounts. The First Minister, Peter Robinson, was asked about the

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crisis this morning in the Assembly. It is inexplicable to many of us

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how it can take so long to resolve this issue. Also, why it takes

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longer in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Meanwhile, people are

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being refused easy access and in some cases out of the country,

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access at all, to their funds and I do implore the Ulster Bank to put

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the necessary resources in place to get this matter finished within

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hours rather than further days. Later, the Deputy First Minister

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was on his feet taking his last question session today before the

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summer break. Given that Martin McGuinness has hardly been out of

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the news for the past fortnight, he might be grateful for the rest. So

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when he was answering a question on the Commissioner for Public

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Appointments, it wasn't long before the topic switched. The current

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Commissioner is Mr John Keaney, appointed by the First Minister and

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myself and he took up office in 20th August 11. He has the

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important role to play in sustaining public confidence in the

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appointments process by holding ministers and their departments to

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account and he operates independently of government and set

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standards for the department's by publishing a code of practice. He

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got it's the process to check whether his code of practice has

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been followed and he investigates individual complaints and publishes

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its findings in an annual report. The commissioner provides an

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effective, credible external scrutiny role and that is something

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that I am sure everybody welcomes. I thank the Minister. Could he

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outlined what further actions his department might be considering

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after the finding on behalf of Conor Murphy to guard against

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further discrimination on the grounds of religious belief in

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public appointments. I am aware that the fair employment tribunal

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has found against the Department of Regional Development and a case

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involving the appointment of the chair of Northern Ireland Water.

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The Department of Regional Development is currently

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considering the judgment and I'm sure they will wish to consider all

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the options available to them, including an appeal. The judgment

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raises a range of serious issues. The implications on public

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procedures will be fully considered by all concerned and any changes to

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the Commissioner for Public appointments and the code of

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practice arising from this case are a matter for the commissioner.

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Speaker, the day after that handshake last week, the Deputy

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Minister talked about the history of nationalist and a quality. Here

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in Northern Ireland. And there for 40 years of his life he was

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addressing that inequality. A is the inequality on appointments

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recorded last week recorded through Conor Murphy, the change that he

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was talking about then? As someone who comes from a community that has

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been long discriminated against until these institutions were

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formed, it is certainly not in the interests of myself or any body

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associated with me to be involved in discriminating against anyone. I

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understand that as a result of the ruling last week by the Fair

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Employment Tribunal, a number of people associated with it every

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decision was taken at the time and they're considering legal advice.

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At this stage it is too soon to say what the outcome will be. I would

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be very surprised if there isn't a very vigorous challenge to the

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decision. The record did not change when John O'Dowd faced education

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questions. Here is Gregory Campbell... Dos the Minister

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appreciate the difficulty that he has been placed in courtesy of the

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outcome of the tribunal last week in terms of his former colleague,

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Conor Murphy? Does he appreciate the extent he will have to go to to

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ensure that the Unionist committee believes that in terms of

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ministerial appointments, there is going to be fair play from the Sinn

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Fein minister? The Deputy First Minister outlined in detail were

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that case is. Do you want the answer? OK... I will put this to

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the member - if the member had his way, there would be no fair

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employment tribunals because a member has always been imposed --

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opposed to that in legislation and there would be no Equality

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Commission because he was opposed to that and there would be no

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employment legislation in this society whatsoever because the

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member opposite has always been in opposition and has always been in

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opposition to any form of equality being in legislation whatsoever.

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That is where we would be if the member opposite had his way, so no

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member of the public, no member of this assembly or anybody else will

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be aware of the appointment process to my department or any other

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department but I will assure the member this - I share the views of

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the Deputy First Minister and I don't think there is a sector in

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bone in Conor Murphy his body. Mr McCartney? -- sectarian bone.

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raibh maith agat. Thank you very much. Can I thank the Minister for

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his answer. It seems that some members have long memories

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stretching back to me 2007 and I wonder if the Minister has any

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opinion on the comparative figures under direct rule or under Jim

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Allister and perhaps Gregory Campbell's old Stormont regime?

