04/06/2013 Stormont Today


04/06/2013

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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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up in the next 30 minutes:

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At last it appears - the name of Northern Ireland's newest political

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party is revealed. The BBC understands that Basil

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McCrea and John McAllister will call their party NI 21.

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We'll look at what's in a name. Equal pay was a hot topic at the

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Assembly today and the Employment Minister revealed that many women

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still get paid less than men. has been a widening of the gernd pay

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gap for employees in Northern Ireland despite higher public sector

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wages on average. Our political correspondent, Martina

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Purdy, is here to discuss the day's news on the Hill.

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So, we've waited patiently for quite a few months to hear the name of

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Basil McCrea and John McAllister's new political party, and tonight

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that name has made it into the public arena.

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It's understood the two former Ulster Unionist MLAs will call their

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party NI 21. Our political correspondent, Martina

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Purdy, is with me. What is in a name? It has taken them time to

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think of one, so quite a lochlt I don't think it's an easy process.

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They were looking for a name that reflected Northern Ireland, but not

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necessarily with the name "union" in it. They wanted broad support. They

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are a small pro-union party. You know, they also, I think, the 21 is

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reflective of the 21st century am they want to be seen to be modern

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and progressive. I should say that Basil McCrea refused to confirm or

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deny this name. My colleagues did research today and found a website

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with the name, NI 21, which was ready to go for a new political

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party. Already, Mark, the jokes have started about NI 21, whether it

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sounds like an estate agents, whether it sounds like a boyband.

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Dominic Bradley tweeted that that isn't it something the Saw Doctors

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sang about. They sang about the M21. We had jokes about the number of

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votes they will get. The boys have done their research. I think they

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are hoping to appeal to a younger generation. That is what is quite

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interesting when you look at Twitter and the response there has been to

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the announcement that the BBC made tonight of the name. Maybe there is

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a generational issue. Maybe younger people think that NI 21 works very

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well. It taps into this notion of more and more people regarding them

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self-as Northern Irish. They are on to something there. Census figures

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indicate that increasingly Catholics, for example, are more

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likely to say Northern Irish than they might have done 10 years ago.

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Also, they do see the importance of the media age appealing to younger

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voters. I understand that there was a woman in Taiwan who had the

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Twitter account NI 21 and that one of Basil McCrea supporters was in

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touch with her and my understanding is that they do have the name now.

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Gather that the Saw Doctor son was the N 17... It's been a while since

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I listened. 's been a while. That is right. What can we expect from the

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launch on Thursday night? We expect the launch is going to be at the

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Belfast Mack a modern, progressive image for the city. We will hear

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Basil McCrea and John McAllister make a presentation. There will be a

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lot of interest in who turns up. We are looking to see if they are going

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to have new faces, a lot of young people there. Of course, I think

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Basil McCrea and John McAllister will be appearing, one of them will

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be appearing on The View - Both. Both of them on Thursday night, BBC

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One 10. 35pm. Correct. Well remembered. Key thing that some

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people will wonder about all of this, what does naming the party

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mean for the two of them? What extra rights do they get? Do they get

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extra speaking rights or finance, for example, as a newly constituted

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political party? As a new party they would get the same status as the

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Green Party or TUV, better understanding. They will get more

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money, �25,000 to hire and assistant, if you like. Still

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speculation as to whether they will get more speaking rights. I'm told

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that is a matter for the business committee. They are hopeful they

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will get more speaking rights. doubt we will find out in due

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course. We look forward to hearing more detail on all of that on

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Thursday night. We will hear more from you later, but now, thank you

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very much. Something is going on in our

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economy, the Employment Minister said today, and he wasn't talking

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about recession. Stephen Farry was referring to

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inequality in the workforce. In a statement to the Assembly on

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gender issues, he said the pay gap between the sexes is growing despite

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women gaining higher qualifications. I have already indicated that more

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females are participating in higher education than males. There is in

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fact quite a significant gender difference. Over the last decade

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female enrol rollments account for 60% of the total. The under

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representation of males, particularly Protestant males is a

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particular theme within the access to success our widen participation

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strategy. There are significant difference in subjects elected for

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study. Despite ratio of 60-40 in favour of females generally, females

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account for less than 30% of those grand waiting in stem subjects

