07/03/2016 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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Security matters force their way back onto the Assembly's agenda


as MLAs condemn last week's attempt to kill a prison officer in East


And Members consider a new and potentially unpopular


option in the battle against obesity.


So, on the programme tonight: Following recent terrorist activity,


It was a despicable murder attempt and thankfully it did not succeed


but as the Secretary of State has said we have to be lucky all of the


time, the bad people only half to be lucky once.


as the Assembly considers a sugar tax.


60% of the adult population is overweight or obese.


And joining me with his thoughts on today's business is our


Political Correspondent, Chris Page.


Stormont may be on the verge of being dissolved, with election


and referendum campaigns on the horizon - but today the House


MLAs from across the chamber condemned the dissident Republican


attack on a prison officer in East Belfast last week.


Several speakers even referred to members of their family who had


The Matter of the Day was brought by the Ulster Unionist Andy Allen,


who explained that he knows all too well what the prison officer


I myself was at the receiving end of an bomb blast. Let me say to the


prison officer there is light at the end of that tunnel. I am living


proof. We will not allow these people to take as back to the past.


The impact that it has on people's families, the sacrifices that


thousands of families have made over the past number of decades, checking


under your car, not able to drive on certain roads, having to avoid


certain areas in Northern Ireland. That was normal to me. When I look


back it was far from normal. We need to send a clear message to those who


launched this attack. They have little or no support within the


community. There is no place for this type of attack. We have to send


a clear message that this Assembly and all the particle parties,


whatever disputes or issues that needs to be resolved, they will be


done by peaceful and democratic means. The people who carried out


this attack did so with a mix of insanity and vanity and are


deploying a failed strategy. People of my generation and generations to


come wants to move on. They are fed up with this nonsense. These people


who think they can drag us back to the past while at the same time


talking about the future. I met the officer concerned if months ago. He


is an officer who has a certificate number of years service. He is


playing a key part in the prison service. He is also somebody active


in the community. He is the kind of citizen that this society needs. He


is the kind of person who is a benefit to the public service as


well as to the wider community. He had no reason to be attacked. It is


often forgotten that prison officers continue to be on the front line


because there continues to be a concerted deliberate driven campaign


to try and retake control of the prisons. And it is modelled upon and


build upon the template of the past. I was the daughter of a prison


officer. We had full splits in our lives. It was a real threat. That


was normality for my family. That was 15 years ago. That is sad to


think that in 2016 we are still faced with that type of threat.


Claire Sugden, not alone in having a very personal reaction to last


And both that terrorist attack and the arms find near Larne came up


during the final Question Time of the mandate for the First


Arlene Foster called on the public to be vigilant and pass any


information they might have on to the police.


She also expressed concern over the suggestion that the Easter 1916


anniversary could be a motivation for more attacks.


Does the First Minister accept that it is a badge of dishonour and shame


on her administration and these institutions that the definition of


victim continues to include victim makers? Can she tell as a


consequence of that definition... The member will resume his seat.


Resume your seat. I would expect ministers to


remember, one question at a time. Zero prisoners groups have had


victim 's funding. That is the first thing to say. The second thing to


say is that it was my party that tried to change the definition of


the victim. It is this party that wants to do that. There are others


in this House that do not want to see that happen. We will continue to


try and bring forward legislation in the next mandates to deal with that


matter but we need others to join with us to do that. That is the


reality. The victims definition was set before devolution. That is


something that is not tall to people and we have to deal with that


reality. I am not dealing with fantasy politics. I want to take


this opportunity, when he has made reference to European victims day,


to say how much I condemn the attack on the prison officer last weekend.


It was a despicable murder attempt and thankfully it did not succeed.


But as the Secretary of State has said we have to be lucky all of the


time, the bad people only have two be lucky once. I call upon,


particularly given the activities in Larne at the weekend, I call upon


the public to be vigilant. I member of the public who brought the arms


cache to the attention of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and we


must make sure that the entire public gives their support to the


Police Service of Northern Ireland oscillatory can bring these people


to justice and make sure that Northern Ireland continues on a


positive and productive journey to the future. What Ash... Will the


First Minister give that actions by the security forces will be taken to


thwart receptivity? We were all very concerned to hear the assessment


from the assistants Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer do it in and around the


southern and Republicans and the fact that they were going to use


Easter 1916 as an excuse to perpetrate violence and mayhem. I


absolutely believe that we as politicians need to give strong


leadership. We need to say it is not acceptable and reject it. We have to


support the Police Service of Northern Ireland so that they can


bring these people to justice. That is why although the find as Larne


was disturbing the fact that we could find it as I could thing.


Security issues work to the forefront. Yes, a 52-year-old prison


officer injured when a bomb exploded and in vehicle he was driving. For


all the talk about MLAs disagreeing, this is an issue where they are at


one. Nobody in the chamber would dissent from what was said today.


Nobody would refuse to condemn it. It is significant that on the first


day that there was a first Assembly session after that attack the first


item was that debate in which Assembly members were given an


opportunity to express their views on what happened.