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record shows that any attempt to introduce fair employment and

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equality legislation in the society has been opposed by the two

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gentlemen who have previously questioned me regarding this matter.

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It is quite clear that they would be happy to return to a one-party

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state which failed not only the Catholic community but the

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Protestant community on the island of violent and we haven't place now,

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despite the continued opposition, a much more equal society and I can

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assure everyone in this house that I am none of my ministerial

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colleagues will apply to the rigour of the law. --. Aghadrum, Bannagh

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Beg, Ballysooragh. All townlands in County Fermanagh. And residents of

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that county are appealing to the Environment Minister to protect

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townland names. A petition of 6,000 signatures was presented to the

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Townlands in a tractor and green Norman tie-ins. They were there

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before parishes and counties came into existence. The first instance

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can be found before the 12th century, but it was believed many

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where in existence for at more than a thousand years. They're not

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against changed but the what a robust system which incorporates

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postcodes, house numbers and effective postal delivery.

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Ministers will be making a historical decision. After

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thousands of years, he can legitimise of Fermat townlands as a

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legal address. How the law deals with young people

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is a sensitive subject and one which has seen angry exchanges in

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the chamber. The justice minister David Ford is backing the findings

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of a report which has called for, among other things, changes to the

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age of criminal responsibility. But the issue is a red rag to the bull

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that is the justice committee chair. I can't recall when this was

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initially announced, you Lamb bustard quite a few people are

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about the age of criminal responsibility, those people were

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deflecting away from a lot of other issues which people would say was

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more important. Yet, it is still in this document and I think it is

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clear in their DUP position on this matter. Why continue to push this

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agenda which will, in my view, detract from a lot of the other

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recommendations which people are willing to engage with? The issue

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around that is how we handle recommendations from the review

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which were overwhelmingly supported by those who responded. It is

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almost like the first. You raised about the age limit - most people

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winter woodlands rather than high Bank. We have in reality their tiny

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number of offenders end that the 10 plus age group been tell -- being

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dealt with by methods other than criminal sanctions. Should we say

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it they should be enshrined as a statutory arrangement? I see the

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benefit of statute recognising that we are not by a large applying the

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full criminal sanctions to very young offenders. We deal with them

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through care. All of the criminal justice agencies are extremely

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reluctant, to give someone a criminal record below age of 18,

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therefore why increase this age limits. In the face of growing the

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young people who feel they are immune from the potential

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prosecution that can come, you remove that threat and I asked

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myself or where we going when we have some young people who have no

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fear or at all of the criminal justice system. In your view, this

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may be a view of as being progressive as a society and

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recognising the rights of children and all of that, whenever I think

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for a lot of people, they think we have moved too far with a hands-off

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approach and young people do not respect the laws. The vast majority

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do but there is a big number who do not and people think society have

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gone too far to trying to beat what she would characterise as a

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progressive society and that is why we should make this change. -- to

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be what you would describe. We are talking about a recommendation to

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increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to

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12. We can agree there is a big difference between 10 and 11-year-

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old and 16 year olds. You mention the surveys earlier, did the floods

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in some way show up the cracks in the system? I think it probably

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dent because most people are crying out and one's heart goes out to the

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people who have been suffering. The Executive could announce an major

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infrastructure project to tackle the source of the problem rather

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than offer people �1,000 each as a salve and sticking plaster. That

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represents the tough financial Executive -- tub financial

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constraints the Executive exercises under. Do you see a point in the

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future, Sinn Fein are calling for greater fiscal powers, do you see a

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point in the future where we will have some other way of raising

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revenue? I think so. The obvious issue is the introduction of water

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charging. There are ways of doing it which her sensitive to

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relatively deprived circumstances. In terms of greater fiscal autonomy

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for Northern Ireland, last week has seen that take a step backwards

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over the issue of corporation tax. All political parties agreed but it

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has been bounced back to the Treasury and the Treasury shows no

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appetite to devolve that to Northern Ireland.