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excludeing medicine and health. 30% of students in computer science and

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75 studying engineering and technology are male. Most

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discouragingly there has been a widening of the gender pay gap for

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employees in Northern Ireland despite higher public sector wages

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on average. Overall, female medium earnings are only some 90% of male

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earnings. Another important distinction relates to

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self-employment. Although women account for around half of all

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employees, only 20% of those who are self-employed are female. Some of

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these issues are extremely serious, a widening of the gender pay gap,

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women more than men work in part-time. My question is similar to

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the previous member. I would like to ask you, given that 30% of females

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graduate in stem subjects, can the Minister tell us what steps he is

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taking to address the issue of gender stereo typing in those stem

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subjects which tend to be male-dominated and given that stem

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is fundamental to the recovery of our economy? Again, I thank the

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member for her comments. She is very right to highlight the importance of

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stem subjects to the future growth and the recovery of our economy

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here. I think it is important that we do seek to challenge stereotypes

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around a number of these particular areas. That is the job for

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government, in particular I would highlight the forthcoming review of

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the career strategy. Iement' sure your colleague, the Minister for

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Education, a joint holder of that strategy myself will share the

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aspirations we have to improve participation rates in stem

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subjects. There is is a wider society issue. We can highlight the

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issues in the Assembly and indeed take a lead were we have

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responsibilities. It's important as well that we use this platform to

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challenge and urge others to challenge the sterotypes that are

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built up around a number of different careers. Would the

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Minister accept that the vast majority of females in our community

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historically and traditionally are forced into the home and caring

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responsibilities? What collaborations is taking place with

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the health department and social development to develop and identify

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those females who are carrying serious responsibilities at home, to

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try and identify them to reskill them to be economically active?

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thank the member for his comment. I think the first thing to say in

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response to this, is that this has to be about facilitating choice and

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options for women rather than us going out with a message saying that

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every woman has to work. We have to respect everyone will want to make a

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decision that is vieth for themselves and their families in

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terms of whether they work or not. In some respects, particularly

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higher education, women are leaving hider education in greater numbers

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and with better qualifications. That is quickly not reflected in terms of

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pay levels. Clearly, something else is going on within our economy that

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we do need to craple with. It's not just an economic issue, it's a are

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moal and ethical issue too around e equality quality and opportunity.

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Stephen Farry. Equal pay was at the centre of

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another debate today, this time it referred to civil servants in the

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PSNI and Northern Ireland Office who have been unable to access an equal

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pay settlement. The motion put forward by the DUP

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called on the Justice Minister to recognise and address the perceived

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unfairness. As members will be aware, in 2009 there were around

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4,500 equal pay claims lodged with the Industrial Tribunal on behalf of

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the Northern Ireland Civil Service staff who worked as administrative

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assistant, officer and executive officer two grades who believe they

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were treated differently to male employees working at the same grades

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within their relevant departments. In 2 o 009 an agreement was reached

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on how these claims were to be resolved. Unfortunately, Mr Deputy

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Speaker, civil servants who worked for the PSNI or the Northern Ireland

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Office were excluded from this settlement. Members will also be

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aware of the decision made by Judge Babington on 7th March to dismiss

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the equal pay claims of these civil servants. You, as I, were a member

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of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, during that period you will

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remember that the police service with the assistant of the Justice

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Minister got some �86 million additional, a number of years back.

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Inside that figure was a �21-�26 million figure to settle this pay

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claim. That money was supposed to have been ringfenced. It would be

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good to answer answer where that money is and if it's available to

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pay these people who are justifiably making this claim? In raising this

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particular case, I think the member is raising something which people

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feel they are being treated unfairly, I think it's our

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responsibility to try and ensure that they feel that all avenues have

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been explored for them. I don't think any of us can promise what the

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outcome will be. Were people feel they are being unfairly treated or

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an issue of equality that is why we find it easy to support this motion

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today. You have a situation as Mr McCrea outlined were you have two

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workers, doing the same job, effectively, but coming from

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different position, historically, in terms of employment, and they are

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not receiving the same wages, that creates a very serious in e

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inequality and there is an issue of fairness there. Let us not forget,

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Deputy Speaker, that this �26 million that I understand is

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ringfenced for this project, or fo this equal pay, there are people

