08/03/2016 Stormont Today


08/03/2016

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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Delays in patients accessing health service treatment -

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never far from the top of the agenda - continue to cause problems

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And it wasn't women's hour - not even women's day -

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but women's week, as the Speaker aimed to raise the profile of female

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The Health Minister is questioned over lengthy waiting lists...

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We have been trying, once we resolved welfare reform, the budget

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was back on a stable footing and we have been addressing the problem and

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I have made it a key priority. Calling more women to public life -

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the Assembly celebrates It is up to women to put their

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shoulders to the door and shove it but it is up to assembly members

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that we hold the door open and encourage many others to come

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through. And I'm joined by the News Letter's

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Political Correspondent, Sam McBride, with his take

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on another busy day on the hill... It's only Tuesday and already it's

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been a week of ups and downs On Sunday, Simon Hamilton said

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an extra thirty million pounds, on top of the forty million

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announced in November, would be made available

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in the next financial year Yesterday, he was criticised

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by a patient waiting two years for surgery and a GP who called

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the injection of money a 'band-aid'. The topic was bound to come up

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during question time today, I recently announced that I would

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ask the independent NHS pay review body for a recommendation regarding

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the pay award and I said that I would honour their conclusions. I

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have now received the response and they suggest that certain economic

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factors could point towards the option of an ill aboard and they

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suggest they have seen no evidence to suggest that large numbers of

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staff are leaving Northern Ireland because of pay. They recommend a 1%

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increase for all staff in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the

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UK and I am happy to confirm that I am accepting their recommendation

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for a 1% pay award. This will be challenging in our tough budgetary

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times but I am clear that it is an appropriate reward for our working

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staff. How confident would the Minister be that waiting list will

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continue to decrease and we would get seriously to grips with this

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problem? Part... We can invest and we are investing and I think we

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should note and welcomed the additional investment I have

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announced in the last number of days on top of the ?40 million going in

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this year and sometimes I think that people think that is the only money

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going to waiting list, this is on top of the ordinary activity of the

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trusts which ensure that cases continue and there are more

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outpatient appointments. This is additional on top of that. There is

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a constant churn of people going out and coming onto the list and there

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has been a 14% increase in referrals, never mind issues with

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finance, but there has been a 14% increase in the number of referrals

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from GPs and others to hospital for outpatient and other appointments

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and we have got to, keep our focus on continued investment in getting

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to grips with this. I acknowledge that waiting lists are too long, it

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is one of my priorities to address that and that is why we have been

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investing the money to help 150,000 people across Northern Ireland to

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get the procedures and operations they require. We need to continue

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that investment and that is why I am pleased that the First Minister has

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indicated that one of her priorities is prioritising health expenditure

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and I agree with her when she says we need to reform our system, but we

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need to spend a minimum of ?1 billion extra over the next five

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years. The department received an additional ?80 million last year and

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yet the situation in my constituency continued to deteriorate. All the

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Minister be in the situation when will he be in a situation to get to

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grips with the crisis in waiting times? We're in a position because

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of budgetary pressures and because of that 14% increase in referrals

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where we have unacceptable in long-awaited list and I think if was

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standing here before the member and the house saying that is the way it

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is and we are not doing anything, I think he would be right to criticise

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me. We have been trying, once we've resolved welfare reform, the budget

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was back at a stable footing and we have been addressing the problem and

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it is a key priority in terms of the big allocations out of the monetary

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rounds, for the budget for next year to tackle this issue.

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Simon Hamilton - and Sam McBride from the News Letter is with me

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Health is seen by many as the most challenging ministry, no matter how

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much money there might be you get the sense it will never be enough.

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That is true. In some ways, maybe 15 years ago, assembly health ministers

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had that fact masked by the fact that the economy was booming with

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the Labour government that was spending beyond its means but

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spending generously in terms of the health service and we benefited.

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Over the last period, we have had both the crash of the economy and

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the welfare reform impasse which has taken a lot of money out of the

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executive budget and health has suffered. Waiting list, as Simon

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Hamilton admitted, are now seriously very concerning lead going in the

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wrong direction when you look at grass, they are sharply going up.

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That is the difficulty for the DUP but also for people who are waiting

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for importing procedures. Health has the biggest budget and the biggest

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impact on the population. It does. We all have experience of health,

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from the breadth of our children to people dying in hospital 's

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everyday, we all know it is a massive issue most of us it is a

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good experience, the difficulty politically is that people expected

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to be a good experience and if there is any issue, that comes back to

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health managers or to the Health Minister. It is a thankless task, if

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it goes well, that is what we expect other that does not, we complain.

