05/11/2012 Stormont Today


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. United in their condemnation, MLAs


speak out following last week's murder of prison officer David


Black. Every sane person in the land believes that those who


carried out the killing are hate- filled deviants who should be


locked up for life. The SDLP and Sinn Fein face


criticism for their treatment of a DUP councillor in Dungannon.


agree Mr Brush is a hero but he is also a victim.


And our Political Correspondent, Gareth Gordon, joins me with his


analysis of those stories and more. As an expression of support for the


murdered prison officer, David Black, Assembly Members observed a


minute's silence in the Chamber. The 52-year-old was shot dead on


the M1 motorway in County Armagh on Thursday as he drove to work at


Maghaberry Prison. Mr Black was the first prison officer to be murdered


in Northern Ireland in almost 20 years.


The First Minister, Peter Robinson, who led tributes in the Assembly,


described the death as a "cowardly murder of a brave public servant".


I visited Mrs Black and her family at their home in Cookstown and I


have to say that as I held her in my arms, listening to her sobbing,


I couldn't help but sense the utter futility of that assassination.


Here was a family completely devastated, a family that would


never be the same again, a family that will feel the pain and loss


for the rest of their lives. What had been gained? This Assembly and


the Executive will not fall or collapse, far from it. We are


united in condemnation and reinforced in our determination to


create a stable and peaceful society. The murder won't bring any


changes to the prison regime at Maghaberry and every sane person in


the land believes that those who carried out the killing are odious,


hate-filled deviants and psychopaths who should be locked up


for life. Most of all, let us send to the family our prayers and our


love, our expression of resolve that those who murdered David will


never win and we will give complete support in hunting down and


convicting those who are responsible. I believe this was an


utterly pointless death of David Black. It will resolve nothing


either within the prisons or in wider society. It is not part of


any strategy or campaign. All that has happened is that a family have


been plunged into grief, the people responsible are those who act as


their political spokespersons need to explain themselves to our


communities. Time and again when these factions carry out violent


acts we get complete silence. From those who at other times are only


too willing to come on to the airwaves and attack the political


process. It is patently obvious that the peace process will not be


derailed by killings like this. It hasn't in the past and it won't in


the future. I was very conscious last Thursday morning as I stood


and named David to the media that it was just a few minutes after his


own children had been told that their father had been murdered and


their lives had been turned upside- down. Let us remember today the


David's wife, son, daughter, parents and sister. They are in the


prayers of this entire community. I hope they will take comfort from


that knowledge and from the utter revulsion which David's murder has


been greeted universally. 14 years our arms have been open offering an


inclusive process for all. Why was David Black denied the chance to go


to work? On whose authority? Not mine. Not the people of Northern


Ireland. Not the people of the Republic of Ireland. It is chilling


to the blood to try to understand the mentality of those who sat down


and planned and then executed this murder. And like members of this


House, I too have listened to people speculate on the sort of


person who carried it out. We can have that debate all day long and


get nowhere. Are they psychopaths, but let us not allow this murder


was the result of someone or some people with some form of mental


illness, they chose to do what they did. In doing this, they also chose


to reject the offer of inclusion that has been theirs for 14 years.


In foul murder achieved nothing, those who perpetrated the murder


and those who planned it have by their own hand in many ways


excluded themselves from any role in our future. Any role in the


political processes and the political progress. They stand


condemned by all, all within Northern Ireland, all across the


island of Ireland, they stand condemned today and every day.


say this murder was futile. But we also have to face the fact that


this dastardly murder was following in a well-set tempit that you


create discord and difficulty and protest inside the prison and then


you begin to murder outside the prison the Prison Officers. Where


did we see that before? Many, many times, indeed 29 previous Prison


Officers butchered. Look at those who perpetrated previous Prison


Officer and police murders and they conclude, sadly correctly, that it


worked for them and the structures of this House are testimony to that


sad, hideous reality that these structures are built upon the


reward of terrorism, the buy-off of terrorism.


