05/12/2016 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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The Executive's campaign to knock the paramilitaries back


on their heels continues, but there's an obvious absence


of agreement between the two main parties


A new campaign reminds people that the money from counterfeit


goods often ends up in the pockets of paramilitaries...


And realise that buying a perfume for example shouldn't be undermined,


it's not trivial, is the beginning of a chain of events that can cause


great harm in their communities. A Sinn Fein motion on human rights


provokes an angry response I often think of families robbed of


a loved one at the hands of terrorism here in Northern Ireland.


What a violation of their human rights.


And joining me with his thoughts on today's developments


How to tackle paramilitaries continues to be a source


Today, the Executive launched a scheme which it hopes


It's claimed around 138 crime gangs are selling counterfeit goods here.


The Justice Minister says money spent on fake products


she launched a public awareness campaign.


I am your money. I am the notes you hand over for a fake bag or a shirt


or drink. And passed to the man who sources that year. Join the pile is


made from fake and illegal goods. Where I am used to pay for drugs to


be sold in your community. I don't care that I found crying. I am your


money. Last year, over 100 organised crime gangs including Summers who


call themselves paramilitaries made tens of millions of pounds in


Northern Ireland. The public need to realise that buying a perfume for


example should not be undermined. It's not trivial, it's the beginning


of a chain of events that could cause serious harm within their


communities. Obviously, people will say this is all very well, but is


the executive sending out a strong message of it had the paramilitaries


and given what's been happening in some of the controversy over the


social investment fund? The strongest message we've sent out is


that we have accepted the recommendations in the paramilitary


report and we are working through these actions. This is a very


visible action that we are able to take forward today in terms of


raising awareness. This is something we will do over the next couple of


years and try to encourage the public to pay their role in tackling


paramilitaries. But yes, I think what we are doing in terms of the


action plan is a strong message because we are actually agreeing


that we need to get rid of these people who scored our society. If


the public do their part, can they be convinced that the police will be


strong enough in terms of cracking down, in terms of arrests of


paramilitary suspects? I think so. Adding the range of goods received


today demonstrates the police's commitment in terms of this type of


activity. The Justice Minister was quick


to say there that the Executive is sending out a strong message


to the paramilitaries. The message has become muddled in


recent weeks due to stories about the social investment fund and try


to an eyesore she does have a job of work to do in trying to convince the


public that the executive's commitment in tackling this is as


resolute as it could be. With the issue of Dee Stitt's


position at Charter NI still hanging over the Executive it may prove


difficult for the government An issue like this is important, but


maybe it is less easy for something like this to grab the headlines.


You've seen it there today. The Justice minister what's the story of


the day to be about this and this publicity campaign in terms of


criminality, but she is being talked with questions about the executive


doing enough, whether they are leading by example. As long as we


see stories like Charter an eye in the news, it will be difficult for


them to get this message out to the public. 130 crime against selling


goods across Northern Ireland, is perhaps only bigger scale than some


people may have imagined. Criminality is a huge issue across


Northern Ireland and a huge issue across many parts by society and the


fact is that a lot of people will not have as much confidence in the


police and in other sectors to properly tackle that criminality is


so again, the justice minister does have a job of work to do in


reassuring people and getting public confidence.


Alliance is bringing a motion about the Social Investment Fund


The opposition parties are not letting the issue fade


into the background as the Executive parties might wish.


Yes, Naomi Long made some further comments on the social investment


fund today about the need for further investigation. This issue


does seem to still have legs and it won't go away and I would expect it


to dog the executive going into the New Year.


The fall-out from his decision not to hand over regeneration powers


to councils continues to follow the Communities Minister.


At the dispatch today, Paul Givan reiterated that people


don't care who does the work, as long as it's done.


