04/03/2013 Stormont Today


04/03/2013

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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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today.

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Bombs primed and ready to go were intercepted by police in

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Londonderry last night. Today, MLAs united in their condemnation in

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what the police described as a reckless attack. We were within

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five minutes or 10 minutes last night of a major out rage.

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Also the environment minister issues a warning about our

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dependence on imported energy. are in a situation in the north

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where, to borrow a phrase, we could reach a perfect storm.

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And our Political Correspondent, Martina Purdy, joins us with her

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analysis of today's events. It's being claimed it had the

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potential of causing mass murder, but instead a van carrying four

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live mortar bombs in Derry was intercepted by the police minutes

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before the explosives were launched. Today MLAs gave their reaction.

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work within five minutes or 10 minutes last night of a major out

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rage. How major it could have been can be established by recalling

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that in 1985 a similar mortar bomb attack occurred on a new re- police

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station and the end result was that nine innocent officers were

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murdered. -- new three. Any police station in Londonderry area, any of

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the ones that I can think of are all in built up areas. The police

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have indicated as we all know that these mortar bombs are notoriously

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unreliable so, not only were innocent police officers being

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targeted, but innocent civilians as well. I think we need to send out a

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message today that this Assembly, in its totality, utterly condemns

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the actions of those responsible last night, that we commend and

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thank the police service and the officers responsible for at

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pretending the device -- apprehending and we also call upon

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the community upon whose information we hope last night

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occurred, to keep giving more information like this so that the

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police can keep taking the action they are taking in order to prevent

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the wholesale slaughter that could have occurred last night and

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thankfully, bright the grace of God, did not. The vast majority of

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people in our city woke up this morning thankful, thankful that

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this institute -- incident through whatever intelligence sources had

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been stopped. People who are intent on damaging our city and our people

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meet today to step up to the plate, need to come to the microphones and

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explain to the people of this city, of our city, how those actions will

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advance any city, any people, any cause or advance or build any city

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of equals or any island of equals. There is huge relief in the City of

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Derry today that these instruments of death and destruction have been

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intercepted last night. Four craze -- fault raised and credit must go

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to the police for their brave and heroic actions. We shudder to think

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what may have happened otherwise but I have little doubt that we

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would have been waking today to news and scenes of carnage. I speak

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for Derry today when I condemn those who would visit this upon

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their -- who would visit this upon our society. We must drive us for

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it and not let others drag us back. I was relieved that the security

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services indicated that a mortar had come from the old IRA stopped

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and I challenge those from the Provisional IRA that may now be in

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Sinn Fein tour actually help the security services and bring forward

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the information that is required to actually help the security services

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and stop such actions as happened last night and insure that they

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give them every piece of information as possible. Let me be

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clear, some of those people know exactly where these items of

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munitions are. Some know exactly where these Explosives are and they

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should come forward and tell it. That is the out workings of the so-

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called de commissioning process, where are all these weapons that

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were decommissioned? I thought they were all out of commission but

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obviously not. Shame on those who are carrying these acts out now and

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shame on those who carried them out in the past. It is a clear this was

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a very major threat, threat to life, as has been said, not just two

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police officers against which it was almost certainly intended but

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also against civilians in heavily populated areas of Derry City. It

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is absolutely clear how utterly wrecked as those who would carry

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out such deeds are. There is no question of having any

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justification, there is no question of them having any support. It is

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time they listened to the voices that we heard so eloquently across

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the media this morning of condemnation of what went on of the

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people in and around the area that made it absolutely clear that those

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who carried out such deeds do not speak for them.

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The Justice Minister, David Ford. Although the house united in

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condemnation of the thwarted mortar attack, there was some dissent from

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the public gallery on another issue. Our Political Correspondent,

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Martina Purdy, is here with more details.

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So, Martina, this outburst took place after the discussion had

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moved on to Willie Frazer's bail application.

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Yes, the TUV leader Jim Allister rose to put a point of order.

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Basically he was unhappy that his matter of the day was not accepted.