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who, I believe, deserve that, but those people would just not be the

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end recipients of it. This is �26 million. If it's ringfenced for this

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project, that maybe cannot spent on any other project within the

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Northern Ireland Executive. Members have suggested that beyond the issue

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of liability, as I said, is an issue of fairness. Of course I understand

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that point. I am he a also very clear in my understanding that I'm

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bound by DFP rules. Any attempt by me to pass to DFP a business case

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that flies in the face of legal liability, now establisheded beyond

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question in the courts, would be a breach of those rules and would

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therefore be rejected. Members and affected staff have suggested that

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they believe that I have money in my department's budge to settle this

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matter. That is simply not the case. Such... Let me finish this point.

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Such money was only ever to be provided to the Department of

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Justice from the Treasury in the event that illegal liability was

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established. It is is part of the treasury reserve. It was never made

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available to even the DFP, never mind DOJ or the police.

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The Justice Minister, David Ford, and that motion was carried.

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The DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt is with me now. There is no legal requirement,

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therefore there is no money, were you expecting a different response?

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Well, I was. During my tenure in the Northern Ireland Policing Board the

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Minister and indeed other colleagues on the Executive fought a case for

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an additional �86 million, I think, was the figure. Part of that pack

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package, apart from the security element required, was a �26 million

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package which the police had asked he would write to the Finance

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Ministers. I wonder why you targeted this at at Justice Minister rather

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than Sammy Wilson? Well, this is something ministers need to sort

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out. This is a matter of fairness and equality in terms of mostly

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female staff from the 2009 claim which was settled. I think in terms

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of the court case, the court case is one thing. The judge probably was

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not in receipt of all of the evidence at the time in relation to

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the case. In terms of actually settling this, a wrong that has been

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perpetrated on the folks concerned, it needs to be sorted out and I

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think it can be sorted out and it was obvious the Treasury were

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prepared to give that money to help sort it out way back.

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The issue is the motion was successful today, but the civil

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servants involved with the PSNI and 9 NIO are not closer to getting

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their money? Well, I would hope as a result of today, the issue has been

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raised. It has been brought forward. I hope there will be discussions

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from the Justice Minister with my colleague, Sammy Wilson and

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collectively something can be done to sort this out and there is a

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liability also on the it Chief Constable and the Northern Ireland

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Policing Board on this issue. It was quieter up here than it was

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yesterday with a debate about the Special Advisers Bill. A good day

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for Jim Allister? It was a good day for common sense in terms of the

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legislation which only affected a few people, but in terms of what we

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are talking about today, it affects considerable more people who are

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lower paid than the people we were talking about yesterday.

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I can't let you go without asking you about the name of the new

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political party, NI 21? As a fellow Unionist, do you wish them well for

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their big launch on Thursday? I am sure everybody wishes them

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well. I don't know how successful it will be. I think the thing that I

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like most so far was that somebody tweeted that it sounded like a

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particular make of a car! So let's see what happens in the coming days.

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You are not quaking in your boots? Absolutely not and I don't think

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anybody in my party will be quaking in their boots as a result of what

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John and Basil are launching later this week.

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We will get more details in due course.

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Jimmy Spratt, thank you. Tackling unemployment among young

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and older people was also discussed during Question Time today. The

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Employment and Learning Minister, Stephen Farry outlined his strategy

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to get people from both age groups back into work as soon as possible.

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Since the Youth Unemployment Scheme, my department has won working trying

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to -- has been working trying to secure job opportunities for young

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people. Almost 1,800 agreements have been signed for the different

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elements of the youth employment scheme and 232,000 opportunities

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have been scoured. 94 -- secured. 966 this taken place in the scheme.

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Of the 94 had young people 290 have moved into jobs supported by the

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enhanced employer subsidy. A further 51 young people obtained employment.

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37% of participants moved into full-time employment.

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The minister has spoken about the importance of apprenticeships. He

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has spoken about the enthusiasm among businesses to get involved.

