02/10/2012 Stormont Today


02/10/2012

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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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up: Do the Alliance Party

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and the Ulster Unionists make a mistake when deciding to leave the

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Cohesion, Sharing and Integration working group? The Deputy First

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Minister certainly thinks so. important that the Alliance Party

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step out of those important discussions. It is better... They

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might admit they made a mistake. And a bit of advice for a troubled

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Ulster Unionist Party as well. Ulster Unionist Party themselves

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need to be involved in a process of Cohesion, Sharing and Integration,

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considering what we have heard in the last couple of days. Plus

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accusations of a big following an urgent oral question. There appears

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to be a bleak in regards confidential... Order, please.

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regards confidential material from We kick off today with questions to

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the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. He was asked about

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perfect -- public confidence a relating to appointments to the

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Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation board. But first he

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updated the Assembly on the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration

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strategy and confirmed he expects a report from the working group

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within the next few weeks. First Minister and I are committed to

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improving community relations. Breaking forward a robust community

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relations strategy with a clear framework for action. We very much

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recognise the importance of translating the Executive's

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commitment to clear, meaningful action, and we have asked the

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cross-party working group to conclude its work as a matter of

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Would he not accept that the actions of himself as Deputy First

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Minister and, indeed, another minister from his party, are not

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doing anything to help build community relationships and this

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needs to be addressed to --? Are I am an Irish republican. All of the

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commemorations that I attend receive clearance from both the

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police and the Police Commission. I am only interested in attending

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commemorations which are within the law. It is absolutely vital on all

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of us within this House to recognise that we have to abide by

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the rule of law and I also state people need to abide by the

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determinations of the Parades Commission. Can I ask the first

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minister where there any new framework for dealing with parades

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and protests will be included in the forthcoming strategy? It was

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very unfortunate that the Alliance Party, which mostly in its

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contributions to this Assembly, and the workings of the Assembly, has

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shown itself to be very reflective. It was very important that the

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Alliance Party stepped out of those important discussions. I think with

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the benefit of hindsight they might admit they made a mistake. I want

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to pay tribute to those representatives from my own party,

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from the Democratic Unionist Party and from the SDLP who have stayed

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with it. Up until the point where the Alliance Party stepped out, and

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incomprehensibly to me, the Ulster Unionists stepped out also, and

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importing significant progress had been made. Even since the

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Department of the Ulster Unionists and the Alliance Party, more

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progress has been made and all of these issues that have proved

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themselves to be difficult in the past have shown themselves during

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the course of these discussions to be capable of resolution. I said it

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was incomprehensible of the Ulster Unionist Party to step out. They

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themselves need to be involved in a crisis of cohesion, sharing and

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integration, up from what we have heard. Would he have made it that

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process surrounding the board has been damaged somewhat? -- would he

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admit. I wonder what steps he would have in mind to try to address this

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issue. I wonder how people are making an assessment of where

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public confidence actually lies. I think people are hugely heartened

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by the fact that the First Minister and myself had the ability to put

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in place Development Corporation which is truly reflective of our

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entire mint -- our entire community. People to have the ability to take

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forward what is probably the prime development site on this island and

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we have had huge important development with the announcement

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from Europe of �20 million for the first building complete

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transformation centre. And also the decision by the Ulster Royal

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Agricultural Society to construct a building so that it can be up and

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running for 2013. All of that represents tremendous progress. I

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also think that there has been some debate in the cause of recent times

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about the people who were appointed to the board. The people who were

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appointed to the board of people who have the confidence of the vows

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and myself. They are people who have been appointed because of

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their expertise and people who we believe will take forward our

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objectives of ensuring that the economic and historic and

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reconciliation potential of that site can be used for the benefit of

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all our people. After the news that more than 150

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people will lose their jobs at the troubled sports retailer JJB Sports,

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and urgent or will question was put to the employment minister, Stephen

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Farry, asking him what protection is in place for employees here

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whose jobs are going. My officials have made contact with

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the administrator, KPMG, primarily due offered to support the

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employees made redundant. KPMG has advised three stores in Antrim and

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other places have been sold to sports direct, retaining 65 jobs.