:19:26.:19:29.

The early years strategy for children aged up to six came back

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to the chamber this afternoon having been discussed by the

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education committee. But there was some bad behaviour by two members

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who should have known better. Here's the minister John O'Dowd.

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Enough time has been spent debating the issues, the time has come to

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decide the strategic approach. It is vital we continue to build on

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the positive actions we are undertaking. In May announced

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additional funding of the 13 million for early years service.

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This will expand services to 25 % most disadvantaged awards in the

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north. It will increase in the availability of pre-school places

:20:10.:20:20.

and close the gap in funding. This will mean that my department's

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investments in early years service it is 84 million which compares

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with 73 million when the strategy was launched. How does the Minister

:20:30.:20:34.

propose to measure the success of his strategy, will there be

:20:34.:20:39.

specific targets at varying stages or will we have to wait until a

:20:39.:20:45.

child reaches the end of their education to find how successful it

:20:45.:20:51.

has been? I suppose the ultimate test of how successful the strategy

:20:51.:20:58.

will be when the child reaches young adult to it. We are involved

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in many programmes currently which may take 10 to 15 years to know the

:21:03.:21:12.

outcome. We are working on an evidence based programme which I

:21:12.:21:17.

believe this fast. My feeling at the moment is we get the strategy

:21:17.:21:21.

and I will build in measures and out comes within that and report

:21:22.:21:26.

back to the Assembly. Let us get the strategy down on paper and move

:21:26.:21:33.

on with fat. I refer to the Minister's statement and it would

:21:33.:21:37.

appear that we are now here in response to the consultations two

:21:37.:21:43.

years on. Does the Minister agree this is shambolic and appalling,

:21:43.:21:49.

was the a strategy to begin meths? How did he and his predecessor get

:21:50.:21:55.

this strategy so wrong up in the first place? Can he could so meet

:21:55.:22:02.

on the bones of the action plan? waited the response of the SDLP in

:22:02.:22:07.

the coming months. No doubt they have a strategy sitting waiting to

:22:07.:22:14.

be wheeled out into the public domain. Listen to their member's

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answer, they know how it should be done so I will listen to the SDLP.

:22:23.:22:28.

Order please. Could I ask people to address their marks through the

:22:28.:22:34.

chair. I was studying their early years strategy and will use those

:22:34.:22:39.

elements which are workable. Historical artefacts were under

:22:39.:22:42.

discussion after it emerged that nearly one and a half million of

:22:42.:22:45.

them have not been passed onto local museums by the commercial

:22:45.:22:48.

companies that have found them. The Northern Ireland Archaeology Forum

:22:48.:22:50.

is pushing for more joined up thinking between the departments of

:22:50.:23:00.
:23:00.:23:01.

culture and environment. This debate for archaeologists and for

:23:01.:23:05.

their heritage sector in Northern Ireland is massive. We believe they

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are currently about 1.7 million artifacts held in private companies

:23:12.:23:18.

across Northern Ireland. This is the fruit of results of well over

:23:18.:23:25.

thousands of licence are Kiddish -- excavations. The material is all

:23:25.:23:33.

that is left of the sites being excavated before those sites which

:23:34.:23:38.

have planning permission. The problem we have is there is no easy

:23:38.:23:42.

manoeuvre for this material to leave those country -- those

:23:43.:23:47.

companies who extracted things and put them into at museum or another

:23:47.:23:54.

accredited body. How interesting are some of these artefacts?