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Can I ask him what steps his department is taking a? We are

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dependant upon the goodwill of business, but I believe through

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sound leadership from Government, but also good leadership from the

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representative organisations of the business community that we can

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enthuse businesses to take on more apprentices. This is very much in

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their interest alongside the interests of young people and if a

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business does offer a person an apprenticeship they can be sure they

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are training a person in the very immediate and direct needs of their

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business rather than relying on the wider education system that maybe

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good at providing general skills, but perhaps not the direct skills

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that that company requires. The current economic climate and the

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increase in the unemployment register made the move from benefits

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to finding and sustaining employment more difficult for those who have no

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recent work history. This is true for those who are aged 50 or over.

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In direct response to the economic downturn and as part of the

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check'stive and -- executive's. S.committee. One of the initiatives

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is Step Ahead 50 Plus. This is available throughout Northern

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Ireland to those aged 50 and over who have been out of work and in

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receipt of a working aged benefit or a combination of benefits for a

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minimum period of 12 months. It will improve job outcomes by providing

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the participants with an opportunity to experience a real job, coupled

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with a recent employment history. These will enable them to compete

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for jobs. At March, by March 2015 it will provide 1100 supported

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employment opportunities. It was introduced in January of this year

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and in the short time it has been available, it is proving to be

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successful. It has provided 269 people with fixed term employment

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which is the most welcome and commendable achievement.

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Sport was on the agenda again today when the Assembly discussed the

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administration of amateur football. A motion calling for the removal of

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a rule requiring clubs in the Northern Amateur Football League to

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have their own ground was passed by a narrow margin. The motion seeks to

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redress the anomaly 2. 1 rule for prime assy rule as it is sometimes

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called. The purpose of the removal of this rule is to literally create

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a level playing field for all clubs across the various leagues. It is my

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contention and that of many of those involved in soccer, or football if

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you like, and its development particularly in Belfast, but

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elsewhere as well, that this is an impediment to the development of the

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sport and the advancement of teams in this and other leagues.

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The NAFL could remove the rule at the sweep of a pen. As every other

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division this is not an issue and I refer also to Crusaders at this

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point. Newington and the work that both Newington and crusade terse

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carried out in the interests of sport and in the community relations

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particularly in north Belfast and that will continue to be the case.

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This is an organisation that has been existence for something like

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150 years and one of the oldest such organisations in the worlgd. The IFA

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is the -- world. The IFA is the third oldest in the world. It is

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essential to recognise and respect that the Northern Ireland Amateur

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Football League is an organisation that is voted by majority to retain

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the prime assy rule that requires amateur football clubs to have sole

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control of their football ground. There is an issue in relation to

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FIFA and it is not a case of if, but when, fed ta gets their hands on the

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minutes of today -- FIFA gets their hands on the the minutes of today's

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meetings here. There is the possibility of sanctions and in

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Greece, FIFA threatened to implement the sanctions and we need to be

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careful where we take this debate today.

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I respect the caution that he has given to this assembly, not to be

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interfering in the internal affairs and governance of the Northern

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League, but this motion doesn't do that. It doesn't actually do that.

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But the point is this - it is up to us as I said before, as interested

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spectators to say to the Northern League, look at this rule and see if

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it can be changed for the better. Just let me clarify this

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straightaway. I don't believe for one minute that this motion is about

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me ex-health authoritying any political interference -- exhorting

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any political interference and it was asking me to do that, my answer

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is I am not prepared to do it. Do I believe the rule is fit for purpose?

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I don't. I don't. The Sports Minister, Caral ni Chuilin. There

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may be one coming to a hill near you - a wind farm that is. With planning

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applications for sites across Northern Ireland awaiting approval,

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the Environment Minister was asked today if the natural beauty of an

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area is taken into consideration when it comes to planning

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permission. All of those issues in terms of landscape character and

0:23:440:23:49

visual amenity and the benefits and disbenefits economically and

0:23:490:23:55

socially of a windfarm or wind turbine, these are interrogated.

0:23:550:24:05
0:24:050:24:10

Yes, I think it is very important that decisions are made in respect

0:24:100:24:14

of windfarms, wind turbines. Why? Because I believe it is important

0:24:140:24:18

that we try to have self sue fishancy. Account minister give his

0:24:180:24:21

assessment of the protection set out for those people who live close to

0:24:210:24:25

wind turbines and does he recognise that a major complaint is in fact

0:24:250:24:31

the noise level of these units? it on the issue of noise or the

0:24:310:24:39

previous point he raised is that this is always work in progress.