The TUV's Jim Allister. Well, following the murder of David


Black, the issue of security for prison officers was discussed by


Assembly Members in the form of an urgent oral question by the DUP's


Paul Givan. Here's the Justice Minister, David Ford. The safety


and personal security of prison staff is a high priority and is of


course kept under constant review. Following the murder of Prison


Officer David Black last week, the Prison Service management responded


immediately to remind staff of the need for vigilance and re-issued


guidance on personal security. Prison Service triggered an urgent


review of security and the Director-General has issued further


advice to staff on the assessed threat level and reminding staff of


the range of personal security measures which are available to


them. The Minister will know that this is a very serious matter, a


matter of concern that has been raised before the tragic murder of


David Black that officers felt their security concerns were not


being treated seriously. Can the Minister assure me that in


discussions that he will have with the Northern Ireland Office that


the home protection scheme that they provide will be provided to


those officers that need it and when ever installed, that they will


be maintained because officers have informed me that they are not


maintained and they are told it is their own responsibility to


maintain those schemes. Does the Minister not agree that is a


completely deplorable position to be in, something that needs to be


reviewed and people take the lead on assuring that Prison Officers'


security concerns will be addressed and protection provided to them?


The issue of the home protection scheme is one which is managed by


the Northern Ireland Office. I was certainly concerned to hear reports


that Prison Officers had been told equipment was not maintained. As


long as people remain within the Ambit of the scheme, the Northern


Ireland Office maintains the equipment which has been provided


by the NIO. I have already have a meeting agreed with the Minister of


State responsible and I will be putting in the strongest possible


terms my belief that there needs to be a proper assessment of the needs


of Prison Officers and that where equipment is supplied, it must be


maintained as long as the individuals remain within the terms


of the scheme. I trust that will be responded to positively when I meet


the Minister. Will the Minister give an update of the current


threat assessment? I suspect members would not wish me to give


the full detail, but I have had a number of discussions with the


Chief Constable and Assistant Chief Constable since Thursday morning. I


am expecting to meeting the Chief Constable tomorrow and I will


ensure that anything which is required by the police service in


terms of the work they have to carry out, which can be supplied by


the Department, will be responded to positively. I have also had


discussions with the Justice Minister in Dublin who has assured


me the necessary support will also be provided and there will be other


meetings with the Minister of State in the NIO so the matter is being


treated extremely seriously. The Justice Minister, David Ford.


Joining me now is our Political Correspondent, Gareth Gordon. We


saw the assembly speak as one on the murder of David Black? That is


not a surprise. We saw the First and Deputy First Minister standing


side by side outside Stormont castle. They couldn't have


condemned the murder in more stronger terms and today the first


chance the Assembly has had to discuss David Black's murder since


it happened. The only jarring note was one from Jim Allister who tried


to link it with the Republican murders of the past. He said they


were following a template laid down by the Provisional IRA. He doesn't


believe the DUP should be in Government with people he regards


as unrepentant terrorists. We saw massive cracks opening up this


afternoon as members continued to debate the murder of a part-time


UDR man in 1981? Yes, that was a man called Sammy Brush. In 2007, a


man call Gerry McGeough, he was arrested coming out of a count


centre in Omagh. Sammy Brush was inside the centre at the time as


well, working with the DUP/DB colleagues. In 2011, Gerry McGeough


was sentenced to 20 years in prisonment for attempting to murder


Mr Brush. He's only served two years. To bring it to the present


day, in Dungannon District Council, Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors


backed a motion calling for Gerry McGeough's immediate release. That


was in front of Mr Brush. Today, the DUP brought a motion before the


Assembly calling for the support without qualification for Mr Brush


and expressing revulsion at those who it said sided with would-be


murderers and Mr Brush was in the gallery to watch the debate and the


tone could hard I will have been different from the earlier remarks


about David Black. Thanks for now, Gareth.


Let's stay with that debate which saw the SDLP and Sinn Fein the


target of significant unionist anger. The fact that Gerry


McGeough's victim, Sammy Brush, was at that council meeting in his role


as a DUP representative was highlighted today by his party


leader, Peter Robinson. The Sinn Fein leader of Dungannon Council


claimed that Gerry McGeough was being detained due to his political


beliefs. Seemingly ignorant of the fact that he is being detained


because he was convicted of the attempted murder of Sammy Brush. I


was disappointed by the comments of the leader of the SDLP who said


Gerry McGeough has been victimised by the system, there is a degree of


victimisation of prisoners and we don't like it. So it is Gerry


McGeough who because he has been detained for two Christmases that


is being victimised and not Sammy Brush who, if Gerry McGeough had


got his way would have missed the last 30 Christmases. Today we have


heard as well of a protest in Belfast organised by Sinn Fein to


have the release of Mr Pardraic Wilson. When are these people going


to accept the rule of law? Mr Brush is a hero, but he is also a victim.


