04/11/2013 Stormont Today


04/11/2013

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

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is another difficult week for Gerry Adams, but he can count on the

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support of the Deputy First Minister? I don't believe there is

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any similarity whatsoever between the case of the cardinal and Gerry

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Adams. The First Minister makes a promise

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to Translink workers about the future of the organisation. There is

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no intention on the part of the executive to be involved in any

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privatisation. And to look at those stories and a

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whole lot more, I'm joined by our political correspondent, Gareth

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Gordon. He may no longer be a member of the

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Assembly, but one political big-hitter turned out to be the talk

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of Stormont today. The Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, has been

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coming under pressure because of his alleged past and today in the

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chamber the Deputy First Minister had to defend his party colleague.

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Martin McGuinness was answering a question from the DUP's, Mervyn

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Storey. I think that the issue around the terrible circumstances of

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child abuse have been well articulated and well aired in the

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course of recent times and Gerry Adams has made public his position

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in relation to the role that he played given that this was first

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reported to both the social services and to the RUC in 1987. I believe

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there is a huge responsibility on everybody within society without

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exception, that whatever information they have in regard to situations of

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child abuse has to be brought forward to the proper authorities

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and over the course of I think many years now, many organisations I

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think have learned a lot from what have been quite scandalous cases

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that have been thrown up in the course of the last ten, 15 years.

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Does the Deputy First Minister following on from his logic when he

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called for the cardinal to resign given the allegations in relation to

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child abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, does he believe it

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is time for his party president to resign and to ensure there is

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transparency and there is openness and consistency in regards to the

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approach of what is a heinous and an evil crime and that's abuse of

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children? I don't believe there is any similarity whatsoever between

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the case of the cardinal and Gerry Adams. In the case of the cardinal,

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a child was sworn to secrecy. In Gerry Adams' case, Gerry Adams was

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fully in support of his niece, travelled to Buncrana and confronted

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his brother and supported niece and her mother when she reported the

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abuse to the social services and to the RUC.

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I think the other thing that, you know, you can clearly see that

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sometimes in situations like this people like to take political

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advantage. Without recognising for example the trauma that Gerry Adams'

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family went through as a result of the abuse that was inflicted on them

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by their father and in many ways that entire family are victims

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including Gerry Adams and I think people need towned stand that and

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they need to place themselves in that situation where quite clearly

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something was happening within that family which was terribly, terribly

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wrong. So I think that the two situations in regards to the

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cardinal and Gerry Adams are not the same.

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Our political correspondent, Gareth Gordon, is with me to discuss this

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further. The Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, has told MLAs he

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doesn't believe there's any similarity between the case of

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Catholic Cardinal Sean Brady and his colleague Gerry Adams

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Martin McGuinness will be expecting this question to be asked of him

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because he what he said about Cardinal Sean Brady last year and it

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is surprising no one has got asking it of him before today. Following a

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BBC documentary last year in which Cardinal Brady was accused of

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failing to act after allegations that a #14r-year-old boy had been

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sexually abused by the paedophile priest, Father Brendan Smith. Mr

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McGuinness was asked what he thought and he said that the cardinal should

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do the right thing, meaning he should resign. So what a lot of

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people are asking is the difference between Cardinal Brady failing to

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act and the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams failing to act. For

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reasons he outlined in that clip there, Martin McGuinness says the

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two cases are not the same. They are different. But others will disagree

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and I suspect that as far as Gerry Adams is concerned this matter is a

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long way from being at an end. The SDLP have been quick to pick up

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on Mr McGuinness's remarks? The SDLP had a statement out saying that

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Gerry Adams and the republican movement had a growing number of

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questions to answer. He claimed Mr McGuinness's defence of Mr Adams was

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double standards. Alex at wood claimed the same people who made so

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much about the Catholic Church's involvement last year, Sinn Fein,

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were n saying and doing little about allegations of abuse of children by

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republicans. Gerry Adams was already in the news

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today because of another episode from the past which simply refuses

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to go away? And Gerry Adams all over the news today because of the issue

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of the disappeared and new allegations that he ordered the

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murder of one of those who have become known as the disappeared and

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that's Jean ma con vil. A documentary which aired tonne on RTE

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and the BBC, Mr Adams played a starring role, a central role and he

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once again denied the allegations that he was involved or ordered the

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killing of Jean Mc Conville. Both these issues. The question that we

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don't yet have an answer to is what damage this is doing to Gerry Adams

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and to Sinn Fein particularly in the south?