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Of the employees from the ten stores elsewhere, 154 employees

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have been made redundant immediately. Ten employees are

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currently existing the administrator with the closure of

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the stores. KPMG is writing to each redundant employee tomorrow and has

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agreed to include details of the redundancy advice service. My

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officials will subsequently gauge the interests from the employees

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and will organise redundancy clinics on a reasonable basis if

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necessary. Employees will have a tenant package of professional

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advice about the options and support available. Can ask whether

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he is satisfied that the redundancy advice service he has mentioned is

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fit for purpose and whether I he feels it may need tailored to suit

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the needs of people who have found themselves recently out of work.

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do think my service is certainly fit for purpose, although it is

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coming under considerable pressure at the moment as we have had a

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number of redundancies and there is pressure on the staff. Our staff

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are rising to that challenge and recognise the importance of what

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they're doing. I think the real importance of moving this forward

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is trying to work with the employees who find themselves in

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this situation, to have the skills properly recognise and putting them

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in contact with all the job opportunities that may be there in

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the retail sector. Another minister who knows all

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about the impact of the recession is the finance minister. In

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Question Time, Sammy Wilson was quizzed about corporation tax and

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the Treasury negotiations. But here he is first answering a question

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about unpaid rates. At the end of the financial year 2011 to 2012,

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the debt was �160.8 million. These figure includes rating of empty

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homes, which is subject to audit. Those figures he has supplied a

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quite startling. Does he have any new initiative to ensure that rates

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are paid, bearing in mind that many ratepayers, in particular in the

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retail sector, are struggling at this particular time and they do

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feel very discouraged when they discover that others are not

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paying? Where people I did not pay, refused to pay or have shown over a

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period of time they are not going to abide by those arrangements, we

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will go for court action and lastly, if we have to, we will take people

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to the point of bankruptcy. When the minister engaged at the start

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of July, we were assured that the redress system would be put in

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place within a few days. Can he applied to the house why it took so

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long for the Ulster Bank compensation scheme to be put in

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place and whether a measly �20 was a little too late? These have to be

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worked out with the fact will services authority. I do not know

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whether they have queries or whether Ulster Bank was slow in

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bringing the proposals forward. Ultimately, I know some customers

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are disappointed. Ulster Bank make this point -- I make his point to

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them, that the longer they delayed, the longer the saw was going to

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agitate and the more the sort agitated, the angry at the

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customers were going to get and they would alter money pay the

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place for that. Considering the devolution of responsibility for

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corporation tax, it is now in my opinion entering a critical stage

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of investigations. I remain concerned about the cost currently

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proposed by Treasury officials which I believe his expensive. The

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working group is due to meet again on 18th October with a due to

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resolving outstanding issues and after that, I believe it will be

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down to a political decision involving the Prime Minister,

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Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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Next to an Alliance mission looking at the problem small and medium-

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sized businesses have been accessing bank lending. The party

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wants the Executive to make sure companies are aware of other

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sources of finance available be on the banks.

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We have a range of established SMA is a big potential, yet this

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potential and enthusiasm is not always matched by its financial

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backing. Yes, we have a small population but it should not

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confine our growth or long-term objectives. Key to any progress

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will be measurable finance available to nurture and grow our

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private sector from the bottom up. Therefore, I am seeking to

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highlight where exactly are Executive can use its influence to

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ensure that our businesses are connected officially to finance

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sources. I think it is quite clear. In terms of opinions of how the

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banks in particular have behaved, regardless of what your

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interpretation of their behaviour is, but they are certainly stifling,

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if not suffocating, many businesses, in terms of their actions. We need

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a satisfactory resolution for corporation tax. It could create 50

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to 60,000 jobs for Northern Ireland. It will assist small and medium-

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sized businesses to access the export market. We need to ensure

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young people have the skills and education to compete. We need to

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encourage people to save. We need more funds, more of our own fans in

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global markets. That is the long and short of it. Export and export-