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Simon Hamilton has been in the post for less than a year, how has he

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done? He has done well, he has not dropped the ball in a political

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sense. When you look at the statistics it is hard to argue that

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he has been massively successful in that the waiting times are getting

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very long and you could argue that is not entirely his fault, it is the

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fault of not enough funding, but wider institutional. Edwin Poots was

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very bold to the point of closing the Accident and Emergency unit at

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his local hospital. Since then, we have seen the cutback of

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streamlining your care, centralised bigger hospitals which doctors say

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is what needs to be done but politically it is suicidal in some

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cases for local politicians. We have had this spectre of some DUP

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ministers arguing that services should be reduced at a local

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hospital and some of their colleagues arguing that they should

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not. That is difficult to reconcile. They have not followed through on

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that. Given that challenge, do you think the DUP will want health in

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the next mandate? I do not think anyone wants health. It is always

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one of the last pics and I do not see any reason why that would be

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different. Developing, it is more likely to be further down the line

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because there are massive issues that make it bigger before they get

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better. Given the number of 'final stages'

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we've brought you in recent weeks, you'd be forgiven for thinking

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that bills only complete their legislative journey

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in the final few months The first bill to vault its final

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hurdle today concerned Shared Sheard education provides the

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opportunity to raise educational standards for young people, to learn

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about each other from each other and for teachers, youth workers and

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early years practitioners to learn from practices and share good

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practice. Share and education can facilitate mutual understanding

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through ongoing and purpose of engagement in learning and young

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people from different community backgrounds. Shared education poses

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no threat to any school sector, youth work or early years settings

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or community. The hope is that the cooperation between schools will

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hope -- Michael helped to lift standards and that is something for

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all our children, from whatever background should be something we

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are aspiring to and if that is a positive outcome, of shared

:10:00.:10:04.

education then that is something that we can welcome. I think there

:10:05.:10:08.

is a positive step forward with this bill, clearly as with all

:10:09.:10:12.

legislation in this house, the key test will be as we move ahead in the

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next mandate towards implementation and seen how this works on the

:10:18.:10:20.

ground and it is important that the same effort and attention given to

:10:21.:10:25.

this bill is also applied to our education system in terms of the

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delivery of the objectives and that is something which I suspect this

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house can talk about. Shared learning partnerships are working

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successfully in many areas including my local area and we have schools

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sharing teachers, sharing resources and now schools are sharing

:10:44.:10:47.

buildings and there is a great variety of various types of sharing

:10:48.:10:53.

that goes on. It, this is demonstrated the ability and

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willingness of our schools, pupils and parents to move to a greater

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degree of sharing across the traditional religious divide. We

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believe that shared education could and should be a supportive mechanism

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for developing other models of long-term sharing, such as jointly

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manage schools, integrated schools and federations. The UUP is

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supportive of innovative solutions developed by communities for the

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children. I hope to be proved wrong, I hope in a few years' time we will

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be able to look at the situation and say, the shared education agenda was

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a major step forward in terms of bringing our children together,

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which is what we are all about, a shared future in a small way and I

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would also hope that the experience of sharing across sectors and

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between schools will lead schools and parents and governors to realise

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that there is no bogeyman, that the children could be educated together

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under one roof and without having to worry about which sector they came

:11:58.:12:01.

from where they lived or what the ethos of the school was, that they

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would be able to go to the best school, near a school of their

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choice. Today the Assembly was presented

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with a report outlining potential Members called for the next

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Justice Minister to take on board their recommendations

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on how the entire legal and criminal process can be made fit

:12:16.:12:18.

for the 21st century. And the Chair of the Justice

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Committee, Alastair Ross, Good evening. Thank you for joining

:12:21.:12:32.

us. The findings and recommendations in this report promised to

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completely change the way much of the justice system is run, if they

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implement. Yes. To set a little bit of context we recognise there is

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less government money around but the public expectation is higher and

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what we tried to do was find evidence -based policy is that

:12:50.:12:53.

reduced the cost to the taxpayer but improved outcomes. We have

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identified a number of areas from problem-solving courts to use

:12:58.:13:01.

justice and early interventions to the use of technology to improve

:13:02.:13:05.

outcomes and help engage with the justice system. Wide range of

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suggestions we have in the report that they think all of them are

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achievable and the committee has done the survey and we want to see a

:13:14.:13:16.

number of recommendations included for government. There appears to be

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a particular focus on how young offenders are dealt with. We

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recognise that once a young person enters the criminal justice system

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it is a revolving door and we need to do what we can to divert them

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from entering the system and some of that is early intervention and we

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will work with education, appropriate to versions, restorative

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justice that can make a big difference and ensure that young

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people have a second chance. We do not want them at the age of 15, 16,

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17, 18 losing opportunities and that is something that the committee

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agrees with. At the same time, it has to be said that if a young

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person knowingly breaks the law, they have to take the consequences.