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Now, let's catch up with the rest of today's questions to the Deputy

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First Minister, where the subject of the disappeared also came up. But

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Martin McGuinness began by giving his unequivocal backing to one

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long-running project. Yes, I am committed to the new bridge and I do

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so on the basis of the tremendous success that a small bridge in my

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own city made to the life of that city. ?17 million sterling was spent

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on it and it had a massive impact on the city. And effectively represents

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a new iconic image for the city. Like wise, I think that the

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construction of a bridge at Narrow Water would have a similar effect

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for the people of the area and add immensely to the tourist potential.

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We understand the difficulties in terms of the tendering process and

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the scale of the tender that was way in excess of what was expected and

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since that, there have been, I think, a number of discussions

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around whether or not a remedy could be put in place and myself and

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another minister was involved in discussions in Ross Trevor. Would

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you recommend to provide the funding which would fill the existing gap in

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the Narrow Water project? It would be wrong to identify our Finance

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Minister as the problem in regard tor -- to Narrow Water. There is

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effectively a responsibility on the Irish Government, on ourselves, and

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the SUPB and on the councils on both sides of the Narrow Water to come up

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with a solution. I don't know if that solution can be found. I would

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like to hear the Irish Government say more about it.

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What particular help can he offer given his republican background to

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enable and ensure that those bodies are returned for family burial?

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Well, my full sympathy and compassion is with all of those

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families. They are by far and away the most important people in the

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course of this discussion. I believe that what happened to these families

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was totally and absolutely wrong. I believe it was cruel. I believe it

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was unjustified and of course, the IRA were responsible. I and other

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Sinn Fein leaders, other republican leaders have over the course of a

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number of years been involved in ex-health authoritying anyone --

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exhorting anyone with any scrap of information about the location of

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these bodies to bring them forward. And that has brought considerable

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success for some families, but sadly not for others and I would again

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reiterate my appeal to anyone out there in the community who in anyway

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were involved in any of these situations to bring forward that

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information, to bring forward it to the commission, to bring it forward

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to anybody in a responsible position within society and to bring it

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forward to republican leaders who I think are anxious to see this

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situation resolved. So my full compassion and support is with the

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families. It has been a terrible ordeal. It has been a despicable

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ordeal and I believe there is a huge responsibility on everybody

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including myself as a republican leader to appeal to anybody out

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there who can assist these families out of the nightmare that they face

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on a daily basis. .

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The Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. Privatisation by another

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name - that was the subject at the heart of a debate about Translink in

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the Assembly today. In one corner was the Regional Development

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Minister and in the other, his committee, arguing that private

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operators should be allowed to tender for running services. Mr

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Speaker, I want to nail this spurious accusation at the outset.

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At no time either during the course of the inquiry or in the reporting

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of the committee findings and recommendations have I, the deputy

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chair or the committee called for Translink to be privatised. They did

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not and were not used. How does the department deliver against its

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legislation? Against its strategic business case? It awards

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TransLibbing a ten year contract. And on top of that, promises a

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contract to deliver Belfast Rapid Transit. Where is the opportunity

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for competition in this? Where is the drive to attract meaningful

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delivery. The department had the opportunity to make a real

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difference, but I suggest chickened out for convenience sake. At no time

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did the committee as the chair said agree to privatisation of our

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transport system. The terms of reference set out by the committee

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clearly set out objectives in order to improve transport solutions for

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all of society. It is time to review the public transport system and who

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delivers it. To maximise the organisation and delivery structures

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and improve efficiencies. Nowhere in the terms of reference was the

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concept of tisation mentioned. In the 21st century, public transport

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should be people's first choice, not last resort. I have spoken to

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drivers and other personnel and to their trade unions and they have

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shared with me their frustration because they know their routes, this

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he know the systems and they know their job and yet rarely is their

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advice on how improvements could be taken into account, it is by and

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large ignored. At this point, Mr Speaker, it is worth pointing out

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that we should debunk the notion that the report is anything to do

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with privatisation of public transport in Northern Ireland. The

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report is about were providing appropriate competition and ensuring

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that Translink deliver the best public transport system for Northern

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Ireland. The Northern Ireland transport holding company with the