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led growth is the one instrument that could well lead us out of

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I have returned from a visit to San Francisco to boost trade and

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investment links. If I was incurred a stand to open a new Office. Are

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there in April, the Deputy First Minister and myself were in the

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Middle East and India where we met again and number of companies as

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well as political leaders, trying, again, to push it into those new

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areas where we believe there are opportunities. We have appointed

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somebody to take for words important work and someone in a

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Brussels office to invest in Northern Ireland. I do believe that

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MLAs do need to be very much doing their part to let companies in

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their own region know what is available to them and I am happen

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these -- and I am happy to work with MLAs and getting the

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information they need. information they need.

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The deputy minister Arlene Foster. Joining me now is Stewart Dixon

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from the Alliance Party. When he reassured by what the minister had

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to say? I was, and there was an interesting debate today on the

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whole issue of how the finance her small and medium-sized enterprise

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and businesses in Northern Ireland. And a great deal of unanimity in

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Northern Ireland. The executive has Northern Ireland. The executive has

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clearly set out a strategy, we have had extreme difficulties with the

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banking sector, as you know. And yet, be set today shows that over

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61% of small business enterprises in Northern Ireland are actually

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satisfied with the services and the loans they are getting from banks.

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Could the assembly and executive be doing more to help those smaller

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businesses? Particularly start-up businesses, which really struggle,

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perhaps more than other more established businesses to access

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cash. Of course you can always do better, and it is complicated,

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there are a whole plethora of mechanisms that small businesses

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have to go through, whether it is looking for funding from local

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enterprise agencies, looking for the funding from the bank or from

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invest a Northern Ireland or one of the other bodies and I have just

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made a few, and are simply too many of them. The path we through that

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is very complicated, when at the same time, you are trying to get

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your new business up and running. When you are trying to go have

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recruit employees, when you are trying to deal with people who want

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to help you or -- who want to help you if market your business. It is

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very difficult to define for Redpath way through to source that

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funding. But I am convinced that the second and the minister, praise

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were it is due, the minister -- has worked very hard to attend to help

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small businesses identify those resources.

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Can I ask about another issue which has caused a few eyebrows to be

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raised? That is the Alliance Party's position or positions,

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perhaps more accurately, on yesterday's a vote on gay marriage.

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Your party's policy is to support the change. One of your members

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voted against and three abstained. What were they doing? The Alliance

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Party has a very clear policy in relation to the quality in marriage,

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we determined that when the party council, after a likely period of

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consideration with -- consideration of the matter came to that

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consideration at the post on the matter yesterday in a boat in the

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assembly which was clearly a significant vote but one which in

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reality will bring best forward in Northern Ireland. A half of your

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assembly team did not vote in support of the party policy.

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member voted against and other members were not present. They did

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not vote. That set out a mixed message here electorate, we now

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have people in east Belfast to have started a petition to protest the

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fact that two of their representatives who they think

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should be leading change, did not do so yesterday. Didn't demonstrate

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that desire to change. Even though the party voted for it as its

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policy, they are party members who struggle with that find it

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difficult to support that had taken a policy and that the stage

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individual MLAs. At you are off to Bosnia in the morning? I am, I am

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going as an election monitor and representing Northern Ireland.

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Have a safe track and thank you for turning us.

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It has been a busy few days for the education minister. Despite facing

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questions yesterday, Mr without appeared at the despatch box today

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to answer an urgent oral question from the DUP on how much an

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upcoming advertising campaign aimed average is costing his department.

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There is no aspect of the medication works campaign that has

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been taken forward in Irish only. Met all parts of the campaign have

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also been taken forward in English. Any advertising undertaken by

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department that -- by the department is taken bilingual. This

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policy was run prior to the participation in the campaign, and

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the decision to run the campaign in Irish is in keeping with

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departmental policy. This is part of her policy to address

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educational achievement among young people, and doing it for the medium

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of Irish and English. The department has a duty to facilitate

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Irish and English language. The Irish language adverts composers

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approximately 10% of the air time of the English version. We have

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stopped the assembly as that of the day to bring this important matter

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of cost to the forefront, so members may watch to setback in

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their seats and absorb the cost. The cost of the television slots

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for the adverts to be aired in Irish during the first week of

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:20:12.:20:14.

