07/12/2015 Stormont Today


07/12/2015

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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Transcript


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Nigel Dodds unexpectedly joined his fellow DUP MP, Sammy Wilson,

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in announcing he doesn't want to lead the party late this afternoon.

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Tonight, the man who wants to remain in the role of deputy leader tells

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us why he continues to believe the party can't be led from Westminster,

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and why he thinks the current Finance Minister, Arlene Foster,

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is the person to take the DUP forward.

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It seemed a done deal, the DUP leadership was heading

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for a job share, but now it's looking like a one woman show.

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It would be wrong to try to lead the party from Westminster because I

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wouldn't be able to give the parties are full-time focus it requires.

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In the chamber there was some feistiness as the

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Deputy First Minister responded to the final double-jobbing MLA.

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Over the course of the next summer, we have a big decision to make over

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his future, whether or not he will remain in this house or go to

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another place. I hope he continues to remain in this house and

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continues to enjoy sharing power with Sinn Fein.

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And here with his thoughts on today's big surprise development

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So, the man tipped to be crowned the third leader of the

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Democratic Unionist Party has surprised just about everyone by

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Nigel Dodds caught everyone out this afternoon when he told the media

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that he no longer wished to be considered for the party leadership.

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And he went even further by giving his full endorsement to

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Arlene Foster, who could now become DUP leader and First Minister.

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Mr Dodds, has been speaking to our political correspondent Chris Page.

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As many of you know, I have previously been on record as saying

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both publicly and to senior colleagues that I didn't believe

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that a modern Northern Ireland party in the context of devolution now

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firmly established could be led properly and fully from Westminster.

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I have stated that publicly, I've talked to senior colleagues about

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that. Given the level of expressions of support over the last

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couple of weeks, I have further reflected on the matter, I have

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taken counsel, I have prayed about it, I've spoken to colleagues. I am

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firmly of the view and I have concluded it would be wrong to try

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to lead the party from Westminster because I wouldn't be able to give

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the road the full-time focus and time it requires and still carry out

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my responsibilities at Westminster as Parliamentary leader, especially

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in the context where there are so many opportunities for unionism, for

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Northern Ireland in a House of Commons where we have a government

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majority which is so small. And I intend to carry out that role at

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Westminster serving my constituents, serving the party in Northern

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Ireland to the very best of my ability. I'm also very conscious

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that Diane, my wife, is fully committed as MEP for Northern

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Ireland. And it would be wrong for me to put personal standing above

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what I believe is in the best interest of the party and the people

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we serve. So, I believe the best way forward is to back Arlene Foster as

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leader of our party, going forward, in the Assembly. She has served as

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acting First Minister and demonstrated leadership credentials

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of the highest order here in the Assembly, where I believe a leader

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of the party needs to be. And I intend to work alongside her as

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deputy leader, as Parliamentary leader, as part of a strong team of

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committed DUP representatives at every level, and that is in the best

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interest of unionism and Northern Ireland. If any politician needing

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their party, you have been involved in so many years, how difficult was

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this for you? All things being equal and natural, I would have considered

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it a great honour. I consider the positions I need at the moment a

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privilege. I have held the position for a long time and my personal

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integrity demands that I continued to weigh these things, and what is

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not in my best interest but in the best interest of the party and the

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country. And I honestly believe that in the modern political setup of

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Northern Ireland, of a devolved government the leader of the party

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needs to be in Belfast. And if I was still in the Assembly, I would have

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no hesitation whatsoever. At I am not, and circumstances acted I am in

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Westminster. I continue to do that working Westminster in partnership

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with the new leader. And I will take the party forward in that way, and I

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believe that is in keeping with my integrity, and in keeping with the

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best interests of the party. In a Democratic party, people are

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perfectly entitled and open to putting their candidates forward,

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and we will wait to see what happens. I believe firmly that

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Arlene Foster is clearly the person who should take the party forward,

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someone who is already active as First Minister in the Assembly on

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two occasions. I believe her working with me and the rest of the team in

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the Assembly will provide the very, very positive future for Northern

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Ireland, for unionism. Nigel Dodds talking to journalists,

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among them our own Chris Page, Rick Wilford and I were discussing

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Peter Robinson's successor on last Tuesday's Stormont Today

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and we did make the point that while everyone was assuming

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Nigel Dodds would be crowned the new leader, he hadn't actually