It was interesting to see one MLA speaking as the victim of a similar


blast and to speaking as the children of prison officers stopped


that right. The Independent MLA is the daughter


of a prison officer. Another MLA is the son of a prison officer. A


reminder that so many MLAs have been affected directly by the Troubles.


Then we heard about the MLA affected by another conflict. And he was so


badly injured by a blast that he is a wheelchair user.


A Health Bill which proposes to ban smoking in cars carrying children


has been making its way through the House -


but it also calls for a study to be carried out by the department


investigating the possibility of introducing a levy


Diet is linked to diabetes and cancer. We are aware of the health


risks associated with high levels of sustained sugar intake. The average


intake amongst school-aged children and teenagers is almost three times


higher than the new 5% maximum recommended level and around twice


the maximum recommended level in adults. In terms of people being


overweight and obese, 60% of the adults published as obese or


overweight. 28% of children and young big are overweight or obese.


GP costs. Descriptions, costs are 92 million per year. There is a clear


area of concern in relation to strain on the service. It is


important to reflect that sugary soft drink 's are of particular


concern. But it does need to be part of a broader strategy. This


Amendment was recognition of that. This is not the panacea to all of


our issues but it is a positive public health initiative. Obesity is


the epidemic of the 21st-century. The STL P believes that this chamber


should do all within its powers to prevent it from a cunning in the


first place. With regard to the amendments there are a number of


issues. A number of questions for the Minister. Will this be an


academic piece of literature? In his remarks he referred to a robust


study. When does a robust study not become a consultation? The Minister


and the officials have decided a public consultation is not


necessary. That is disappointing. Given how little value many


executive departments actually give to consultations the outcome will be


little changed. At this stage rather than only have a consultation for


the sake of consultation I will give the park and the benefit of the


doubt with this study exercise. It is my hope that this report, aside


from being expert led and ambitious in its thinking, will still test


public opinion on the introduction of a levy. It is taking the time to


examine the issue properly that is at the heart of the issue before us.


Beth the results are positive my Department or the Assembly could


then move towards a consultation on what specifically to do in respect


of this issue of a levy or a tax on sugar sweetened jinx.


Road safety took centre stage at today's questions


The Road Traffic Amendment Bill was completed in January


Mark H Durkan was keen to outline the need for the legislation.


In terms of drink-driving, the bill makes provision for two new lower


drink-drive limit and also increases speed limits have been stopped and


tested by the police. A consultation paper is due to be issued this


month, this will contain proposals to introduce a set of five statutory


rules that are needed to bring the new drink-driving meshes into


operation. I am compliment that with the continued support of my brief


safety partners, the new drink-driving regime will be


invented for the end of 2016. In relation to graduated driving


licensing, the obligation is to make sure the drivers are skilled over


time in lower risk environments. The bill provides for a minimum six


months learning period and introduction of training to be


evidenced by a logbook. It removes the current 45 mph restriction for


learner drivers and also introduce a passenger restriction for new young


drivers for the first six months after they have passed their test.


Right away, we have been in contact with the approved driving


instructors, they are going to be talking to people about this from


the very first driving lesson, it will also be public information to


support's is as important parents know this before their children out


driving and the responsibility that children have in terms of what


passengers making curry and when. I also launched two new campaigns


later this month, the first addressing mobile phone use when


driving and the second, young driver distraction, particularly when


carrying passengers. The Minister may be aware where other corner of a


road which has been the scene of five territories of young in recent


years. That corner was removed from the scheme years ago, will you see


this scheme expedited? I thank the member for that question. That truly


is a frightening and shocking statistic and certainly as an


elected representative, never mind is Minister for responsibility of


road safety, I will work with you and everyone to address what is


clearly an issue at that precise location. On the record take in this


chamber before, speaking of concern that I have had about I suppose the


restructuring of the Government departments and where I foresee


potential problems in that growth but there are also opportunities


which will actually subsume the road safety element so you have people


within the same department who are responsible for brief safety and


those who are responsible for the road network. Can I ask the Minister


to outline what actions the department has taken to take action


against defective headlight switch may decrease accidents on rural


roads? Of the department does have responsibility for brief safety and


it does have response rate to ensure the roadworthiness of vehicles which


is the cause and factor in many collisions Honorius through the MOT,


we do check the headlights on vehicles, that is one of the most


important aspects of the tests add any found to be faulty ball be


There's plenty of last minute legislation making a final dash


through the Assembly and today it was the turn of the Education


It's reached Further Consideration Stage,


and John O'Dowd was keen to point out the important work that's been


This bill recognises outmost where schools already treat this issue


very seriously, believing in schools remains a problem. There are


edited... The consistency of which all schools stick to address the


problem. The framework which it will provide will give all schools


Beatles and management and information they require to monitor


their own performance, identify issues at an early stage. The duties


that are introduce reflect this practice, endorses those system and


practices that they already have in place. We always hear that


schooldays are the best days of our lives and we want all our children


to be happy at school. Because it is within that environment that our


children but the mac achieve their potential with no fear of bullying.


