03/06/2013 Stormont Today


03/06/2013

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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it has been in the spotlight for weeks but today the final stage of

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the Special Advisers' Bill came before the house. I trust that in

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common language this will will become, if passed, known as an's

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law. The deputy first minister says the Executive is ranching out.

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extension to Beijing will be a Bill has cleared its final hurdle

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tonight. 56 voted in favour and 28 against. We will hear in detail what

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members had the same but first Gareth Gordon and Sam McBride. Two

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to one in favour. The drama was whether there would be a petition of

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concern. Dominik Bradley two weeks ago, it looked like there would be.

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That would have killed this bill stone dead. There was the whole

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drama of them changing their mind and once we learned they were going

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to abstain, which they have done, the result was inevitable. It is a

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question of when it would happen. It looked like it might go on until 3am

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and have -- and thankfully that has not happened. What was the tactic on

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the part of Sinn Fein? It looked like they were going to filibuster.

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Rumours started this morning that there would be an attempt to talk it

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out by Sinn Fein. It seems like the main speaker started down that

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track, lots of his speech was quite repetitive, he was taking quite a

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lot of interventions. Then he suddenly sat down and it seemed

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fairly normal debate, members speaking for or 15 minutes and the

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speaker said they would sit until 3am if necessary and it was clear

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that there would EA vote taken at some point and obviously we have a

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result. -- there would be a vote. The legislation demonstrates that

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private members bills can find their way onto the statute book. It is of

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enormous significance. Their run our record numbers of members bringing

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forward these bills. They have realised that with the absence of

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substantial legislation coming from the Executive they have the power to

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bypass civil servants and get things onto the statute book themselves.

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has been a tough few weeks for the S DLP, caught in the middle on this

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one. Colum Eastwood was sitting alongside the Sinn Fein Special

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Adviser Paul Kavanagh at a gay lick for all match. -- Gaelic. The SDLP

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have come out with the bloodiest nose and perhaps in a way that is

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their own fault. They were dammed if they did and if they didn't but they

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dithered and appeared to change their mind, there was talk of splits

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and even talk of certain MLA possibly signing a petition of

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concern. The pressure continued inside the chamber tonight and

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outside with competing victims groups focusing on the STL P so it

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has been a very difficult time for them. -- the S DLP.

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Thank you very much for now. Let's have a flavour of today's debate.

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Fundamentally, this bill is about writing a great wrong. Those who

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agree and those who disagree no that the appointment of Mary McCulloch in

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2011 caused great public unease for many and great disquiet and great

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debate. But, above that, great hurt in particular for the family of her

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victim. This bill first and foremost is about writing that wrong and

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saying, never again should it happen to anyone else. The attempts by Mr

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Paul Kavanagh in his pity me interviews when he says this bill is

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vindictive, it will rob me of my job, this is a man who robbed at

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least three human beings of their lives. As officially this bill must

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officially be called the Special Advisers' Bill but I trust in common

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language it will become, if passed, to be known as Anne's Law. That

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would be a tribute to her and her family and the tremendous courage

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that has been shown. The S DLP needs to think carefully about what they

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are about to do today. Each of their MLAs has an opportunity, and I

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emphasise each of them, has an opportunity to stop discrimination

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being introduced in this house. This is Jim Allister trying to bring the

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old Stormont into the new Assembly, to reintroduce real discrimination.

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This bill, because it is reliant on the findings of a flawed legal

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system of the past, also ensures that those who fired the guns and

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killed 14 people on bloody Sunday are not banned from being Special

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Advisers. This bill protects those... People have not been

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tortured and had confessions beaten out of them. In accordance with all

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of the people alleged to be informers who were shot in the back

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of the skull, what mechanism did they have? I have been clear that

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this conflict involved many parties, the UVF, the British

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Army... Are you going to let me finish the point? Thereon many

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parties in this conflict, the IRA, the UVF, the British Army, the Royal

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Ulster Constabulary. They're rather those who served in the RUC, the

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British Army, who sit in this chamber. -- there are those.