And his family are victims. And don't for anybody please try to


tell me that Jerry ma gaffe -- Gerry McGeough is a victim because


to me he is not. I would ask members where is the evidence of an


unbiased application of the rule of law? Where are the cases involving


members of the British Army who were involved in murder as we saw


on Bloody Sunday? Where is the evidence of those and the RUC or in


the UDR who colluded with Unionist death squads? The SDLP has never


sided with would-be murderers or with murderers. The SDLP has always


taken the position that we will apply the principles of justice to


any case and in the case of Gerry McGeough, we believe that there are


complex legal issues that should be addressed. Now, I notice Mr Elliot


is no longer here. He spoke about the rule of law. He challenged Sinn


Fein about standing up today and saying in our opinion he should be


released from prison. This sort of idea, this sort of concept that the


rule of law can't be challenged, that is wrong. The rule of law can


be abused and we have seen it being abused. It is not a complex issue,


Mr Speaker. This is the most straightforward case I think that I


have ever seen. It is whether you stand - I will give way.


certainly is complex. And both at first instance and in the Court of


Appeal it took several days to thrash out these issues. For the


member to say that this is an ongoing matter, and we feel the


SDLP must stand at the side of justice. Give some leadership to


your community. Give some leadership and tell them where you


stand today in relation to Councillor Sammy Brush as opposed


to standing with those who perpetrate murder and attempted


murder. The DUP's Arlene Foster. And when


it came to the vote the SDLP actually voted in favour of both


the DUP motion and a UUP amendment reflecting support to ALL elected


representatives who were targeted during the Troubles.


Now, what have a former jail and a distillery got in common? Just one


topic discussed during questions to the Deputy First Minister. But


first here's Martin McGuinness answering a question on the


forthcoming Irish Presidency of the EU. The First Minister and I have


had useful discussions with the Irish government on the Irish


presidency of the EU. The most recent being during our Plenary


meeting in Armagh last Friday. We recognise that Ireland hosting the


EU Presidency provides us with a unique opportunity to access


policymakers and to ensure our views are heard. The Deputy First


Minister has gone down paths in recent years that he probably


thought he wouldn't go down some 30 or 40 years ago. Can he go down


another path today and indicate that the next time he is talking to


the Taoiseach he will indicate to him that the predecessor Taoiseach


took the Republic down a path that we have no intention of going down


in this country? I'm not sure if that is a question. The Minister


can respond. I will treat it as a question. I think more than a


Deputy First Minister has gone down paths that they thought they would


never go down. It is not our job to admonish any previous


administration in the South, or to take the present Taoiseach to task.


Our job is to have a good positive working relationship. During the


course of the meetings, we have developed a positive working


relationship and we want to ensure that we continue to do that. I


think a lot of lessons have to be learnt from the mistakes of the


past, in many different ways. Quite clearly, the economic difficulties


that afflict the South are very clear examples of how we need to


ensure those mistakes are not repeated. We have got our own set


of challenges and difficulties to face here. I think the Executive is


facing into those difficulties in a way that ensures we can as quickly


as possible move out of what is a very damaging double-dip recession.


Our relationship with Europe is going to be very important. Our


relationship with the Irish government is going to be very


important and it is obvious from my initial answer that the Irish


government are very well-disposed towards ensuring that we have more


than a foothold in the dialogue and discussions that will ensue in due


course. The regeneration of the jail is at a pivotal stage. The


restoration of the jail has added to the regeneration proten shall of


the site itself. This has been evidence through the commercial


leasing of A-Wing to Belfast Distillery which is intended to be


a visitor centre, tasting room, restaurant and shop. We have also


appointed Belfast Tourism Limited as the operator to run the visitor


attraction and Conference Centre which will create up to 40 jobs and


attract an estimated 90,000 visitors per year. The development


aim will be to maximise the economic, historic and


reconciliation potential of the site. This is already under way


through the confirmed relocation of the Royal Ulster Agricultural


Society to the site in time for the 2013 agricultural show. There are


great opportunities here for job s but we need to make sure that


programmes are put in place, that those disadvantaged groups benefit


from this and I am talking about long-term unemployed people and


young people from disadvantaged areas. I absolutely agree 100% with


the member. We are all very conscious, particularly in the


context of what I think are very exciting developments around the


Crumlin Road jail that those people who are going to take up residence


there in terms of forming new businesses fully understand the


importance of social clauses and fully understand they are working


in an area of disadvantage. I think that affects the entire community


in North Belfast. So, yes, the answer is that we are very focused


on a need to ensure that when ever the job applications are made, that


there is a focus on ensuring that people in the local community from


disadvantaged backgrounds can gain employment there and as you can see


from my answer, the potential at the site is tremendous. Initially,


100 jobs, but that could rise to over 200 jobs over the course of


the next number of years, so that's something that I think people in


North Belfast will find very encouraging.


The Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.


The difficulties faced by people with coeliac disease was discussed


at Health Questions this afternoon, with the Minister, Edwin Poots,


asked about the quantity of gluten- free food available on prescription.


First, though, the recent controversy over the Fire Service


was on the agenda again. The Minister was asked if action will


be taken against those who received unauthorised bonuses. In terms of


the individuals involved, I would clarify at the outset that no


individuals awarded themselves pay rises, or indeed bonuses. That was


done by others other than the individuals who were beneficiaries.


The advice I have received up to this point is that no, you can't go


after that because it becomes contract after a certain period.


However, I am receiving conflicting advice and therefore taking further


advice on this issue. There is a lot of concern around recent media


stories around the Fire and Rescue Service and specifically around the


bonuses. If we can highlight what role if any his department and at


what level of officials were involved with the Fire Service


during the time the bonuses were put? In terms of the bonuses, there


was job evaluations that took place in August 2008 and the Fire and


Rescue Service awarded its three non-uniform directors increases in


their pay scales which was backdated to April 2007. That was


done without referral to the Fire Service and rescue board. So when


this was discovered the pay rises were stopped and internal audit


investigation was carried out. The department does spend more time now


with the NFIRS in terms of monitoring these issues. Will he


take account of the small number of individuals who have a particularly


high depen den seven on gluten-free products and they find that their


requirement is in excess of the units that are stipulated and if


the Minister could undertake to examine the very small number of


people affected by that condition and review the number required?


Well, certainly the numbers are small and in terms of the food that


is offered, the gluten-free diet, we do provide people with support,


particularly with the staple foods. Once it moves beyond staple food,


it becomes a matter for the prescriber. We are very happy to


look at these things. What research has been done through the


department into the prescription issues? The prescriptions


themselves, especially for the essentials, aren't adequate for the


people, the amount of loaves given by prescription, and then people


have to resort to actual buying of loaves. These loaves are �3 each


for a small amount. What research or outreach has been done by his


department to look into these matters? Subject to Executive


approval, I would intend to issue a consultation on the potential of


prescription charges. And in doing that, I would like to take account


of people with this disease and look at the gluten-free situation


that exists there. I should say that everybody has to buy food. So


we will never account for 100% of the cost of food of people who have


required gluten-free foods. There is an acknowledgement that people


who require these foods are having to pay considerably more than those


who are eating food containing gluten and therefore it is


incumbent upon us to lessen that as Farr as possible. -- as far as


possible. The Health Minister, Edwin Poots.


Gareth Gordon is with me again. The same thing has happened over the


decision to charge a senior Republican in relation to the


murder of Robert McCartney in 2005? Yes, he was once an IRA leader


inside the Maze Prison. He is regarded as having played a key


role in the peace process. Last week, he appeared in court charged


with three counts in relation to the notorious murder of Robert


McCartney in 2005. Those charges include IRA membership and


addressing an IRA meeting. Sinn Fein are now overstating it, they


are incandescent with rage. They held a protest outside PSNI


headquarters. They held a news conference at Stormont this morning


as well. They say that the charges are politically-motivated and they


demand Mr Wilson's immediate release. Unionists take a very


opposite view. They have condemned Sinn Fein's stance. Even the SDLP


say Sinn Fein are trying to influence the justice system. This


one has a long way to run and I think it has the potential to cause


a lot of trouble here. Tomorrow, it will be dominated by the funeral of


David Black. The Deputy First Minister is not going to be there?


Martin McGuinness has condemned the murder of Mr Black in the most


forthright terms. But we learned this afternoon that he's not in


fact welcome at the funeral in Cookstown tomorrow afternoon. A


Sinn Fein source said he had been very willing to go to the family


home and to the funeral service, but the Black family the not want


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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