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He wanted to talk about how the courts had been applying bail

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applications to loyalists and republicans. He got short shrift

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from the Speaker and was told to sit down. 10 later -- 10 minutes

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later there was a commotion from the public gallery. Most of it was

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inaudible but it was fairly clear that someone in the public gallery

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was tried to interrupt proceedings which has not allowed. Only MLAs

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are allowed to speak. People in the public gallery are any allowed to

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listen. The Speaker quickly clear the gallery and I think we have a

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short clip of this. Order! Order! Order! Order! Clear the gallery.

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That was the Deputy Speaker clearing the gallery. Who were the

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people up there? It transpired they were supporters of the flags

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protest a Willie Frazer. Some of them were members of a group

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including past a Barry Halliday. They were not expelled from

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Stormont. The last time we can recall the gallery being clear

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because of a protest was some time last year when an anti-capitalist

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protest or, he was actually a sold out egg -- expelled from the estate.

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Let's move on to talk about an intriguing story concerning the

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SDLP's Colum Eastwood and the Environment Committee. Colum

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Eastwood, it has transpired this evening, hasn't been attending the

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environment committee. He has only attended once since last September.

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He is not commenting but the BBC understands the difficulty is that

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Colum Eastwood is also the Assembly Private Secretary to the

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environment minister so he gets to see a lot of confidential and

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sensitive departmental information Andy believes it is a conflict of

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interest for him to do both jobs. But the difficult question is why

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has and the SDLP leader moved him off? I am told that Alistair

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McDonnell has been made aware of the difficulty but he has not moved

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Imam. Alistair MacDonald knows there is a potential conflict of

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interest and knows that column Eastwood would like to be relieved

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of his responsibilities and the committee but for some reason he

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has not done anything about it. Are we clear why the situation is as

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cities? The BBC understands that Alistair McDonnell was a form of

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the difficulty even before the appointment but appointed him to

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the committee anyway. In maybe there are a number of personnel

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thin on the ground and he did not have anyone else to put on the

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committee. But he does not seem to have taken this conflict of

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interest concerns seriously enough so far. What is the public position

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on this? The party is saying that the party leader will be reviewing

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the committees and will make sure there is no conflict of interest

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and there will probably be a reshuffle around Easter.

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Thank-you for now, Martina. A debate over a new Westminster

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bill descended into a squabble between Sinn Fein and the Deputy

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Speaker, John Dallat, today. Before the arguments began, Members had a

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chance to give their views on the draft bill which deals with issues

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like Stormont structures and party funding.

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It is a bill which is currently -- which has carried constituted, I

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believe lacks a certain ambition. We should be more ambitious on

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calling on the Secretary of State to take those steps towards

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normalisation. The biggest and most significant step she could take his

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in supporting the establishment of official opposition in this house,

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an opposition will to the institutions of devolution. What

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would that mean? It would not mean a return to majority rule. The

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Ulster Unionist Party is clear that if we do introduce an official

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opposition that you will still need a cross-community government. An

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official opposition would offer a choice and it would be given some

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resources. We are not talking about a party walking away from executive,

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as some of my former colleagues promoted, we are talking about the

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establishment of an official, recognised opposition. It means the

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same as what happens in Dublin and London and Cardiff and Edinburgh by

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calling the Secretary of State to review her draft bill. She should

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push ahead on this huge step towards normalisation. Karen in

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members of this House must report to the electoral commission details

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of any payments over �1,500. Political parties in Northern

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Ireland at to contribute information to the commission about

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donations of over �7,500 from a single source. The names of donors

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are not made public as they are in the rest of the United Kingdom. In

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April of last year my party colleague Naomi Long MP asked the

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Prime Minister to commit to changing the legislation, to make

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local parties publish their list of significant donors. We believe that

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the public in Northern Ireland should have access to the same

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information as people in England, Scotland and Wales. How about

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political parties and how political parties are funded and who their

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major donors are. The public and then judge to themselves whether

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these donors will have any undue influence on party policy. We

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cannot, on the one hand, talk about normalisation and tell people that

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Northern Ireland has transformed into a safe destination for inward

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investment and tourism and require companies to publish their accounts,

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details of their directors and shareholders, and on the other hand