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served in the RUC and I have never killed anybody. I believe the person

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who brought this whole thing about callously was there when Ms

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Travers' sister was murdered. She is guilty as sin. I as a serving

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officer was very proud to serve in the RUC and unlike some members of

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this house I say I served in the RUC, from 1977 until 2001. I feel

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that Unionism would be rubbing the face of those from a Republican

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background in the dirt if they had appointed somebody such as Johnny

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Adair to a position, not that we would ever think of doing that. If

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we had have, it would have created that issue. We have had quite a bit

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of what I would call filibustering going on this morning and this

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afternoon to try to drag this matter out. All of the talking has been

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done all of the evidence that we have heard has already been

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presented to the committee, and I stand to support the Bill as

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presented. I have heard a lot of speculation, scaremongering that

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this is the thin end of the wedge and we will move on to try to stop

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people with conflict related convictions from becoming teachers

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and the rest. Of course not. It seems to be a message being sent out

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by Sinn Fein to the faithful, don't worry, we may now be wearing suits

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but we haven't forgotten our roots. As others have already stated, this

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issue has become much broader than the words on the paper or the direct

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consequences of the legislation. It has become a vocal point for

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highlighting the frustrations at the lack of concern for the needs of

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victims 15 years after the Good Friday agreement. We are trying to

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get demands for enquiries when instead we need a conference of

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process for dealing with the past. Until we reach that point we will

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have to make calls on individual matters coming before us. The

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challenge is to make sure that what we do is not fundamentally against

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the spirit and letter of where this society has evolved and I don't

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believe that voting for this bill goes against this. Her position on

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victims have always been clear. All victims are entitled to justice. An

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equitable and fair treatment, regardless of circumstances. That is

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even regardless of their membership of a political party or employment

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by the political party, that doesn't increase the entitlement or their

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preference. It does mean that equally that employment does not

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entitle them to priority over other victim. I wonder, while you have set

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about that position, if you could explain how you construct of the

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pecking order. I assumed you are referring to some of you agents

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yesterday spending confusion, and they did quite a bit of it. I think

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that this is part of the Sinn Fein effort to deflect from the issue

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here, and if they want to get down to the bones of the issue then we

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will get down to the bones of the issue. I am capable of getting down

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and dirty with them. I will spell it out for Mr McLauchlan, who seems to

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be a bit of a slow learner sometimes. In Sinn Fein employee, or

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one of the elite, has no priority over any other victim, and the

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perpetrator has no priority over any other victim because he is a

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perpetrator. Is that simple? Is that clear? I am seeing he gets no

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pecking order. If you want the pecking order... Order! Order!Mr

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Speaker, I know what I said at I will have a class for slow learners

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at some stage if they need it. given the responsibility prior to

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the Good Friday negotiations by my party to be the Sinn Fein chief

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negotiator. Around me was gathered the very experienced team of

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ex-prisoners. They were also a very experienced team of negotiators.

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People who were absolutely, wholeheartedly, in favour of the

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peace process. Wholeheartedly in favour of inclusive negotiations.

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And wholeheartedly willing to accept the outcome of those negotiations.

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People should not underestimate the contribution made by people who were

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former political prisoners. The contribution that they have made has

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been absolutely immense. Paul Kavanagh as a friend of mine and I'm

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of that. Paul Kavanagh is an ex-prisoner, Paul Kavanagh is

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someone who has played his heart and soul into the peace process, who has

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enormous credibility in the city from which I come, widely admired

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within the community and voluntary sector for the work that he did

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indeed Brandy will box eight area. And now he finds himself at the coal

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face of this maelstrom around the issue of advisers. Let everyone in

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this house remember that he was not the first adviser who was an

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ex-prisoner. It goes back 14 years and there are people sitting here in

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this house no who are pontificating about this issue who knew that. So

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what's changed? I will tell you. The TUV got a member elected at the last

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assembly elections and as I said when I tweeted last week after I got

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back from China, we have the ludicrous situation where one and

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the agreement unionist has been able to pick the SDLP up by detail and

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swing them all around. Martin McGuinness speaking from the

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backbenches. There was other business at Stormont today and the

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Deputy first Minister was heavily involved. He told the assembly that

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the executive would like a permanent Northern Ireland office in Asian.