October is �4,360. Or order! This is what we have stopped assembly

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business for. The additional the production cost for the Irish

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version of the advert was 4283p. So for approximately �1,600, the

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assembly has had to be stopped, all this the set-aside and the

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Government put on hold, stop the presses. -- �8,600. The Irish

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version of the advertisement was had -- was given to clear pass to

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give broadcasters advice on the best quotes a practice. No legal

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issues were raised. That is no legal issues were raised by either

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the broadcasters or clear cast. Legal advice was not required or

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sought. These are advertisements which are exclusively in Irish, can

:21:05.:21:15.
:21:15.:21:16.

the Minister outlined the fact... Order! Car and the outline the fact

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that he is bound by the ministerial code which indicates that any

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matter which is significant or controversial should be considered

:21:24.:21:30.

by the executors? Can also that it states that no expenditure can be

:21:30.:21:34.

properly incurred without the approval of the Department of

:21:34.:21:40.

Finance and Personnel? Won at -- are both those positions an

:21:40.:21:44.

accurate depiction of the facts of the matter in the course of the

:21:44.:21:54.
:21:54.:21:55.

past few weeks I have acted in full compliance of the Ministerial Code,

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and all ministers have to comply with the ministerial code.

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member has a pointed out to me, unless I missed it, as to whether

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it reached the ministerial code. Had taken all necessary processes

:22:10.:22:15.

and procedures in procuring the advertisement which is to be

:22:15.:22:20.

broadcast in both Irish and English and while Mr Campbell may have

:22:20.:22:27.

nothing else to do than worry about the expenditure of �8,000 I am sure

:22:27.:22:31.

the members of the public are saying, I am sure the assembly has

:22:31.:22:35.

more important things to be debating that the expenditure of

:22:35.:22:40.

�8,000. But if the member wishes to be more specific, if the member

:22:40.:22:46.

wishes to be more specific on the area of the ministerial code and a

:22:46.:22:48.

breach in Irish or English I am more than happy to answer his

:22:48.:22:54.

question, but to date he has not. I am concerned on the matter, and

:22:54.:22:59.

concerned in one matter which I will be bringing to the head of the

:22:59.:23:05.

Civil Service, it appears to have been awake from the department of

:23:05.:23:11.

finance and personnel to the member with regards to the financial...

:23:11.:23:16.

order! In regards to confidential material from one minister to

:23:16.:23:19.

another minister. Perhaps Mr Campbell would like to take the

:23:20.:23:23.

opportunity to tell the House now has to where she came upon the

:23:23.:23:27.

confidential information which he refers to both in his statement and

:23:27.:23:35.

this morning. Members! Members! Can I ask for good temper and

:23:35.:23:41.

moderation in all that you do, please deputy speaker right decks

:23:41.:23:47.

trying to calm things down. Education was very much in the for

:23:47.:23:52.

today as MLAs debated a second Education issued on the floor. This

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time it was levels of absenteeism in our schools. Many children are

:23:58.:24:03.

missing more than one day in seven and falling significantly behind in

:24:03.:24:10.

the classroom because of that. This in turn can lead to low self-esteem,

:24:10.:24:14.

and increases the likelihood that students will drop out of school.

:24:14.:24:17.

by the time children reach secondary school it becomes more

:24:17.:24:21.

difficult for parents and schools to get the non attenders to school.

:24:21.:24:26.

The majority of parents whose children are taken to court for bad

:24:26.:24:30.

attendance have children in year 10 or 11. This point it is too late.