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use of security concerns as a reason to avoid being transparent

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about party political donations. do not have to - but we do not wish

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to have a return to majority rule. It is an argument we have made and

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we do not want that. We have outlined where we think we can

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reach some sort of consensus. That ensures that a minority community

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is always going to be protected. It may develop a better form of

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democracy than currently exists in this place and nothing that is

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something that should be explored. I listened to the lyrical waxing of

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- a waxing lyrical of how they are not for majority rule yet we have

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to look at how the abused power in the Assembly commission in a

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desperate attempt in the recent flags debacle. I would be

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interested to see what the members opposite can actually do to

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reassure people from the nationalist republican community on

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how they would ensure a quality, given the sad record over the last

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number of years. Were you betide anyone to lecture others about

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equality after judgments made against senior members. Also in

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relation to transparency, given many of their members stated dual

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membership of an organisation which extorts it hundreds of thousands of

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pounds from the community that we all represent here in this house.

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Coming back to Sinn Fein, I do have to say that they never cease to

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amaze me. They never cease to surprise me with their attitude.

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Openness and transparency? Maybe you can tell us whether �26 million

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has gone from the northern bank robbery? Maybe they could tell us

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where some of those bodies are buried that their comrades in arms

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in the IRA buried and have disappeared? Maybe they could tell

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us some of those action that they carried out since 1970? It is not

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for me to tell the chair his responsibility but in terms of Sinn

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Fein I disagree with some of Commons that have been made. It is

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not your place to tell the chair. Can I remind a member, please, and

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this is the second time, that he has an important asked to sum up

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the debate and stick rigidly to wit. You did not need to remind the

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chair because I was discussing it with my clerks. It is a serious

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offence to challenge the church. colleague raised a point of order

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on the basis there had been no intervention from the Deputy

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Speaker on this occasion were asked a number of scurrilous remarks were

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made by a member against our party. As far as I am concerned, I stand

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by my colleagues need to get up on our behalf to make an intervention.

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Whether that is revising or reminding is a moot point but I

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would ask you to reflect on the fact that it took a member from

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this side of the piles on behalf of our party to make an intervention

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before the matter was dealt with and I think that was regrettable

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and not acceptable. It is important for the member to accept and

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understand that I was in the process of doing that. I was about

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to remind Mr Elliott that he should not make remarks about a political

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party in connection with bank robberies and other things for

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Does the Minister except that there are significant changes -- chances

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in losing too many presents staff within a short timescale?

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member certainly has a point about that and that is why there has been

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some difficulty with some staff. Staff are not being released

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without it being acceptable on operational grounds that they are

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able to be released. I am glad to confirm that we have received

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approval from the park -- department of finance which all are

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all those who were granted the scheme to leave. Some funding has

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been released which will allow some to leave at the end of this month.

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Others will be raising as -- leaving as operational

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circumstances permit. There is an issue about the loss of experience

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staff, there is also an issue of them being replaced by well-

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qualified, enthusiastic, well- trained new staff and I believe

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that the prison second month -- service will be better for it.

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the Minister agree with me that too often tackling hate crime is

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undermined because we have no legislative definition of

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sectarianism in relation to hate crime? I think the Member raises an

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interesting issue about the difficulty of ensuring that we get

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there necessary definition of the crime. I am not sure that the

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defining of sectarianism as opposed to the improving of sectarianism is

:17:51.:17:56.

the difficult issue that has to be crossed. When the Justice Bill was

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being debated in the last assembly we were unable to reach that

:17:59.:18:09.
:18:09.:18:18.

agreement. In interest of prisoners and the families of prisoners, when

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we they -- where the prisoners are housed actually be a matter with

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some empathy with their families in terms of travel time? Deputy

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Speaker, I am certainly well aware of their issues. In certain

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circumstances there are a number of prisoners that have to be housed at

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at prison whose families do not necessarily live near by. A

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statement will be made in a couple of weeks' time. The Minister will

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not that there is over 1,000 prisoners in that prison, which is

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already struggling with a capacity issues there, and that hundreds of

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prisoners are already doubled up and yet the demand on the

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republican side is to take the other landings. Will he assure us

:19:13.:19:18.

that he will take action against those who are considered -- to

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continue to demand special status. It is not for me to either resist

:19:25.:19:28.

our support demands for separated accommodation. Those are issues

:19:28.:19:33.

which he might wish to raise what the Secretary of State. What I will

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ensure is that the accommodation pressures are managed as best they

:19:36.:19:40.

can be in the interest of all prisoners, and that provides a wide

:19:40.:19:46.

variety of different categories of prisoners currently there. A how

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much it 10 JUN did you pay in size class and more to the.

