05/03/2012 Stormont Today


05/03/2012

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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Transcript


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

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

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

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His girlfriend was there, but we were not.

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

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

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all strictly business of course. With me throughout is Professor

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Michael O' Flaherty of the Human Rights Commission.

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

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regulations are falling short when it comes to protecting older

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

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

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report in defence of dignity found serious shortcomings when it came

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

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

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

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

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years about some inappropriate behaviour that undermines dignity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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welcome the fact the Minister has engaged the issue so extensively

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

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

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

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

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such we should bring the individuals directly to the trust.

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

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

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

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

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thousands of staff in nursing homes that provide really good quality

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care in hundreds of nursing homes across Northern Ireland for very

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many people and many of the families recognise that and

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

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

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

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

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

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take these matters seriously in providing the best quality of care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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effectively a prisoner. When we challenged that was restraint and

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

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

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

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

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

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there is no guidance in the regulation of what best interests

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

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

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regulation. There was a big Assembly or ray for

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

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

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

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

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efforts to promote Northern Ireland as a golfing destination was way

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

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

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

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

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Harold McKusker lambasted the tourist board and everybody else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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believe that there is an important role that inward investment plays

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in growing the Northern Ireland economy and we welcome the

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

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

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

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existing investors and key business influencers in Washington, DC and

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

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

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superb track record in supporting investors to grow Northern Ireland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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look for opportunities to support the economy Minister and invest

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Northern Ireland in order to attract high-quality investment.

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Will the First Minister join me in congratulating the successes over

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

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to help Invest Northern Ireland? Invest Northern Ireland plan to

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arrange to promote golfing activities. For the third year it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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international investors and tourists are concerned. On a more

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

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

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

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of unprecedented increases in suicide rates. This has had almost

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an immediate impact on the potential for achieving the 15%

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

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

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

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

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

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Protect Life strategy influence suicide. The Northern Ireland Home

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

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this, new objectives and measures are being developed which will

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allow for a more balanced assessment of Protect Life whilst

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retaining the goal of reducing suicide this will set out a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the medical school, Cancer Centre and blood transfusion centre with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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today. It provides greater protection for the marine

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environment. It will establish a streamlined system of marine

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planning. It will introduce conservation measures that will

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seek to ensure that biodiversity is protected and international and

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European commitment are met. Northern Ireland supports Heart Of

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Our biodiversity, including a threatened marine animals and

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

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

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

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

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

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responsibilities in terms of marine management. It is unwieldly and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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promotion, protection and enhancement of the marine

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environment and biodiversity. We have had the situation which has

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

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

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

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

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

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

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does include offences against damaging and marine areas. Yes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There are connections between our universities and there are huge

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opportunities on the Canadian Studies Programme for Irish

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

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

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

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

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especially in the construction industry. There are opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:21:32.:21:35.

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

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:21:45.:21:45.

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

:21:45.:21:55.
:21:55.:21:57.

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

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

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Evidence that the court would not otherwise here about major

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criminals. You can understand what the public perspective can come

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

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

:22:39.:22:48.
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are looking for explanations. People do look for a response.

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

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

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

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:23:17.:23:21.

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

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:23:31.:23:33.

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

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can converse directly with the Assembly. That will assist the

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openness and transparency, which the directors that this morning he

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

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:23:59.:24:01.

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

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independent. Cumnock criticised then? Individuals have a right to

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

:24:13.:24:23.
:24:23.:24:24.

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

:24:24.:24:32.

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

:24:32.:24:40.

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

:24:40.:24:50.
:24:50.:24:53.

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

:24:53.:24:58.

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

:24:58.:25:03.

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

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

:25:10.:25:14.

passed in response to a direct statement that David Ford as

:25:14.:25:21.

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

:25:21.:25:31.
:25:31.:25:36.

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

:25:36.:25:43.

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

:25:43.:25:48.

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

:25:49.:25:58.
:25:59.:25:59.

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

:25:59.:26:02.

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

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

:26:09.:26:16.

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

:26:17.:26:23.

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

:26:23.:26:27.

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

:26:27.:26:33.

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

:26:33.:26:37.

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

:26:38.:26:43.

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

:26:43.:26:49.

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

:26:49.:26:52.

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

:26:52.:26:57.

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

:26:57.:27:03.

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

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

:27:07.:27:13.

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

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

:27:21.:27:25.

about a project that has been abandoned for older prisoners.

:27:25.:27:30.

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

:27:30.:27:35.

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

:27:35.:27:40.

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

:27:40.:27:46.

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

:27:46.:27:50.

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

:27:50.:27:57.

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

:27:57.:28:04.

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

:28:04.:28:11.

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

:28:11.:28:17.

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

:28:17.:28:21.

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

:28:21.:28:26.

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

:28:26.:28:36.
:28:36.:28:48.

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

:28:48.:28:53.

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

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marginalised and disadvantaged. Welfare cuts are of enormous

:28:56.:28:59.

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

:28:59.:29:02.

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

:29:03.:29:09.

way in which they implement these severe cuts is human rights

:29:09.:29:13.

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

:29:13.:29:20.

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.