First up, though, he was asked for an update on the recently


The community holds capital Grants scheme on the 19th of October was


launched at Salters Tyne Orange Hall in Bally Roman. My department aims


to distribute individual grants of up to a maximum of ?25,000 towards


community holds minor works. There is half ?1 million allocated towards


this pilot scheme in the current financial year and I can update


perhaps that is currently, officials are in the process of assessing in


excess of 800 applications. Will the Minister take this opportunity to


acknowledge the huge need on their investment in our communities? There


is a need for investment of community halls in our communities


because they support a great amount of work done to our communities in


Northern Ireland. Many halls are dilapidated and this pilot will


reach only a small proportion of the halls that are in the worst


conditions. On the basis of this pilot scheme, this is something that


I believe does merit future support in our capital programme in the


years ahead and I intend to bring forward a future programme to allow


us to continue to improve community halls and undertake larger projects


to raise the standards of the community halls facilities. Can I


ask what shared future arrangements are included in the application


process for this grand? 'S the applications for this grant is


available to everybody to apply irrespective of class, creed or


religion. Can the Minister confirm whether the decision not to devolve


these powers was an executive decision or was it a sober one? This


is an issue that I have been able to clarify with the Minister for


Finance and obviously he, like I, are very keen to make sure that we


use the opportunities we have two regenerate our towns and villages


and so there is no disagreement or a disrespect of this issue. We are


clear that we want towns and villages regenerated. Local


Government what to do that and collectively together we will be


able to achieve that and so this is an issue that I know some elected


representatives have focused upon but whenever I have been meeting


with community organisations, who I have to say all of whom I have met


have said they are delighted that it is not going to local Government and


that they wanted it to stay within my department's remit, this is


something that I think people should move on with because the decision


has been taken. We now have the lifetime of this mandate to make


sure that we work together because the public do not distinguish


between what local Government and central governments do. The bell


that city growth strategy says it is essential that regeneration powers


that have been available to other cities for decades are devolved to


Belfast City Council. Can the Minister outline the key regions


where he disagrees? Mr Speaker, the reasons in respect of the


regeneration powers as laid out in great detail in a statement made to


this house of which members of this house had opportunity to ask further


questions. That decision has now been taken. I am keen to ensure that


we maximise our regeneration powers and it will be in the interest of


councils as well of whom I have met some recently, who recognised the


decision has been making and now collectively want to work together


and I'm sure Belfast City Council will want to do that as well.


And that row over regeneration powers clearly rumbles on.


The leader of the Green Party, Steven Agnew, was appointed


to the Assembly's Business Committee today after a sustained campaign


for the smaller parties to be represented on the body


and establishes the rules governing debates.


Mr Agnew says he'll use his position to make sure the committee's


decision-making is open and transparent in future.


You totally silly about changes to the business committee which were


important and which were disadvantageous to the smaller


parties. What were those changes and how did you discover that that has


happened? The changes took place in November last year but I only found


out about them being re-elected when I went to the induction period and


that was in relation to the tabling of motions essentially before you


could have exclusive motions. Now you could submit a motion on the


Monday, another motion could be submitted on the Tuesday and that


meant that my party would never have a motion debated. I set out to do


three things. Achieve representation on the business committee, establish


whether or not my party was able to put forward motions which it was no


one had told us and we never had the opportunity to do so, and thirdly to


get better speaking rights because this is something else that was


changed at the start of this mandate and previous week where parties with


two members had increased speaking rights over parties with one and we


have effectively been relegated into the list again. Is that when I am


yet to change but that will be the one I continue working on. You will


try to make that change from the inside now rather than from the


outside. How important do you think it is for you and the other smaller


parties that you are now sitting at that table as of right? Before now,


I had to write to the Speaker and requests papers that went to the


committee meeting to see minutes in advance of them going online and


really, we were not being informed. Changes were being made without us


being informed so we will have the papers, we will have a say in the


decisions and there will be transparency and openness around us


assistance. Deal of credit to the five bigger parties for accepting


your argument that you should be represented on the business


committee? You made your case and they have effectively accepted that.


