05/03/2012 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. And while Tara takes a well-


earned break, I'll be your guide through the high points of the


Assembly proceedings. Last week, the Oscars, this week, yet another


His girlfriend was there, but we were not.


Pack your bags - mart inMcGuinness and Peter Robinson were on tour.


Here's where you'll see them... Northern India, Dubai, China.


all strictly business of course. With me throughout is Professor


Michael O' Flaherty of the Human Rights Commission.


A stark message was delivered to our lawmakers today - laws and


regulations are falling short when it comes to protecting older


residents in nursing homes. Indeed, a catalogue of concerns was


revealed in a new report from the Human Rights Commission. Your


report in defence of dignity found serious shortcomings when it came


to caring for our elderly. Yes, indeed. There are somewhere between


10-11 million people living in nursing homes in Northern Ireland.


We all know somebody who is in a nursing home. We ourselves may end


up in one. There have been concerns reaching the commission over the


years about some inappropriate behaviour that undermines dignity.


It's on this basis we set about the study. We found, on one hand, low-


grade abuse and denial of the basic dignity of the old people, on the


other hand, serious concerns about matters such as getting your last


meal at 4.30pm, not eating again until 10.00am the next morning, the


use of incontinence pads instead of bringing people to the toilet, use


of inappropriate restraints and so on. A lot of concern raised through


this trawl for evidence and an investigation in a number of holes


as well as gaps in the law and procedures and regulations where we


need to put human rights in the centre of the story. The Minister


has been saying these cases have been dealt with. Is that correct?


welcome the fact the Minister has engaged the issue so extensively


today. He attended our launch today, spoke so effectively. He made a


commitment he'd look seriously at what the commission has found. That


is a good starting point. He -- uses the term historic. Nine out of


the 80 cases we felt the immediate risk of harm to an individual was


such we should bring the individuals directly to the trust.


Some of the matters were historic, but the underlying patterns and


lack of regulation hasn't gone away. Thank you. Here's what the Health


Minister said to me when I bumped into him in the great hall a little


while ago. We're talking about a very few facilities, that there are


thousands of staff in nursing homes that provide really good quality


care in hundreds of nursing homes across Northern Ireland for very


many people and many of the families recognise that and


appreciate that standard of care. Of course, this cannot be tolerated


even if it is a very small number of cases, and we will go after


those nursing homes. We'll still provide the best quality of care.


That's why we have an independent regulatory body. That's why we have


had 1,100 inspections of the nursing homes last year, so we do


take these matters seriously in providing the best quality of care


for elderly people. You heard the Minister there. He's going to go


after these homes that don't ensure dignity for the elderly. Are you


satisfied? Are you reassured? That's encouraging, but more is


needed. We need to change the regulation as well. Now you can't


restrain an older person in a home without good cause. The regulations


don't define what restraint is. We had one case in which a nursing


home staff member shoved a table against a chair. The person was


effectively a prisoner. When we challenged that was restraint and


had to comply with the rules, the staff member said, "I had no idea


this was restraint". So we need a definition of that we need a


definition of what making a best decision in the case of the


resident means - in some cases, like dementia, the person cannot


make their own mind up, so you have to decide what's best for them. But


there is no guidance in the regulation of what best interests


looks like and how it would work this practising. We need a change


in the regime. We'll certainly keep an eye on what they do about those


regulation. There was a big Assembly or ray for


Hollywood golfer Rory McIlroy this morning. He became the world's


number one golfer at the weekend, and our First and Deputy First


Ministers, delighted at the news, congratulated him along with other


MLAs, but while he was on top form, one member claimed our executive


efforts to promote Northern Ireland as a golfing destination was way


below par. What an ambassador, Mr Speaker. He did it with the support


of his father Gerry, his mother Rosie. His girlfriend was there,


but we were not, Mr Speaker, and Mr Speaker, I was in Valencia in 1982


reporting on Northern Ireland in the World Cup finals when the late


Harold McKusker lambasted the tourist board and everybody else


who was not there to support the team. 30 years on I make this plea


- let's stop making this mistake. I know the tourism Minister has said


she's reserved half a million pounds to promote Northern Ireland


at Port Rush. May I suggest she takes the BA flight tomorrow and


send an executive where Rory tees off as world golf's number one


player and Northern Ireland's number one ambassador. The reality


is there has been a considerable amount of support from Invest MNI


including it going live on the PGA tour which runs until June. The


reception that was held on the 9th of January in conjunction with


David Faherty with the executives at Pebble Beach - we'll also - the


investment and I will also be hosting hospitality at the US Open


putting us pretty much at the heart of golf and world golf. Leaving


aside the petty sniping of Mr Nesbitt in relation to this I would


like to say this House is united as party. We're sending out a clear


signal, well done, Rory. You have done us all proud. In case Mike


Nesbitt didn't give the message, Peter Robinson was to drive it


again home in Question Time. Peter Robinson is off travelling in the


next few months. In support of the economy, the Deputy First Minister


and I will be participating at a number of programmes in the coming


months, including to North America, India, Dubai and even China. We


believe that there is an important role that inward investment plays


in growing the Northern Ireland economy and we welcome the


opportunity to support, invest in Northern Ireland's activities in


overseas markets. Our first overseas visit of the year will be


to North America where we'll meet with a number of potential and


existing investors and key business influencers in Washington, DC and


Canada. North MAmerica is of course a significant source of FDI and


we'll take the opportunity to reinforce the message we have a


superb track record in supporting investors to grow Northern Ireland.