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three subsidiary companies of Northern Ireland Railways and the

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City Bus and Ulster Bus is a very tangled web of governance. It is a

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cumbersome structure. I think that's really what the report is trying to

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attempt to deal with. I confess that I'm disappointed with the thrust and

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indeed, the quality of this report from the committee. I have

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acknowledged and continue to acknowledge the valuable input and

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support from the committee in the past on other issues, but there is

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simply nothing in this report that I can properly take forward and I hope

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that the committee will he therefore review its conclusions. I have no

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intention of legislating for powers that either already exist or indeed,

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to review something so recently reviewed and I am certainly not

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prepared to privatise Translink. The First Minister spoke to

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protesters from the Unite union outside Parliament buildings. Peter

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Robinson told them there are no plans to drastically alter

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Translink. There is no plans to be involved in privatisation. From an

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Executive point of view, it is a matter for the Department of

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Regional development and they will be working on it. But any changes

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that take place that come under the heading of being significant or

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controversial come to the Checktive so it is not a case of us being

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sidelined on the issue. There will be nothing that will happen without

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us having a full debate and discussion about it and what you

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have to say will be taken into account by us when that decision

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comes around. Peter Robinson speaking to Unite

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union members outside Parliament Buildings.

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The idea first came to light during his party conference speech, and

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today the Ulster Unionist leader brought a motion on an International

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Mental Health Centre to the floor of the Assembly. He suggested funding

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for the stalled Maze Peace Centre should be used for a new trauma

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centre. The need to tackle mental health issues garnered support from

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across the chamber. The motion is the declaration of intent. We

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therefore do need to develop the concept. We need to be very clear

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about central issues like who is the centre for? What will the outcomes

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be? Where will the centre below kated? How will the centre be

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funded? We need to put more meat on the bones in relation to development

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all of those proposals. The SDLP are supportive of a health

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centre of international standing, but we want to design such a

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facility, a collaborative effort must be sought. It is a case of

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designing it to its best capacity and it will deliver in a much more

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comprehensive way. This motion, it would appear, it would seem comes in

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the context of the UUP's misguided and opportunistic campaign against a

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peace and reconciliation centre the Maze. The UP put forward this

:17:24.:17:30.

proposal as an alternative to that development. This should not be

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framed as a choice. There could and perhaps should be room for both. We

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have to make sure that whatever concepts or whatever initiatives

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that we launch that they are effective and it is very easy to

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make broad statements and soundbites be certain issues, but when we are

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dealing with a very personal issue. A very traumatic time in the lives

:17:56.:18:01.

of people who suffer from mental health issues, it is important that

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we are looking for an effective solution and something that will

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work and help these people who need the help and need the support of

:18:11.:18:13.

Government as well. I would have preferred had the motion said today

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that it was calling on me to support the creation of as opposed to

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supporting the creation of a new international mental health centre

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for Northern Ireland that would be a world-class facility for all. I

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would have preferred it if it had been the development of mental

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health services that would be a world-class facility for all because

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I don't think that the creation of a new building will create a

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world-class service. Mike Nesbitt joins me now. You must

:18:49.:18:54.

be glad that the motion was carried, but there were a few dissenting

:18:55.:18:57.

voices? Yes. Well, the hour-and-a-half was positive. There

:18:58.:19:00.

was a bit of party politics in it and you have captured most of it in

:19:01.:19:05.

that report, but not enough for anyone to say I want to put this to

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a vote. I made the call over two weeks ago. Overall a positive

:19:12.:19:15.

response to it and I am pleased we were able to get it into the chamber

:19:16.:19:19.

so quickly. We have had that debate. The next phase is to start fleshing

:19:20.:19:24.

out what it might look like now. The minister is saying the building

:19:25.:19:27.

isn't the key to it. Well, if that's the case, that's fine. If it turns

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into an international mental health set of centres, so much the better.

:19:32.:19:36.

Or if it becomes an international mental health initiative, fine. It

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is the outcome. It is the end rather than the means to the end that

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matter to me and that's helping because we acknowledge in the

:19:46.:19:48.

chamber per head this problem of poor mental health affects Northern

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Ireland more than just about any country on planet earth.

:19:52.:20:00.

That's right. What would work better and Edwin Po ots touched upon it. It

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might be improving mental health services for people that live here.

:20:09.:20:13.