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confirmed he wanted the job. How much of a shock

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is this announcement? I think it is a huge shock because I

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was at the party conference two weeks ago. It was almost like a

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public an ointment in front of the party faithful praising Nigel and

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Arlene Foster, pointing at Nigel as the next leader. I talked to the DUP

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press office and they all said this was going to be the next leader and

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First Minister. There were no doubts, no equivocation, no

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ambiguity, this was the package. It is pretty clear from what he had to

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say, he is backing Arlene Foster to take over, and for him to remain as

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deputy leader. It's interesting because it almost makes it sound as

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though there is some deal done already. He says I will continue as

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deputy leader. I don't know whether or not there will be an election or

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if there is a gift on behalf of the leader but he understands that

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whatever happens he will remain deputy leader of the party, he will

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continue doing that happily to serve Arlene Foster. Do you think that she

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would want to be First Minister's and leader of the DUP? My ritual

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thought about this, going back to 2013, my understanding was the party

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itself had made a decision that would make things easier if the

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roles were split so none of us were surprised that this package deal so

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it seems odd that Arlene Foster seems to be taking both positions.

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It may be something to do with the fact the election the six months

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away, the Assembly will be broken up middle of March. So that will give

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her time to lead the election campaign. So that might be more

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useful to allow her to do both roles in a very key election. It does look

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like the job was sitting there on a plate for Nigel Dodds. Can you think

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of another situation where a politician had the leadership of a

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party sitting there, if you're she wanted it, and walked away? I can't.

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Back in 2008 when Peter Robinson took over from Ian Paisley, some of

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us thought that might be a moment for a contest in the party. This was

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handed to Nigel. For some reason, and we may never know, for some

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reason he has decided he doesn't want it. I think oddly enough that

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will spook a lot of people. Until yesterday, that was their dream

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ticket, that was the couple who were going to keep the DUP on the road

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and give them an election victory. Here's the thing I don't understand.

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He said in that interview he would have no hesitation whatsoever in

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putting his name forward if he was an MLA but he believes the party

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needs to be led from Westminster. If you wanted to lead the party, he

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could be an MLA by mid-January, they would find a way of doing it. There

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is a pretty safe seat coming up in East Belfast. It could be done. It

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could be done in his own constituency. OK, it would force a

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by-election. If he had wanted it, it could have been done. They would

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have made it happen. I don't believe the party said no. We don't know

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what has happened. Very quickly, Sammy Wilson said he was ruling

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himself out and backing Nigel Dodds. Nigel Dodds has ruled himself out,

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does Sammy come back into the frame? It's interesting Sammy doesn't

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appear to have a conversation with Nigel, or if you did Nigel didn't

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tell. So, conspiracy theorists Sammy was out of the picture before he

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moved himself aside. Fascinating stuff. Plenty to talk about. Thank

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you very much and we will speak to you later.

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So the big talking point of the day was very much outside

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the Assembly chamber, but that didn't stop some robust conversation

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The Deputy First Minister faced questions and, when asked by

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Gregory Campbell to clarify his own role in the Troubles, he was

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During the talks process, good process was made on the things on

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the past. And a number of key issues to which we were working. This was

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unfortunate but it is recognised that this is not an issue on which

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there can be a half-hearted agreement for the sake of

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expediency. The fresh start agreement commits the British and

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Irish governments to reflect on options for resolving the legacy

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issues, building therefore on the sound basis that already exists

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through our discussions. Thank you. The Deputy First Minister

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refers to good progress. That is true. Does he not agree that are to

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progress would be made for example if you tried to shore up whatever

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credibility he has in terms of his past, for example of -- in a number

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of occasions I've alluded to his possession of a submachinegun as

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contained in the saddle report. His involvement, if he had any in the

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two policeman shot three days before Bloody Sunday. And the murder of a

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prison officer. They all happened when the Deputy First Minister was

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the two IC of the provisional IRA, yet he denied knowledge or

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involvement in any of them. Where does his credibility stand? Well, I

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never imagined for one minute that the fresh start would extend to the

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member who has just spoken. Not for one minute. And the member is often

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in this chamber prepared to quote all sorts of falsehoods and innuendo

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about my past. The reality is in relation to these saddle report,

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which I am glad he mentioned, the most significant ruling made by Lord

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Southall was that he believed the IRA's evidence. I went forward as a