We have got there. Persuasion was required and I welcome the decision


that has been made. On the issue of speaking rights, effectively the two


largest parties, DUP and Sinn Fein, for whatever reason want to keep us


relegated to towards the end of debate. I think it is important to


have a diversity of voices and effect of challenges and it's


important that my constituents who elected me and the others in the


other two parties are having their voices heard in the assembly chamber


so I will continue to pressure that. Nothing was gifted. I suppose


everything had to be top four but I welcome those other parties who have


been supportive from the start but the two largest parties still seem


to want to retain control. Can you effectively represent the views of


people before profit? Those two parties and the Greens, pretty


diverse grouping? It is very much a ministry position. This will be


making sure that they are entitled to get their emotions and that their


views are put forward. They need access to the papers and I will be


sharing. You will represent Jim Allister on that committee? I will


indeed. Can you do that easily? Uzzy comfortable with that? It's about


respecting his mandate. We have worked in this together and he is


happy although it was my campaign and I lead on it. But it is not... I


suddenly will not be reflecting his views on climate change your LGBT


right but I will be ensuring that it is his right as an elected


representative to have a say. Ultimately, would you be comfortable


with him at some stage in the future are presenting new? It will be a


rotating membership. What I will tip the first period having led the


campaign, the other parties will put forward their own representatives at


other stages. It will be interesting to see how the debate over speaking


rights unfolds in the months ahead. Thank you very much indeed for


joining us. Levels of air pollution are falling


across Northern Ireland, according to the Agriculture


and Environment Minister, Michelle McIlveen says vehicle


emissions are largely to blame Here she is, outlining


the findings of the most recent report into air quality


here during questions The report clearly shows that air


quality in Northern Ireland is continuing to improve although we


continue to have problems with emissions from road traffic. The


report notes the long-time levels of pollutants in Belfast are decreasing


albeit at a slower rate than I would like. In addressing egg quality in


Belfast in Northern Ireland, our department has commenced a review of


air quality policy and legislation with the intention of developing a


dedicated Northern Ireland equality strategy and revised policy


guidance. In addition to this review, my department currently


provides funding support to councils including Belfast City Council to


carry out their statutory management and action plan duties and has


worked closely with Belfast City Council and the department for


infrastructure to draw up an air quality action plan for the greater


Belfast area. The quality issues here are predominantly due to road


traffic commission is therefore the plan focuses on introducing the


measures relating to sustainable transport such as the forthcoming


Belfast rapid transport scheme, the Belfast transport hub, park-and-ride


and strategies that promote public transport, walking and cycling.


Would she agree with me in terms of tackling congestion any air quality


strategy must have significant investment in infrastructure? I


totally agree with the member and as the Foreign Minister for regional


development, I was very much involved in some of those projects


and in particular the interchange. The member will also know that the


council has declared the corridor as an air quality management area from


York Street to the city boundary. This area carries approximately


100,000 vehicles per day. The development of the interchange


project is one of the principal measures in reducing transport


emissions along the West Link corridor and is a range of measures


that DFI has agreed with the council to include in their air quality


action plan. It is therefore vitally important that this project goes


ahead. She may be aware that it was reported last week that one of the


quality monitors was not working and has not been for some time. I


understand it is the council's responsibility to replace that but


was the Department where it was not working and whose responsibility is


it to request a replacement? Yes, I am aware of that, as I was aware of


the Abbey issue. That has now been diffused since March this year and


the reason why it has not been replaced is due to the replacement


of parts. They are in the process of procuring a new monitor and I


understand that they are still continuing to monitor pollution but


are using a different method in order to do so.


Michelle McIlveen on the challenge of monitoring air


A Sinn Fein motion calling for increased awareness of human


rights prompted scorn from some unionist quarters in the Chamber.


Jim Allister and the DUP refused to support the motion,


saying it was hypocritical, but there were also calls


on the First Minister to raise human rights on her visit to China.


First, here's Claire Bailey with her list of human rights


A Bill of Rights, termination of pregnancy, Irish language


protection, promotion of Ulster Scots, issues but Irish travellers


including educational attainment and housing, lack of involvement by the


Northern Ireland executive, poverty, conflict and legacy issues. This is


critical, not least given the ongoing Supreme Court challenge that


started at 11am. There is a binding international treaty between the


British and Irish governments and the outworking of that treaty is the


Corporation of the European Convention on human rights and the


Human Rights Act. But I find particularly hard to swallow but


this motion is we have Sinn Fein tabling a motion is we have Sinn


Fein tabling motions human rights. But some in their party have denied


the very right of life to many of the years. I spoke with a man just


last week, a former bus driver, who was targeted by the IRA, a man who


for many years lived in fear, a man whose family were massively affected


by it and are still affected. I often think of families robbed of a


loved one at the hand of terrorism here in Northern Ireland. What if


violation of their human rights and those victims' rights to life. I


oppose this motion. The declaration in 1914 eight was a milestone and


the first article is all human beings are born free and equal in


dignity and rights. And we all know and we could get into a slapping


match across the floor that our own recent chequered past has not lived


up to Article one, and neither have we lived up to article three, the


right to life. But I see no point in trading insults around the place


because again I go back to the fact that I believe this is something


that we should be celebrating. Does the member hope like me that in


protecting the Human Rights Act that the First Minister will raise human


rights in China during her visit this week? I sincerely hope that


whatever opportunities any minister or representative of this Assembly


has, when they visit states who are not perhaps those which are fully


subscribed to international standards on human rights, and we


know that China is not, in those circumstances, I hope and trust and


we should ask the question of our First Minister, has she taken the


opportunity to raise the issue of human rights? Some who to this day


have no apology to make for their own actions or the actions of their


comrades in delivering murder and denying the fundamental right to


life have the audacity to come to this House and to cloak themselves


in the language of human rights! This Assembly has the ability to


pass legislation relating to quality on human rights, equality and human


rights legislation has been passed in Britain, Scotland and 26


counties. How do we ensure that the people in the north do not have


lesser rights than those other jurisdictions?


Sinn Fein's Cathal Boylan winding up the debate on that


motion, which was passed despite DUP opposition.


Next to water charges and the Executive may have committed


to carrying the cost for domestic users but the meters that might some


day be used to calculate them have been installed


Well, not any more, says the Infrastructure Minister.