You talked about it being a centre of excellence that would draw people

:20:14.:20:16.

into Northern Ireland to benefit from our experience. The two things

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are not the same? I think there are three functions that you would look

:20:21.:20:23.

at it. One is treatment. One would be training and one would be

:20:24.:20:27.

research. Now, in terms of treatment, I am very clear that you

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can't expect people to travel to one centre. I am, very informed on this

:20:33.:20:41.

by a man from Fermanagh who survived three assassination attempts. His

:20:42.:20:47.

daughter used to drive him, when he left to go home, they were great and

:20:48.:21:02.

by the time they got to Augher, Clogher, they could feel the stress.

:21:03.:21:10.

This could be instead of the Maze Peace Centre, that's is a move that

:21:11.:21:16.

some people feel strongly about? Let's talk about that. Everything is

:21:17.:21:22.

negotiatable if it means people with mental health having better mental

:21:23.:21:25.

health. We are saying let's talk about this in its own right and

:21:26.:21:29.

everybody did agree that in its own right it is aing big issue and it

:21:30.:21:33.

needs more resource. That doesn't mean that you are

:21:34.:21:38.

warming to the idea of the Maze Peace Centre. I wouldn't want to say

:21:39.:21:41.

that people with poor mental health have to suffer because of party

:21:42.:21:45.

politics. We can all agree that we will do this and I went around the

:21:46.:21:51.

parties of the Exec TV and -- Executive and they agreed that we

:21:52.:21:54.

need to discuss this with experts and if that works, there maybe

:21:55.:21:57.

another meeting and somebody else, another political party can chair

:21:58.:22:01.

it. Mike Nesbitt, thank you.

:22:02.:22:07.

Who precisely is in charge of Northern Ireland Water was under the

:22:08.:22:09.

spotlight during questions to the Minister for Regional Development.

:22:10.:22:15.

The post was advertised in March of this year, but in October it was

:22:16.:22:18.

revealed that the position hadn't been filled, despite the fact that a

:22:19.:22:21.

recruitment agency was being paid to find the right candidate. Can the

:22:22.:22:24.

minister outline how much the failed process has cost the public purse

:22:25.:22:27.

and when the new Chief Executive will be in post? I am grateful to

:22:28.:22:31.

the member for her question. I can confirm that costs to date are going

:22:32.:22:40.

to be in the region of ?70,000. Obviously, efforts will be made by

:22:41.:22:45.

the board of Northern Ireland Water in conjunction and in consultation

:22:46.:22:48.

with the department as to how quickly we can move forward to

:22:49.:22:53.

resolve this situation. It is better to wait for a candidate of the right

:22:54.:23:00.

standard than appoint a top applicant to fall short of the right

:23:01.:23:05.

standard? I agree and it is important to secure the best

:23:06.:23:09.

candidate for any position and particularly that of the Chief

:23:10.:23:14.

Executive of Northern Ireland Water and I think the principle of merit

:23:15.:23:23.

should be the abiding principle. A total of 34 candidates expressed

:23:24.:23:29.

interest in this position, but after careful contribution, the panel

:23:30.:23:35.

concluded that it was not satisfied to make an appointment. I regret, of

:23:36.:23:43.

course, the potential cost, but I think everyone is agreed that the

:23:44.:23:47.

appointment when it is made has to be the right appointment.

:23:48.:23:52.

The DRD committee has been told by Northern Ireland Water they intend

:23:53.:23:57.

to look at erecting 350 foot high turbines in the silent valley area.

:23:58.:24:04.

Can he give an assurance that he will neither encourage such a

:24:05.:24:08.

development and indeed, will actively discourage a development of

:24:09.:24:11.

this nature that would destroy the landscape in the area, would hurt

:24:12.:24:16.

the tourist industry and of course, would damage his constituents? Well,

:24:17.:24:20.

I am grateful to the member for his question. I am grateful to for the

:24:21.:24:24.

opportunity to set the record straight on this because I believe

:24:25.:24:30.

there has been some unhelpful comments on this and misguided

:24:31.:24:38.

comment on it. I can confirm that Northern Ireland Water have no

:24:39.:24:42.

current proposals. I can confirm also that I have no proposals or any

:24:43.:24:51.

plans for windfarms in the Mournes. And Northern Ireland Water advised

:24:52.:24:56.

it doesn't foresee the development of windfarms in the Mournes and of

:24:57.:25:00.

course, he will know any such proposals would need to go through a

:25:01.:25:04.

business case, regulatory and planning approval processes, but I

:25:05.:25:09.

am happy to place on record that in an area of outstanding natural

:25:10.:25:15.

beauty in the Mournes that I have no intention of putting forward

:25:16.:25:18.

proposals and I don't believe Northern Ireland Water have either.