We'll share this at the highest levels within the Obama


administration. We're scheduled to meet with the President and


Secretary of State Clinton around the St Patrick's Day celebration.


We also plan to lead and invest an Northern Ireland Trade and Invest


mission set to visit India and the united Arab Emirates in April. This


will be part of the Opportunity India campaign and will be the


first mission to visit the market in 2012. Indian companies are major


investors in the United Kingdom and a growing source of FDI. Again,


we'll communicate the message the Northern Ireland executive is pro-


business and committed to growing the economic. We'll continue to


look for opportunities to support the economy Minister and invest


Northern Ireland in order to attract high-quality investment.


Will the First Minister join me in congratulating the successes over


the weekend by Rory McIlroy? Does he believe this success can be used


to help Invest Northern Ireland? Invest Northern Ireland plan to


arrange to promote golfing activities. For the third year it


will be involved in corporate hospitality at the US Open, which


is being held in San Francisco, and they will have that corporate


hospitality in each of the four days of the competition. Beyond the


US Open, Invest Northern Ireland is advertising on the PGA tour dot com


website this week. Indeed, I hear from our colleagues at Tourism


Ireland that they have produced a new 60-second commercial featuring


Rory McIlroy which will air on the Golf Channel this week. I has that


excellent commercial line from Rory saying how much he loves being from


Northern Ireland. And all of that helps problems as far as


international investors and tourists are concerned. On a more


sombre note, it was the Health Minister next, and the first


question he faced was on his department's attempts to reduce the


suicide rates. The Protect Life strategy was launched in the midst


of unprecedented increases in suicide rates. This has had almost


an immediate impact on the potential for achieving the 15%


reduction in suicide. The reduction target is based on a three-year


rolling average. Therefore it will not be known for definite until


December 2013 whether the target has been met. However, given recent


trends in suicide rates, it is most unlikely that target will be


achieved. Suicide is a sad issue and many social factors beyond the


Protect Life strategy influence suicide. The Northern Ireland Home


Office noticed the suicide rate alone is difficult to - in view of


this, new objectives and measures are being developed which will


allow for a more balanced assessment of Protect Life whilst


retaining the goal of reducing suicide this will set out a


strategy that is to be published Can I thank the Minister for his


answer. Can he outline, is he confident that the measures he now


has in place will ensure the 15 % reduction will be met in the coming


years? Regrettably, as it would appear in this moment in time, that


will not be the case. There may be a range of reasons associated with


it. However, actions that have been taken had been hoped for and I


trust they will prove to be helpful in terms of the work being done.


Speaker, question number three. I can confirm there are no plans to


sell Belfast City Hospital. Can I ask the Minister what discussions,


if any, have taken place concerning the City Hospital site, including


the medical school, Cancer Centre and blood transfusion centre with


the private sector, either for sale and leaseback or private, public


partnership? If these have taken place, I am not aware of it and I


had not approved it. What about resources? Can that assist in the


care of the elderly? Improving a regulation does not cost a penny.


Changing the culture of the nursing home sector does not cost anything


at all. In other cases, it is about reallocation of current resources.


Ultimately, there is going to be a need for some resources. We, as the


Human Rights Commission, have no confidence in our finances. -- had


no competence in Abbey's finances. However, if extra resources are


needed, can you think of anything better to spend it on than the


elderly? Main points of the Bill be guarding marine waters were set out


today. It provides greater protection for the marine


environment. It will establish a streamlined system of marine


planning. It will introduce conservation measures that will


seek to ensure that biodiversity is protected and international and


European commitment are met. Northern Ireland supports Heart Of


Our biodiversity, including a threatened marine animals and


plants. Some of the species have only been discovered. 22 species of


sponges have just been discovered. Stephen Agnew says the Bill does


not go far enough. He is with me now. What is wrong with the bill?