If there is billing, we want to deal with that. -- bullying. During the


consideration stage of this bill, the end this's assembly agreed...


With the amendments, that have been made since, the bill has been made


better. In terms of BTM edits today, the community has not taken any form


of view, the Minister has indicated that either they aren't of technical


nature or largely don't alter the bill's content. I suppose from that


point of view, members will want to view the contributions to decide


accordingly. A brief description of the incidents should be included in


the guidelines that the Minister and his team will draw up afterwards and


they certainly when ever is someone draws or drill down into any


information of the incident, they will be able to understand what has


happened from the beginning to the end. I think on the face of it we do


need to include the method. It is like in including an additional


column of analysis and you can see physical, verbal, cyber bullying


throughout that and in my mind, it makes for better and analysis. I'd


like to thank all of those who have contributed to today's debate and


the positive engagement in such a timely manner. The Dell is a


positive step forward to improve schools abilities to tackle the


problems as rigorously and effectively as they can. To ensure


more children are protected from the damage that bullying can cause.


John O'Dowd striking a positive note on plans to tackle bullying.


The South Belfast MP, Alasdair McDonnell, has walked out


of a Parliamentary committee meeting, taking exception


to a contribution from the Labour MP, Kate Hoey.


The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was at Stormont hearing


evidence about how a UK exit from the European Union could affect


First though, Lady Sylvia Hermon asked the DUP MP, Gavin Robinson,


what impact a vote to leave could have on the border


The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland already have border


arrangements of cooperation. We both look after one another and were


quite closely out of what is the unified European Union border


process, that is the first thing to say. I think this is demonstrated by


the evidence that we have that they are scared of us leaving because


they will lose their big friend in Europe. You don't expect there to be


any change along the border to while policing arrangements? I say this,


it's not that I foresee any change our party takes it pretty ill with


the fear concerns around border operations, border post, like when


they've had a common travel area before the European Union and they


take it pretty ill for those who suggest that Northern Ireland will


descend back into violence should we not benefit from a continued


relationship with the European Union. I think that touches to a


base level in politics other level are concerned and fear that is not


suitable and nor is it of a credit to anyone who should raise it. I'm


not suggesting that you were... The three levels of relationship that


when trying within the good Friday agreement, relationships within


Ireland, relationships between Northern Ireland and the south and


the relations at an east-west basis, that was the brainchild of John Hume


who took his inspiration from the European Union and who understood...


You might laugh but that is what happened. I'm laughing at John Hume,


did a good job. Order, order. You have to control that member. Order,


order. That is not acceptable. That is the second time today. I think


John Hume played an amazing part in that, my point was in terms of the


EU relationship. The EU understood and if you look at the peace lilies


I've come here, that was the result of a direct understanding of relish


chip. Because of people like John Hume, and other people, all those


people who contributed that but the context, the political context of


that has been within the European Union. Of course the McCanns were


very helpful who brought the Americans on board. Within the


European Union, to nation states, the British Government and the Irish


Government and I think it is quite obvious.


The SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, and Chris Page is here


And all expected ten of events when Alasdair McDonnell walked out of


that meeting. Up until that point, it looks like a fairly routine


committee hearing. All part of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee,


the enquiry into the that the debate of the European Union for Northern


Ireland. They are holding most of the debate in the house is up


Parliament in London but they are here at the moment. Alasdair


McDonnell took exception to something that Kate Perry said, the


origins of the peace process and left. Kate Hoey clarified that she


had been laughing and then the committee continued to question the


witness. Do we know anything more that was behind Alasdair McDonnell's


decision to walk out? He referred that is being the second time,


whether it was the second time that Kate Hoey had annoyed or irritated


him? Judging what he had said on the way out he did feel that previously


in that committee hearing Kate Hoey had said something that he didn't


like. He said to the community chairman, Laurence Robertson, that


he should control that member, that member being Kate Hoey. He said what


she had said was not acceptable so clearly Alasdair McDonnell was


upset, Kate Hoey didn't feel she had done anything wrong. Let's talk


about Jim Wells. He got the DUP nomination in self-doubt after much


speculative about whether he would or would not. What you surprise?


There had been discussion about whether Jim Wells would come back as


the DUP candidate in self-doubt after what happened to him last


year. -- herself down. He maintained all the way through


but he doesn't feel he has done anything particularly wrong, he was


looking to get back into the assembly after the May elections, he


wants to standard again, he now houses which, the DUP have announced


today all 44 of their election candidates and he is one of them.


The other question would be what the DUP with doings East Belfast, Sammy


Douglas is running there again. We now know the answer, it is Joanne


bunting, she was a counsellor, she was on the Council for 11 years, the


DUP regard her as a very good pick. In fact, the partly with third --


would feel they are gearing up very well for the selection also in about


two months' time and it has all become clear. The speakers are


holding a women in politics bentonite. Some pretty strong words


tonight, he said the unrepresented sheen women in assembly is


indefensible. He is calling on the next assembly to try and approve


that. He is stepping down in the next couple of weeks.


Join me again at the same time tomorrow night -


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.