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Peter Robinson had just returned from a visit to China. We visited

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Beijing and this followed a successful visit from Beijing to

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Belfast last April. Since this visit, she has been promoted to the

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vice premier of the People's Chinese republic with overall responsibility

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for health and education and science and technology. We were delighted to

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be able to secure a meeting with her, and the fact that we read the

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first ministers from this part of the world to meet her since her

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promotion. We discussed the potential of opening a bugle

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representing our executive in Asian, and this will be someone we will

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explore with executive colleagues. -- executive in Beijing. I know

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that's everyone will appreciate the importance of having these

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facilities. It will build up very important contact in the United

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States and Brussels. Given that it is accepted that China as an

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economic powerhouse, probably in a few years time it will be the

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largest economy in the world, it would be absolutely remiss of us not

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to consider the opportunity of having a similar establishment, a

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bugle, in Beijing. It is an opportunity for all tourist

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organisations including those in Ireland to try and attract the

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Chinese to this part of the world. That is something we are very

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focused on an something we will discuss with relevant departments.

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We are agreed that we must do more. Things like the Titanic exhibit is

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huge in China, and not a lot of people in China will know that the

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Titanic was built in Belfast. 83 million Chinese people travel

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overseas eg, and in doing so they spent something like 1.3 LU dollars

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and obviously we would like to have some of that spent here. -- 1.3

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billion dollars. We believe that we need to be visiting these places and

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not leaving it to others to speak on our behalf or maybe not speak on her

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behalf as might be the case in some circumstances. In that regard, I

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think that we are playing catch up in terms of the Irish government

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operation and I think that the lessons we have learned in our

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recent visit. Those in good stead as we develop our relationship. This is

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why we think the establishment of a bureau would be a good thing.

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Martin McGuinness was also on duty during question time for the office

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of first and deputy first ministers. He praised the first Balmoral show

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and talk about the economic recovery and answered questions on Northern

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Ireland's libel laws. Does the dip in the first Minister agree with me

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that there must be greater clarity for members of the public and others

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to understand the impact of the defamation act? There has been some

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commentating on this Indymedia over the course of the past couple of

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weeks. -- in the media. It is fair to say that by this stage there is

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not a party in this house that is unaware of each of the other parties

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positions on this matter. All I can say is that I have not seen anything

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from the Department of Finance or personnel in relation to this matter

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arrive for the consideration of myself in the first Minister. It is

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important to say that the executive has not taken any decision in

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relation to the defamation Bill, it's never appeared on the agenda of

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any executive meeting. It certainly was never given to me as to the

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first Minister, as is normally the case prior to meeting the executive

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for agreement to be made between myself and the first Minister in

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relation to what goes on the agenda of an executive meeting. The reason

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for that is that I have not seen anything from the Department of

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Finance and personnel on this matter. This year's Royal Ulster

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agricultural Society's Shaw was a great success, the final visitors

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figures are not yet available but the chairman of the Corporation

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stated that attendance at significantly increased from

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previous years, estimating some 100,000 people attended the show

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over the three days. Given the shock lead in time and the lack of

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essential facilities, this is commendable and without doubt

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helping contribute to the success of the show. There were some

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frustrating traffic delays accessing the site, particularly in the first

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day of the event, but through the combined efforts of those involved,

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the RFU ESN the road service and the Corporation staff, this was just

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over the remaining days of the show. There is no doubt that our economy

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has come through a very difficult period of the past five years, we

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have seen some positive development from the labour market with

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announcements of the creation of more than 100,000 new jobs. Economic

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forecast also predict a bit time to growth for this year, but it is too

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early to predict significant improvement on our unemployment

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statistics. He first Minister and I will continue to put economic

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recovery at the centre of our efforts and we are working closely