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How much do you think our politicians know? -- how much

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attention DTP. What is this all about? There was a

:20:06.:20:16.
:20:16.:20:16.

bit all The Geek Manifesto which was published last year. It was

:20:17.:20:21.

published by Mike Henderson. The thesis of the because that the

:20:21.:20:31.
:20:31.:20:36.

demographic of the key -- they geek is people who ogres on things that

:20:36.:20:44.

rabbit different to other parts of the world. Was their way of getting

:20:44.:20:54.
:20:54.:20:54.

this information about this large demographic of people who are

:20:54.:21:00.

voters. You like the ideas of evidence based decision-making. Is

:21:00.:21:03.

there any evidence that you have to show that our MLAs do not know

:21:04.:21:09.

about science? You might look it ever politics and say that there is

:21:09.:21:12.

a lot of evidence for that particular assertion, but one may

:21:13.:21:17.

be badly placed if one was trying to say that our MLAs are not trying

:21:17.:21:22.

to take care of this. They are a lot of decisions which had been

:21:22.:21:26.

taken that we think have been influenced by the evidence. A lot

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of them at least have made lip- service to science and scientific

:21:29.:21:34.

advice. We're hoping that people will use sounds much more

:21:34.:21:40.

explicitly and evidence much more explicitly. It is a very expensive

:21:40.:21:45.

structure here. MLAs have researchers paid for out of the

:21:45.:21:50.

public purse. Ministers have special advisers who are paid a

:21:50.:21:53.

very handsome salary. They are there to help and that of research

:21:53.:21:57.

and policy making process. That is correct and one would be making a

:21:57.:22:00.

mistake of one said that there was not a good job being done there.

:22:00.:22:04.

There is a lot more to be done and in particular there is still this

:22:04.:22:09.

very strong insistence and emphasis on what would largely be seen as

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the arts and humanities side of things, which is very important and

:22:13.:22:17.

vital, but we would like to see signs as a much more explicit part

:22:17.:22:20.

of the cultural discourse and part of the decision-making process up

:22:20.:22:25.

front. Some will tell you that politics is an art and not a

:22:25.:22:35.

science? Some people tell you that art is a science. It is a skilled.

:22:35.:22:38.

It has a huge potential to revolutionise our economy. Our

:22:38.:22:42.

background, environment, health, so many aspects in which science is

:22:42.:22:47.

important and we would like to see people emphasise that more. That is

:22:47.:22:53.

some thought for bedtime reading. Thank you very much.

:22:53.:22:57.

Northern Ireland potentially faces a perfect storm which threatens its

:22:57.:23:01.

energy supply, the Environment Minister told the chamber this

:23:01.:23:04.

afternoon. In order to guarantee self-sufficiency exploiting

:23:04.:23:08.

renewable sources is essential. This is a very important question

:23:08.:23:17.

indeed. I keep saying that in my judgment renewables is arguably

:23:17.:23:20.

Ireland's biggest economic opportunity. That includes Northern

:23:20.:23:24.

Ireland because of our wind and wave and tidal power. And because

:23:24.:23:28.

of the quality of the manufacturing and services that we could provide

:23:28.:23:33.

in terms of a renewable applications. The answer to the

:23:33.:23:37.

question is that on average it takes 37 weeks to process a

:23:38.:23:45.

renewable application. 37 weeks. In my view that is too long. When you

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look especially in the last 18 months at the scale of renewable

:23:49.:23:54.

applications that have gone to the point of decision compared with any

:23:54.:24:01.

time here to four, I think that tells a much bigger and better

:24:01.:24:06.

story. And the last two quarters a lawn, in the quarter up until 20th

:24:06.:24:12.