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member of the IRA. My evidence was believed by Lord Southall and the

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evidence of the paratroopers and the British Army was rejected. So it

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isn't a great issue for the member to raise in this house, particularly

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as someone who comes from the city of airy. So I think from my

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perspective, I look at all of this on the basis that over the course of

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the next month, the member will have a big decision to make over his

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future, whether or not he will remain in this house or go to

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another place. I hope he continues to remain in this house and

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continues to enjoy sharing power with Sinn Fein. Does he agree that

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the blanket of national security that the British government wrapped

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itself in the talks was a further example of their resistance to the

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truth? And truth telling on their terms only? Would he also agree the

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evidence of many years is that republican and loyalist

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organisations do exactly the same. Resist the truth and will only tell

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the truth on their terms. The big test, I would suggest to the member

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of West Belfast, is to establish the structures and mechanisms that we

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agreed. At least a considerable amount of agreement on. That will be

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the test as to whether or not people are willing to come forward and

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contribute. My willingness on behalf of being asked by the Bloody Sunday

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families to come forward as a member of the IRA to talk about the

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situation in relation to Bloody Sunday, I think that is a very clear

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indicator of where I am, informed in relation to it. I've done it, I've

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been there, I have worn the T-shirt. Martin McGuinness underlining

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what he says is his commitment Long before anyone knew she might

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well get a free run at the DUP leadership, Arlene Foster was

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a busy woman in the chamber. The Finance Minister, for a short

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time longer, at least, was seeking support to extend Westminster's

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Enterprise Bill to Northern Ireland. However, the Assembly voted not to

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adopt the legislation, which would have put an end to six

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figure public sector exit payments. The matter before us today poses a

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relatively straightforward choice. How much do we wish to spend on

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existing public servants, and how much do we want to spend on

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providing public services? While exit payments must be reasonable and

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fair to public servants, we have to be mindful these costs are met by

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employers, and impact on what can be spent on the delivery of services.

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It should be noted at the outset the restriction being proposed will not

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affect any pension which an individual has already accrued, and

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paid for by member contributions. What is proposed as a cap on any

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additional funding paid for by the employer as part of an exit

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package. In relation to concerns raised over specific circumstances

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when the cap would impact on lower or moderately paid a big sector

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workers, the department made no promises. When pressed on this

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issue, the officials commented there was scope for the Department or

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employing authority to grant flexibilities and waivers in certain

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circumstances. The officials did not give members and assurance is such a

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waiver would be applied in the case of a specific example which was

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cited by members of a 55-year-old female public sector worker with 35

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years service earning ?27,000 who could be impacted by cap of ?95,000.

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It should not be used to bring forward such controversial changes,

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and that it does deny the Falls scrutiny of this Assembly to a

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matter which is of huge public importance and impacts on the lives

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of many people here in Northern Ireland. A major concern for many is

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that full details of guidelines on the flexibility to relax the exit

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payment cap will not be issued by the department until after the LMC

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has been agreed. It must be done in such a way the consequences have all

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been considered in advance. The current situation is that this has

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not happened, and there was haste, and the commission isn't satisfied

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sufficient time has been afforded to scrutinise Asian fully.

:17:47.:17:48.

Leslie Cree, and the Finance Minister was also

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on her feet discussing financial help for businesses affected

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by recent flooding during today's Question Time.

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Arlene Foster also said she hopes to have a budget for the next financial

:17:55.:17:57.

She was giving her response to the Chancellor's recent

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After the compounds of Spending Review announcement on 25th of

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November, we have a clear picture in in terms of the block grant. I've

:18:14.:18:21.

indicated 5% reduction in real terms and a growth especially towards the

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latter end in terms of capital spending. Therefore, we are now

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going to engage with all the individual departments. I envisage

:18:31.:18:34.

there will be rounds of budget by laterals between myself and

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ministerial colleagues before Christmas, and we will bring forward

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a budget to the Executive. I realise we're not going to have time to have

:18:44.:18:48.

usual draft budget consultation period. I have tasked officials to

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speak with individual stakeholders and, indeed, groups of stakeholders

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to discuss the way forward with them once budget, the draft budget comes

:18:59.:19:04.

before ministerial bilaterals have finished. It is hoped we have a

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budget in place for the end of January of next year. Although the

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Spending Review was perhaps better, particularly in relation to capital,

:19:21.:19:25.

than some people anticipated, there will be difficulties for

:19:26.:19:28.

departments, particularly if we ring-fenced spending in relation to

:19:29.:19:33.

health, because health, of course, is that big part of the budget here

:19:34.:19:38.

in Northern Ireland. And, therefore, colleagues will have to look at

:19:39.:19:44.

efficiency savings again for the year 1617. And we are only setting a

:19:45.:19:47.

one-year budget at this stage because we feel it would be wrong to

:19:48.:19:51.

tie the hands of the new mandate after May of next year. They will

:19:52.:19:57.

want to set their own priorities after that. I asked the Prime

:19:58.:20:03.