:23:54.:23:58.

the artefacts are interesting weather Ritter's stone things from

:23:58.:24:04.

a prehistoric past, right through to material from industrial

:24:04.:24:11.

heritage sites. It can range from pieces of pottery right through to

:24:11.:24:18.

the objects that we see in museum collections in boxes, you will find

:24:18.:24:26.

objects of gold or occasionally, high-status items. This material

:24:26.:24:31.

reflects the everyday objects that people had write a throughout her

:24:31.:24:36.

cultural past. Who would benefit from seeing it? I think the public

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would benefit from seeing it. There is a lust opportunity here. If we

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estimate the size of the Op material that is out there,

:24:50.:24:54.

researchers would have fantastic benefit from having access to this,

:24:54.:25:01.

helping us discover more about our cultural past. Put it into

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perspective for us about the quantities involved. The know that

:25:07.:25:14.

in 2007, the National Museums estimated that there are probably

:25:14.:25:21.

around 320,000 artifacts or objects classified as archaeological. If we

:25:21.:25:27.

look today at how much material is sitting in company hands, as a

:25:28.:25:31.

result of development led excavations, that is four times the

:25:31.:25:34.

amount of material which is currently held in museum

:25:34.:25:41.

collections. What would you like to see the ministers do? We would like

:25:41.:25:45.

them to be able to see whose responsibility this is to solve the

:25:45.:25:51.

problem. It is not a problem which can be sold by one department on my.

:25:51.:25:58.

The Minister for the Environment, they have the responsibility for

:25:58.:26:04.

protection of the monuments. Where they give licence permission to do

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excavations, then of course when the material is out of the ground,

:26:10.:26:14.

this is where the gap seems to happen. Museums would ideally be

:26:14.:26:20.

the repository. But at the moment there is nothing in a legislative

:26:20.:26:24.

framework which allows that framework to pass to them.

:26:24.:26:27.

Evicted from Stormont, our political team have spent the day

:26:27.:26:30.

like fish out of water here at Broadcasting house. I managed to

:26:30.:26:34.

pin down Gareth Gordon, who's definitely not in Kansas anymore.

:26:34.:26:41.

For reasons which have already been explained, we are doing Stormont

:26:41.:26:46.

sedate in Broadcasting House. We're not at Stormont but we have not

:26:46.:26:50.

missed a second of the action. there was plenty of action to watch

:26:50.:27:00.
:27:00.:27:00.

today. When approaching the end of term, any means winding down. At

:27:00.:27:05.

Stormont it is the opposite. There has not been enough business for a

:27:05.:27:09.

MLAs to do in the last few weeks. There had been a lot of early

:27:09.:27:17.

finishes. This week it is completely the opposite. A lot of

:27:17.:27:24.

end of term cramming going on. Lots of the sense been tied up. A very

:27:24.:27:28.

long day today with lots of ministerial statements. Tomorrow

:27:28.:27:37.

looks like being even longer. No lunch break. We have our fair share

:27:37.:27:42.

of bizarre events that parliament buildings and we had won today.

:27:42.:27:48.

That's right. Stormont had a visit from one of the most successful

:27:48.:27:54.

Irish teams of recent times. That is the team which represented

:27:54.:28:00.

Ireland in the Cup stacking competition. It is a recognised

:28:00.:28:06.

sport. The committee invited the team to Stormont and we had an

:28:06.:28:11.

exhibition of Cup stacking. Some committee members even had a go.

:28:11.:28:17.

They should have left it to the professionals. The Irish team

:28:17.:28:27.
:28:27.:28:29.

amassed 32 medals. Wreck looking ahead to the next session. One of

:28:29.:28:33.

their it big thing it is reducing the size of Stormont, you have had

:28:33.:28:39.

you say, what do you think you will do for the Assembly? They have got

:28:39.:28:45.

to seize the nettle on this one. They have to reduce to a least 96,

:28:45.:28:50.

given that there will be 16 constituencies. I think they should

:28:50.:28:56.

go further and reduced to 80. One thing I had been concerned about is

:28:56.:28:59.

the fact that the members of the committee had been looking at this

:28:59.:29:03.

issue and they had been party animals rather than committee

:29:03.:29:07.

creatures because they have deferred to their respective party

:29:07.:29:12.

leaders to make the decisions on both issues. That is a failure of

:29:12.:29:16.

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.


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