One thing that does not appear in the Bill is marine management


organisation. At the moment, five different departments have bury its


responsibilities in terms of marine management. It is unwieldly and


expensive. Critics would say it would add to bureaucracy and the


cost. It will bring those strands into one organisation. Eight recent


report -- a recent report says the upfront cost would be around


�650,000. We will save �200,000 a year by the rationalisation of all


these different strands of work. But is the money argument, but what


difference would an organisation like this make? What it means is


you have one body with experts and a clear policy objective of


promotion, protection and enhancement of the marine


environment and biodiversity. We have had the situation which has


been to date a permissive state of regulation. We are in threat of


European sanctions because of the damage that has been done to the


reefs. We cannot keep doing what we have been doing. Globally, we are


losing up to 200 plant and animal species a day and if we do not stop


this biodiversity loss, it is not any conservation that will lose out,


but the fishing industry as well. One do you like about the bill? It


does include offences against damaging and marine areas. Yes,


there are protection zones. We need to see what those are really like,


and the Minister has said there will not be a one size fits all


approach. That is good as long as we see the Right protections in the


right place. Thank you. Would you fancy moving to Canada? My parents


took to the idea back in the 1970s, but I made it back to my native


land, a refugee from the Canadian winter. But it is the land of


opportunity, so says the Canadian High Commissioner. There are about


2.5 million people in Canada who have direct links back to Northern


Ireland. There is a new mine that will create around 350 new jobs.


There are connections between our universities and there are huge


opportunities on the Canadian Studies Programme for Irish


students to go to Canada. What kind of opportunities are there for


people to work in Canada? We had a very good programme between Canada


and the United Kingdom which is the Youth Experience programme. Young


people can go to Canada for two years. There are lots of jobs,


especially in the construction industry. There are opportunities


in the tourism industry. A lot of people go to ski resorts, golf


resorts and they can work and lived there. There are jobs in the


aerospace industry. There is a rich array of choices for young people


wanting to go to Canada, and some people who want to go for the


longer period. Our First Minister and betty macro turd -- and Deputy


First Minister are heading out to Canada. What can they expect?


that there are a lot of tourism opportunities. We need to open up


their access between Northern Ireland and Canada. Golf will be a


huge attraction and the countryside, the culture here. It all speaks


well to Canadians. But as a -- let's look at Our weekly round-up


of the committees. A focus is the justice committee. This is not a


new-fangled notion. The reality is it gives the opportunity to.


Evidence that the court would not otherwise here about major


criminals. You can understand what the public perspective can come


from in terms of two high-profile cases recently. The confidence in


BPP s has been rocked by that. Acting that is undeniable. People


are looking for explanations. People do look for a response.


There does seem to be a gap in people coming forward and


explaining themselves to the public. Is that an area you feel that you


as Minister can address and a better fashioned than has been the


case, -- better fashioned than has been the case. We do not have the


legislation. B P P S cant converse directly with the Assembly of. --


can converse directly with the Assembly. That will assist the


openness and transparency, which the directors that this morning he


is committed to. Does it mean that you are beyond criticism? The you


mean me personally? This concept of this judiciary being open and


independent. Cumnock criticised then? Individuals have a right to


state their opinion, but one needs to be careful about how that is


expressed. It can come from any one of us and it will look as if we are


trying to second-guess a charge of the chief constable. That is a


question we talked about last week. There have been many miscarriages


of justice, so obviously something went wrong. There is a difference


between the individual and any question why it would be seen as


the Minister posing the question. Your department last week warned us


off. I would say it differently. The common that was passed was


passed in response to a direct statement that David Ford as


Minister should be taking actions on. It was not an attempt to warn


anyone off. It was framed in that way. It was not a phrase elegantly,


but this committee and its members for under the set obligation.


Pied believe a judicial decision is wrong, I should not raise my voice


in concern? You have the right to do that, but big role of the judge


who took that decision is to be respected. I cannot understand what


that means. It has been a long week but progress is being made on the


new Victims and Survivors Service. For the latest on this, I caught up


with our political editor. You have news for us on the victims service.


Peter Robinson said they are on track to get this new service which


is meant to be delivering various services to victims up and running


by 2nd April. He also made a reference to the victims


commissioners. Four of them were appointed when Ian Paisley was in


charge. That has gone down to three. Mr Robinson said that he and Martin


McGuinness had agreed a number of commissioners and the future, but


he would not say what it was. many commissioners do you think we


will end up with? That term is up at their end of May. You would


think that Stormont would want to go in the direction of reducing the


number because it was sometimes felt that for was too many. Maybe


they will go for only two. You have been reading in the routine answers


about a project that has been abandoned for older prisoners.


is is a quirky one. This was a proposal for a bowling green inside


a jail. It made its way into the Sunday papers. It was floated


inside the jail and then removed. But in they realise there would


have been a public response to that. The Justice Minister confirmed that


no work had been carried out, no money had been paid out to contract


has in relation to this proposed, but now abandoned bowling green.


You have been heard about another drama about one of the ministers


been cast as Robin Hood. There was a news release today in regards to


an industrial tribunal regarding inspectors. They were the birds --


they were representing a young local actor who had not been paid


for his part in the film of Robin Hood. They manage to get him his


We're concerned with human rights, a programme for Government, making


sure human rights is at the centre of that, focusing on the most


marginalised and disadvantaged. Welfare cuts are of enormous


concern for us. We're working hard there to do a human rights analysis


and to bring our advice to Government to make sure that the


way in which they implement these severe cuts is human rights


compliant. We'll be watching that bell ourselves. Thank you very much.


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills 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.