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Those most likely to drop out of school will enter into it adults

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that presenting other social issues, will stop they will engage in anti-

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social behaviour, petty crime and vandalism. The good school policy

:24:44.:24:51.

has already been referred to, one question was, where these

:24:51.:24:54.

children's parents taking an active interest in education? I believe

:24:54.:24:58.

there is a role for community leaders and politicians in this

:24:58.:25:01.

area for raising high expectation. We as community leaders have a

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responsibility. We must encourage her young people to do well in

:25:05.:25:09.

Education. We must equip them to do well in education. I'm not sure we

:25:09.:25:14.

always do that. John O'Dowd. Up panel investigating historical

:25:14.:25:17.

institutional abuse appear before the war offend DSM committee last

:25:17.:25:26.

week. The inquiry is examining abuse allegations in care homes and

:25:26.:25:30.

borstals or very long period of time. Committee members expedience

:25:30.:25:33.

concerns of at the start date and had the rights of victims of non

:25:33.:25:41.

institutional abuse will be met. Are you intending to make no new

:25:41.:25:47.

headquarters? We will make the headquarters known to those who

:25:47.:25:51.

have reason to contact us. It is still in the centre of Belfast,

:25:51.:25:59.

still easily accessible. We are anxious it should remain relatively

:25:59.:26:05.

anonymous so those who want to come are not perhaps stigmatised in the

:26:05.:26:15.

eyes of others by being picked it. We do not intend to pick a big sign

:26:15.:26:18.

outside. The possibility of bringing up an interim report, I am

:26:18.:26:23.

interested in Europe -- interested in your views in the context of a

:26:23.:26:30.

situation where quick early in the inquiry, each year and Japan will,

:26:30.:26:38.

this is so awful that there is such Meikleour need for intervention.

:26:38.:26:42.

there is such a clear need for intervention. Do you see no need to

:26:42.:26:48.

wait until the end to make a call came at what is your view? I am

:26:48.:26:57.

still of the year that I expressed on Fourth of July, we are still in

:26:57.:27:03.

the midst of producing interim reports. We will have to wait until

:27:03.:27:06.

we have received all the information we can. We understand

:27:06.:27:10.

the concerns of those who wish to see the scope of the inquiry

:27:10.:27:17.

extended to include abuse outside institutions, but I have to say

:27:17.:27:21.

that as far as the scope of our inquiry is concerned, and less

:27:21.:27:28.

stress our inquiry, we do not support that. Let me explain why.

:27:28.:27:32.

If, for example, we were tasks with considering issues involving abuse

:27:32.:27:42.
:27:42.:27:42.

in foster care or in schools or in families this would have enormous

:27:42.:27:47.

implications for the scope of her work, the scope of the inquiry. It

:27:47.:27:51.

would require first of all a complete restructuring of the way

:27:52.:27:59.

we're going to go about our work and that in turn would require much

:27:59.:28:05.

greater resources in terms of money and of staff. All of this would

:28:05.:28:09.

certainly mean that the inquiry would take a very much longer to

:28:09.:28:15.

produce its report. What are the implications for potential

:28:15.:28:21.

subsequent criminal proceedings? are prohibited from making any

:28:21.:28:27.

findings regarding civil or criminal liability. As the law

:28:27.:28:34.

presently stands, if it were to be litigation afterwards, the findings

:28:34.:28:40.

of the inquiry would not be admissible as a matter of law.

:28:40.:28:46.

Because it is not a court, it is an inquiry. It is perhaps appropriate

:28:46.:28:53.

that I take this opportunity to say this, we are alleged to the

:28:53.:28:57.

possibility that people may say things to us which indicate that

:28:57.:29:04.

criminal offences have been committed. We will have no

:29:04.:29:11.

hesitation in making known to the police were that his our legal duty.

:29:11.:29:15.

And indeed we have already opened discussion with the PSNI as to how

:29:15.:29:19.

we can do that if that should happen. Because there will be no

:29:19.:29:25.

question of us first of all ignoring such matters. And secondly,

:29:25.:29:32.

we would, I think, have to give way, because my view is that the public

:29:32.:29:36.

interest is best served by those matters being investigated by the

:29:36.:29:40.

police and not by us. So at the heart, the chair of the

:29:40.:29:45.

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.


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