Minister, given the tax credits, what discussions will have taken

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place at executive level to reach consensus at what is done with this

:20:08.:20:12.

money set aside for the needs of the most vulnerable in the society.

:20:13.:20:17.

Absolutely. And we all welcome the fact that the Chancellor moved away

:20:18.:20:22.

from his plans in relation to tax credits. It was always very

:20:23.:20:27.

difficult to understand how you could say you wanted to encourage

:20:28.:20:32.

people into work, and then to actually undermine that argument by

:20:33.:20:36.

taking away tax credits, which were there to help them get into work. So

:20:37.:20:41.

it was to me a very sensible decision. We set aside a pot of

:20:42.:20:45.

money to deal with the consequences of the cut in tax credits under the

:20:46.:20:50.

fresh start agreement. We will now have to at an executive level have

:20:51.:20:54.

those discussions, spread over four years, so we have some time to

:20:55.:20:59.

decide. The profile of that money is 60 million each year so we can

:21:00.:21:02.

decide whatever we want to do in relation to the money, and how best

:21:03.:21:07.

we can help vulnerable people over that period of time, and I look

:21:08.:21:10.

forward to those discussions in the coming weeks and months. Can I

:21:11.:21:16.

sympathise with many of my constituents who have suffered

:21:17.:21:22.

previously under the storm Desmond. I asked the minister if any business

:21:23.:21:29.

in particular may apply for rebate? In terms of the rebate? It is

:21:30.:21:37.

difficult to say whether they will qualify for rates rebate. I was

:21:38.:21:45.

thinking when I heard... This is the fourth storm, it is the first male

:21:46.:21:52.

storm, seems to have made more damage than the three females

:21:53.:21:53.

altogether. Arlene Foster, tongue in her cheek,

:21:54.:21:55.

I assume. If you're a student living

:21:56.:21:57.

in a house with others or a landlord renting out a property,

:21:58.:22:00.

the Houses in Multiple Occupation Its aim is to enable better

:22:01.:22:02.

regulation of houses with a large number

:22:03.:22:06.

of residents by doing three things. Firstly, streamlining the definition

:22:07.:22:16.

of what an HMO is. Secondly, introducing licensing to promote

:22:17.:22:20.

effective housing management. Landlords will be required to have a

:22:21.:22:25.

licence before the HMO comes into existence. To apply for a licence,

:22:26.:22:35.

the landlords fit this to let HMO established, and a safety check of

:22:36.:22:40.

the home computed. Thirdly, the bill will clarify existing law and may

:22:41.:22:44.

currently Galatia and enforcement more effective. The proposed system

:22:45.:22:50.

will mean that a person is acting illegally of they are not licensed

:22:51.:22:55.

operate a property as a house of multiple occupation. This is a

:22:56.:22:58.

fundamental change to the existing system. While the committee welcomes

:22:59.:23:06.

the principles of the bill, we've sought to ensure it will deliver a

:23:07.:23:10.

new, more robust system of regulation for houses of multiple

:23:11.:23:15.

occupation. HMOs are important in the housing mix in the North and the

:23:16.:23:23.

housing crisis, they are important for people who cannot rent. Often it

:23:24.:23:31.

is important to provide further regulation to better protect

:23:32.:23:34.

communities and indeed the talents within houses of multiple

:23:35.:23:39.

occupation, it is also important not to use the sledgehammer approach

:23:40.:23:42.

because we are living in a society where more and more people because

:23:43.:23:46.

of high rents are having to share accommodation. There has to be a

:23:47.:23:48.

common-sense approach. In terms of taking this forward, how

:23:49.:24:02.

we going to identify the under registration that presently exists,

:24:03.:24:07.

even in terms of landlord registration, there are landlords

:24:08.:24:12.