The regulations I'm bringing forward the date removed the requirement of


water meters in domestic properties connecting for the first time the


public water supply. The practice of installing meters currently cost the


public purse ?200,000 per year and given that the meters are not used,


this is a new country expense and one which cannot be sustained in the


current financial climate. The Assembly will be aware of the


commitment of this executive not to bring in water charges. That is the


intention of this executive to bear the cost of water charges on behalf


of domestic customers for the next five years. The requirement to


install water meters for future connections may be required at a


later date. It is for this reason that this meeting of the 16th of


November, the committee considered a row and offered no objections to the


rule. They're been poured a dozen water meters installed, costing the


taxpayer here in excess of ?30 million. These regulations make


uncomfortable reading, especially for the underprivileged families who


are struggling to survive to pay bills and make ends meet, who were


worried about this train coming down the track and the uncertainty around


whether or not water meters or water charges would be applied. The SDLP


has always been and will continue to be completely oppose to water


charges for domestic properties. We believe the regional rate includes


such charges and we do not need any additional charges for families. We


have all talked about the lack of money that is available for hospital


waiting lists, the lack of money available to pay for life extending


drugs for people with cancer, the lack of money available for children


with special education needs. So is say very clearly that the money


spent out of our grant from Westminster to go forward to pay for


water is the very money that we should be using to pay for those


essential services. I believe that those who can afford to pay should


and every single person in this House can afford to pay but we are


protecting them by not bringing forward an open and transparent


debate on water charging. The number of countries that this wastage of 13


million, the actual figure is 1.3 million, so you might want to look


at your figures close again. Also, the factors Shin Hain is following


the SDLP in the example is finally doing the right thing, it was all


parted walked away from the Executive. But the SDLP decided to


otherwise. Just for clarity, no meters have been installed since the


6th of July in domestic properties and this has saved ?100,000. So when


Ms Armstrong was about wasting money, this is public money we have


actually saved and again the Alliance Party strengthen the points


raised here today. Something that has been rejected by the people as


we have seen with their recent performance. People do not want


water charges and I think that is what the Executive will stand for.


Chris Hazzard making it very clear that he and his party remain


opposed to the introduction of domestic water charges.


And David McCann's here for a final word.


No change in Sinn Fein's position, then, but were you expecting this


Again, the Irish News had been reporting on water meters installed


and it was pretty embarrassing for the party so Chris Hazard is finally


drawing the line and about. And demonstrating the fact that what


Sinn Fein can do, this matches their narrative in the south where they


are trying to get water charges down there so this gives them a selling


point in the south and it goes to show they are making key points of


delivery for themselves. What about the Alliance point that,


at the very least, an open and honest conversation about water


charges needs to take place? If you don't have enough money to


education and health, you need to talk about revenue raising. It is a


well-made point because budgets will get tighter and tighter so we should


at least have the conversation about it and others said that as a prickly


issue of the Sinn Fein and the DUP but I don't think there is any harm


in having the conversation. The Alliance Party willing to have that


conversation and possibly to the detriment of votes.


And David Ford is moving his Private Members' Bill


on abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality tomorrow.


This is something that David Ford tried to tackle whilst he was


Justice Minister. This is unfinished business for the Alliance Party.


They have made this a priority issue in this mandate for the party. It


will be an interesting debate and the working group supposed to


report, we still do not know when that will happen yet. It will be


very interesting seeing table Ford table that is a private member but


it will be a controversial debate because they use a very fixed. The


abortion debate is polarising. The recommendations from what I can see


seem relatively sensible but again, these debates can go off on a


tangent I hope again that we can get some good debates in the last debate


we had, we had really measured examples.


And finally, tributes were paid to Austin Hunter by Members


The former BBC journalist and News Letter editor was killed


at the weekend in a road accident in Bahrain.


The Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy took time


during the debate on human rights to pay this tribute to Mr Hunter.


It is right I think that we refer to one such person who cared deeply


about human rights, Austin Hunter, who very tragically died over the


weekend. Austin Hunter was one of the outstanding broadcasters and


journalists of his generation but he was also a man of great humanity and


compassion who covered through his professional career some of the


worst atrocities of the troubles but he did so with care and respect to


those most deeply affected and with great courtesy. It is clear from the


very many tributes there had been received from the political and


media world Austin was a man of great integrity and highly respected


by all who came into contact with him and I'm sure the whole house


will join me in offering their present awards to the family at this


time. The Communities Minister,


Paul Givan, with his tribute to Austin Hunter, who died


at the weekend. That's it for now but there'll be


more of the same tomorrow. Until then, from everyone


in the team, goodnight.


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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