September 12, they were 326 renewable applications approved.

:24:13.:24:21.

That builds upon the 401 renewable applications approved in 2011-2012.

:24:21.:24:29.

Find excess of previous years. Thank you. I'm sure the Minister is

:24:29.:24:37.

aware of the 40 % target for renewable electricity. Is he aware

:24:37.:24:41.

that there are expects to think that the first 20 resent will come

:24:41.:24:48.

at a cost of �80 million, the second at the cost of �800 million.

:24:48.:24:53.

Does he feel that the consumer should foot the bill? That is an

:24:53.:24:57.

important question. Whilst we are on track to achieve a 40 %

:24:57.:25:06.

renewable target by 2020, if all the wind approvals to date that had

:25:06.:25:10.

been built and consented to were actually constructed and then went

:25:10.:25:16.

into an National Grid, that alone in 2013 would account for her 30 %

:25:16.:25:22.

of our energy renewable -- electricity needs in the north. We

:25:22.:25:27.

are on the right path, but the member needs -- makes two valid

:25:27.:25:36.

points in my view. The first is that if you have a pre-payments --

:25:36.:25:40.

approvals or if the cost of connections is disproportionate,

:25:40.:25:45.

then there will be a rest of the 40 % not been achieved by 2020. We are

:25:45.:25:51.

in a situation in the north where, to borrow a phrase, we could reach

:25:51.:26:01.

a Perfect Storm. A Perfect Storm in that we will not have on the island

:26:01.:26:05.

of Ireland, sufficient interconnection, and this is only

:26:05.:26:09.

one of the factors that would lead to a Perfect Storm, sufficient

:26:09.:26:12.

interconnection in order to keep the lights on when it comes to

:26:12.:26:20.

Northern Ireland. This would be an issue of energy cost, the cost of

:26:20.:26:23.

connection with renewables, which is a one about which we need to

:26:23.:26:27.

more collectively gather were thoughts. In connection to the time

:26:27.:26:31.

that it takes far an application to go through for a wind turbine,

:26:31.:26:37.

applicants at this point in time appear to consider that there is a

:26:37.:26:42.

considerable amount of delay in terms of one of the Council teas.

:26:42.:26:47.

Given that that is within the Minister's we met in his department,

:26:47.:26:54.

could he in sure that that process is speeded up? It used beat the

:26:54.:26:59.

renewable energy industry they will tell you that at any time up until

:26:59.:27:03.

now given the scale of the renewable applications that run the

:27:03.:27:08.

system, and these cover nine categories, not just wind farms,

:27:08.:27:12.

but solar plants and so on and so forth, they will tell you that

:27:12.:27:20.

given that historic that Lord and given the surge of applications,

:27:20.:27:23.

particularly for a wind turbines. The fact that so many are now

:27:24.:27:28.

coming to the point of decision, especially in the last four

:27:28.:27:32.

quarters, is actually demonstrable of the fact that the planning

:27:32.:27:37.

system is more and more managing that scale of applications and

:27:37.:27:42.

getting decisions out. Martina Purdy is with us again.

:27:43.:27:46.

First of all, I do have some news on the next meeting between the

:27:46.:27:50.

Prime Minister and a were first and Deputy First Ministers. Peter

:27:50.:27:56.

Robinson and Martin McGuinness will go to Downing Street on March 26th,

:27:56.:28:03.

to meet David Cameron. They want to lower corporation tax to give

:28:03.:28:07.

Northern Ireland a competitive edge. It is controversial and will

:28:07.:28:12.

require a political decision from the Prime Minister. Finally, it is

:28:12.:28:15.

likely to delight the tomorrow as far as business is concerned

:28:15.:28:18.

because the justice minister is not proceeding with the next stage of

:28:18.:28:23.

his bill. The Criminal Justice Bill was supposed to have its further

:28:23.:28:29.

consideration stage tomorrow but it was not -- there was not the

:28:29.:28:39.

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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