out there whether or not they are in terms of homes of multiple

:24:13.:24:16.

occupation, they should also be registered in terms of being

:24:17.:24:24.

landlords and can avoid duplication if you register for multiple

:24:25.:24:28.

occupation would you automatically register as a landlord could we try

:24:29.:24:32.

and minimise the level of bureaucracy that exists an insurer

:24:33.:24:38.

that we capture all relevant information as an efficient

:24:39.:24:42.

mechanism as possible. I am also concerned that we get the balance

:24:43.:24:47.

right between the ability to carry out enforcement with regards to

:24:48.:24:52.

landlords who require that to be done and we also need to mark the

:24:53.:24:56.

fact that there are many landlords who go above and beyond that which

:24:57.:25:01.

they need to do in order to provide accommodation for those living in

:25:02.:25:03.

this type of accommodation. And that bill passed

:25:04.:25:04.

its second stage on an oral vote. The North-South Ministerial Council

:25:05.:25:07.

is back in full swing and today's report

:25:08.:25:09.

from the cross-border body focused on the snappily titled Aquaculture

:25:10.:25:11.

and Marine Sectoral Format. As the questions to the

:25:12.:25:13.

Agriculture Minister show, The Ulster aquaculture is playing an

:25:14.:25:29.

increasingly important role in our agri- foods industry and it is very

:25:30.:25:35.

weather dependent. In terms of... Can you give us an update into

:25:36.:25:40.

research that has been done on it becoming more weather resistant and

:25:41.:25:47.

there was what to cold and moderately warm in some cases. This

:25:48.:25:50.

industry is very dependent on this or that last year were stock was

:25:51.:25:57.

lost due to weather conditions. I am delighted that we are progressing

:25:58.:26:01.

this conversation on an all Ireland basis and we will have our

:26:02.:26:05.

conference happening in 2016 which will give an opportunity for

:26:06.:26:14.

agencies to come together and bring international experts in relation to

:26:15.:26:18.

this and work together to have a sustainable fishery. That conference

:26:19.:26:22.

will be hugely significant in terms of supporting the industry and

:26:23.:26:27.

identifying other areas of research and other supports we need to have

:26:28.:26:32.

in place to help that industry to be diverse and sustainable. Back to

:26:33.:26:38.

point number 7, Mr McCarthy focused on something else, you are met and

:26:39.:26:42.

acknowledge that salmon poaching involves a large number of

:26:43.:26:47.

individuals and remains a challenge, can I ask what steps she is taking

:26:48.:26:52.

to eradicate poaching salmon in Northern Ireland? It is exactly as I

:26:53.:27:01.

just said, we have a multi-agency approach and we are working with the

:27:02.:27:03.

number of agencies including the PSNI to see how we can eradicate

:27:04.:27:07.

this. It is a crime. It involves the responsibility of policing. I think

:27:08.:27:16.

that we have to keep continuing in that vein with that collective

:27:17.:27:22.

effort. That is the only way we are going to be able to drive out what

:27:23.:27:25.

activity. And Alex Kane is here

:27:26.:27:26.

for a final word. The Upper Bann DUP MLA Stephen

:27:27.:27:30.

Moutray has announced he's standing Not a huge price for a. Carla

:27:31.:27:43.

Lockhart but with 50% in the selection process. Three candidates,

:27:44.:27:49.

he had to lose one of them. Stephen has paid that easy for them. He has

:27:50.:27:53.

got them out of what could have been a difficult problem.

:27:54.:27:59.

And we heard today that while Gallaher's was going up

:28:00.:28:02.

in smoke, another couple of Northern Ireland politicians

:28:03.:28:03.

I am not surprised. That goes with the territory. Elected get invited

:28:04.:28:18.

to events like that. I would not have made such a fuss, so maybe

:28:19.:28:23.

they're talking about it. I would have confess, this goes with the

:28:24.:28:26.

territory, it was a great match, we enjoyed it and we did have serious

:28:27.:28:31.

discussions before and after and we will continue to have those

:28:32.:28:35.

discussions. Do not pretend that you're sitting at a match, ?1600 a

:28:36.:28:41.

ticket and having a conversation about workplace problems in the

:28:42.:28:44.

factory 400 miles away. That is silly.

:28:45.:28:46.

Join me again at the same time tomorrow, that's 23:15

:28:47.:28:51.

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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