0:24:390:24:43

This is always going to be a situation where we will see what the

0:24:430:24:51

latest noise advice might be or the late st advice in terms of economic

0:24:510:24:54

and social impact, negative and positive. It will always be a work

0:24:540:24:59

in progress. Does the minister recognise the

0:24:590:25:02

importance of the Belfast City Airport to our local business and

0:25:020:25:06

local economy especially in the Greater Belfast area? I recognise it

0:25:060:25:10

and I have had conversations with the management of the airport

0:25:100:25:17

acknowledging in terms of the City as an economic driver, and in terms

0:25:170:25:22

of the City Airport as a regional opportunity, I acknowledge that has

0:25:220:25:26

a major role, but we have to get a balance between the two airports and

0:25:260:25:32

in the absence of an overall airport aviation strategy and we don't have

0:25:320:25:36

one in Northern Ireland and that falls to other ministers, we do need

0:25:360:25:42

to recognise that competition is good when it is done properly, but

0:25:420:25:48

we need to sustain both airports, but I want to give this reassurance

0:25:480:25:53

in respect of the City Airport. Every two months I get figures in

0:25:530:25:59

respect of what is known as their extension log. The number of flights

0:25:590:26:05

that arrive outside the proper time. Every two months I get that

0:26:050:26:11

information. Every two months I share that information with the

0:26:110:26:14

airport Watch organisation, but I am satisfied at the moment, the number

0:26:140:26:19

of air traffic movements outside the permitted hours is justified and

0:26:190:26:23

appropriate and that at the moment, the number of seats for sale in

0:26:230:26:28

respect of which there is a cap around the City Airport namely �2

0:26:280:26:31

million a year is not being breached. In that way, I think the

0:26:310:26:36

airport can develop, but it has to be, it has to develop very much

0:26:360:26:39

aware of the needs of the local community and within the constraints

0:26:390:26:47

of a proper planning agreement. The Environment Minister, Alex

0:26:470:26:53

Attwood. Martina Purdy has joined me again. Can you characterise the fall

0:26:530:26:57

out from yesterday's debate on the Special Advisers Bill? We are

0:26:570:27:00

hearing from Sinn Fein's sources that they are determined to take

0:27:010:27:04

legal action. Perhaps not just in terms of Human Rights law, but

0:27:040:27:08

employment law. There is scepticism around the place about how far Sinn

0:27:080:27:14

Fein will be able to take this. We know that the Bill will still need

0:27:140:27:17

Royal Assent which will take six to eight weeks and once the Bill comes

0:27:170:27:23

into place, it will be another two months if you like before it could

0:27:230:27:28

be effected. There is a right of appeal and there is a right of two

0:27:280:27:32

months notice. He is going to be in place for at least four months and

0:27:320:27:34

maybe longer depending on the legal process.

0:27:340:27:39

What is the impact on the different parties? Well, I think Sinn Fein has

0:27:390:27:42

a difficulty in that Paul Kavanagh, one of the reasons he might have

0:27:430:27:48

been appointed as a special adviser sent a signal to the old IRA, that

0:27:480:27:52

you know, this new process, Stormont, is still very much about

0:27:520:27:56

them. It is not just about bringing in perhaps new, a new generation and

0:27:560:28:01

so they might get a bit of grief from their base and from critics in

0:28:010:28:05

the dissidents, the same old Stormont, the Unionists are able to

0:28:050:28:09

call the shots. The SDLP, the differences of opinion have been

0:28:090:28:12

exposed within that party. The divisions with the assembly team are

0:28:120:28:16

probably reflected in their base. They may lose support, but they

0:28:160:28:21

might gain support, but it was a week of sole searching for the SDLP

0:28:210:28:27

and a good day's work for Jim Allister. The TUV are saying the

0:28:270:28:29

requests for membership of applications are up.

0:28:290:28:34

A quick sentence on the fact that the deputy leader of UKIP is in town

0:28:340:28:38

later in the week? Yes, on Thursday he is expected to come here. The

0:28:380:28:45

party wants to increase its profile. It is the same day that Northern

0:28:450:28:54

Ireland 21 or NI 21 are launching. Coincidence? We will see.

0:28:540:28:58

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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