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with the British prime minister and tragedy to ensure that they fulfil

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their financial commitments to stimulating our economy and we will

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remain tireless in our efforts to Chase investment and trade

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opportunities. The enterprise minister Arlene

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Foster also faced questions today as she robustly defended the work of

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SNI over the past few years. She was also questioned over the electricity

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price hike. My officials allegedly to the likelihood of a place in

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crease as a result of a tariff review, but this was subject to

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eight final analysis and I was advised of the final decision on the

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20th of May 2013. I thank the Minister, could she informed the

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house if she was, if her officials were content with the process and

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what the price rise, what the applications are for meeting the

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target of 40% renewables and the cost implications of that? It is not

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a question of whether my officials were content or not, the utility

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regulator is the office charged with setting the Pace Tallis and he has

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said that he is so intent with the increase. -- setting the price

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Tallis. We understand that the fuel costs have risen and this has given

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rise to the place rise, of course it does present many challenges for

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consumers, domestic and small business consumers, of course they

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large energy users are not in the same way regulated. Their price is

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dealt with through the electricity market in a competitive way. But it

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does present us with a huge amount of challenges and I have asked for

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some work to be carried out in relation to the whole energy market

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to find out exactly where the costs are coming from so we can be better

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informed. Hopefully my own department and the rest of this

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house. Could he Minister give me some indication as to what steps

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will be taken by her department and the wider executive to ensure that

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vulnerable groups are not forced into deeper debt by increased Delta

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city bills? Energy costs will be a significant burden not least for the

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most vulnerable, we do offer discounts for customers who opt for

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online billing and payment by direct debit and offer incentives for

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keypad customers. We will continue to work closely with colleagues in

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other departments, as he knows the Department of social development

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takes the lead in allusion to the fuel poverty area and we have been

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working with them in relation to a cross sector on fuel poverty

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partnership. Can the Minister give us an update on the performance of

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SNI over the past two years? I thank the member for his question. We have

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been pleased with the performance of investor Northern Ireland, they were

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set targets by the executive in the programme for government and then

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latterly in the economic strategy. In terms of the jobs promoted we

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have had 13,870 jobs promoted, secured total investment as I have

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indicated of 784 million, and that is against a 40 year target of 1

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billion, so we are well on our way to meeting that target. We have also

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secured total wages and salaries of 100 naked million, and created, and

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I think that is the key elements to the Joslin, we have created $2619.

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-- 109 million. The target for the jobs fund for the four years was

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4000 so we are well on track. The previous events and indeed the

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precise route of the geode Italia will be set by the organisers of the

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race, the RCS, the organisation that is working with a Northern Irish to

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the sport and tours in Ireland. So it is very difficult to say at this

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precise moment where the event will be but what I can say is that

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Northern Ireland will be ace your pink during that time and I am

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expecting everyone in this assembly to don their pink lycra and do their

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bit for Ulster. The enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

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Back to John with his final thoughts. Let's talk about the Lord

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lead story which broke over the weekend. The Ulster Unionist peer

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being investigated by the authorities in the House of Lords.

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What is your take? It was quite unbelievable in some ways to see

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Lord Laird not just seemingly cotton one sting by one paper but by two

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papers, seemingly. There are all sorts of questions about this, and

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it is interesting how to make Nesbitt has handled this. He has had

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huge disciplinary problems and he has come in for understandable

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criticism. He seems to have learned from some of these and withheld his

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judgement initially and then on Sunday morning at the Saudi videos

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he said, I will remove the work pending the outcome of the

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investigation. -- E saw the videos. It shows that he is in some ways

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learning as a leader. We should point out that he denies wrongdoing.

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Belfast now has a new Lord Mayor. will be fascinating to see what that

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means for Gavin Robinson. This has generally been regarded as a

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successful Lord Mayor, has attracted support in terms of how he has

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handled this position from the likes of Sinn Fein. Just as we are talking

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about special advisers, there is some suggestion that the medical go

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back and has a special adviser. The flag protests have died down, they

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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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