:25:19.:25:23.

The Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy.

:25:24.:25:25.

Education, as ever, proved a contentious topic between the two

:25:26.:25:28.

main parties. The DUP brought a motion calling on the Minister to

:25:29.:25:31.

review enrolment procedures in the light of some schools being

:25:32.:25:34.

oversubscribed. In his response to the debate, the Minister wanted to

:25:35.:25:37.

know how the DUP would solve the problem. The motion doesn't present

:25:38.:25:42.

the DUP proposal on how we ensure that all local children attend their

:25:43.:25:46.

local school. It calls on me as minister, the person who spent the

:25:47.:25:49.

opening part of his speech telling the world and its mother that I

:25:50.:25:54.

can't run the department. Well, so, it seems a bit of a contradiction...

:25:55.:25:58.

Is the minister telling us in the House today in the light of the

:25:59.:26:03.

lecture he has given us that computer based assessments that the

:26:04.:26:07.

department got it right. Levels of attainment, the department got it

:26:08.:26:14.

right. If he is, then he really is not living in the real world. He is

:26:15.:26:19.

the minister and he knows he is in the wrong. The providers did not get

:26:20.:26:23.

it right and we are going through that. Levels of progression, not

:26:24.:26:27.

only have I proposed levels of progression. The Education Committee

:26:28.:26:31.

agreed with the levels of progression and sent them to this

:26:32.:26:37.

House agreed with them. The Education Committee agreed with my

:26:38.:26:41.

proposals on levels of progression and passed them through to

:26:42.:26:48.

legislation. I believed the member is a chair of the Education

:26:49.:26:52.

Committee. I spent my weekend off studying the DUP's response to the

:26:53.:26:57.

common funding formula. I was no more enlightened at the end of the

:26:58.:27:01.

weekend than I was at the start of the weekend in relation to a

:27:02.:27:05.

contrary proposal from the DUP in regards to that matter either. When

:27:06.:27:10.

you introduce a formula or criteria for entry into a school and you are

:27:11.:27:14.

dealing with around 24,000 applications every year, you are

:27:15.:27:18.

going to run into a number of difficulties where you do not meet

:27:19.:27:21.

the circumstances of individual pupils or individual families.

:27:22.:27:25.

That's the reality of the situation. I believe the formula we have in

:27:26.:27:28.

place and the legislation we have in place is working well with a 96%

:27:29.:27:37.

firs preference and 97% and third and second preference. I have no

:27:38.:27:43.

difficulty in reviewing it to ensure we increase the rate and ensure that

:27:44.:27:48.

we, if there is any anomalies in the system we identify them and move on.

:27:49.:27:53.

It would be nice to come into the chamber when somebody came in with a

:27:54.:28:02.

thought out proposal. The Education Minister, John O'Dowd, giving vent

:28:03.:28:05.

to some of his frustrations. Gareth Gordon is back with me again. What's

:28:06.:28:08.

happening tomorrow? The Health Minister will take centre stage.

:28:09.:28:12.

First of all, you will remember he announced back in September that he

:28:13.:28:15.

was setting up an inyrry into child sexual exploitation and that was

:28:16.:28:18.

following the disclosure that over 30 people in Northern Ireland have

:28:19.:28:22.

been arrested as part of a major investigation into into the sexual

:28:23.:28:26.

exploitation of children and young people. Tomorrow, the minister will

:28:27.:28:28.

reveal the name of the person that will chair that inquiry and in the

:28:29.:28:32.

afternoon a Sinn Fein motion on the ban on gay blood and of course,

:28:33.:28:36.

that's the ban which led to a High Court judge finding against Edwin

:28:37.:28:42.

Poots and accusing him of breaking the Ministerial Code.

:28:43.:28:48.

That's all for now. I'll be back at 11.20pm tomorrow on BBC Two. For

:28:49.:28:50.

now, bye-bye.

:28:51.:28:56.

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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