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Of course and many of the diversions are around low-level first-time

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offenders and the more serious offences will have to be dealt with

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in a traditional system and that is appropriate. We try to ensure that

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the justice system acts proportionately and rationally in

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terms of the approach. Community restorative justice has been tried,

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is that the next logical step? There are number of things. We need to not

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only look for criminal justice responses, sometimes health care is

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appropriate and if a community has been wronged, a proportionate

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response might be that the young person helps to clean up the area

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and works alongside the community to improve things and back and repay

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their debt to society in a more constructive way.

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We need to be smart on crime and we need to look at areas where outcome

:14:57.:15:03.

can be improved, distinguishable between what works and what doesn't

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work permit shall be criminal justice system is right in response

:15:08.:15:11.

to this. There is no absolute guarantee that your committee will

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necessary pick up on this. No, it would be part of our legacy report.

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The next minister will pick up some of the suggestions as well. I

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suspect they will go and I suspect they will will be a hugely

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successful collaboration, with the legal profession and the legal

:15:34.:15:36.

sector, police, all of these organisations coming together once a

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month to look at the evidence base outcome for all the different

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initiatives. I really good report their and we could use it in the

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next mandate. The Finance Minister also faced

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questions today and it was his turn to answer MLAs asking about the hot

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topic of Brexit. Most ministers have been asked

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for their position on the EU referendum debate

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and Mervyn Storey was only too happy The EU funding totalling 676 million

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has been secured for the 2007 13 BC and the five A programmes and the

:16:14.:16:20.

2000 1420 piece for the five A programmes for the delivery by SU

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PB. The special EU programmes body is the managing authority for the

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direct programmes. Funding under these programmes is secured why the

:16:31.:16:35.

Northern Ireland executive, Irish, and relation the Scottish allotment.

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Will the Minister offers some suggestions of how such funding

:16:44.:16:48.

would be best attained in the future? The member was to draw us

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into the debate around what would happen post the referendum. I have

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made it very clear that the debate which leads us to and during the

:17:00.:17:03.

referendum needs to be on the basis of facts, it has to be the basis of

:17:04.:17:11.

figures and one figure that those parties who are suggesting that we

:17:12.:17:15.

should stay within the European Union has to deal with is the fact

:17:16.:17:19.

that we have ?20 billion which goes every year to the coppers of the

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European Union. An organisation that has a looted bureaucracy, an

:17:28.:17:31.

organisation that can't secure our borders, an organisation that cannot

:17:32.:17:39.

resist meddling in our courts decisions and I think that that the

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many other reasons, let financial reasons, there is a case that is

:17:46.:17:49.

currently being made to ensure that our money is best spent in Northern

:17:50.:17:54.

Ireland to the benefit of our tissues, to the benefit of our

:17:55.:17:59.

farmers, to the benefit that of our committee. Could I ask the Minister,

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has his department carried out any audit as to the potential

:18:06.:18:10.

implications of Brexit, negative or otherwise, specifically for Northern

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Ireland? Because I think that faith in the Tories to deliver to Northern

:18:15.:18:20.

Ireland and a post Brexit, I think would be pretty much ill founded. I

:18:21.:18:28.

hear members who are always asking for more information. All the

:18:29.:18:31.

information is out there that needs to be out there in terms of making a

:18:32.:18:39.

judgment on a decision. That is the fact that Her Majesty 's tragedy,

:18:40.:18:43.

irrespective of who is the Government of the day, whether they

:18:44.:18:48.

be the Conservative all the members colleagues in the Labour Party, and

:18:49.:18:52.

we know how well they were able to spend money. They spent money that

:18:53.:18:57.

well that the bust almost the Treasury so I think the memo will do

:18:58.:19:01.

better to have a conversation with his colleagues in the Labour Party

:19:02.:19:07.

that causes into the financial mess. The Conservative Party had to try

:19:08.:19:12.

and resolve. However, the issue that still needs to be resolved is for

:19:13.:19:17.

the Treasury because they will have more money which will not go to

:19:18.:19:23.

Brussels but will come to Belfast and to other parts of the United

:19:24.:19:27.

Kingdom and that I started back, I would have to go round all the

:19:28.:19:30.

the members constituencies to keep you all happy.

:19:31.:19:33.

Mervyn Storey in robust form at the despatch box.

:19:34.:19:35.

Yet another piece of legislation made its final passage

:19:36.:19:37.

The Rural Needs Bill obliges all public bodies to take

:19:38.:19:40.

into account the needs of those living in the country

:19:41.:19:43.

The Agriculture Minister and members of the Agriculture Committee

:19:44.:19:46.

were pleased to see the bill reach its final stage.

:19:47.:19:52.

As we move forward it will be important to ensure that the public

:19:53.:19:59.

authorities named in the bill comply with this in a consistent and

:20:00.:20:03.

meaningful way. This bill is to have real impact on the lives, it can't

:20:04.:20:09.

be allowed to become a box ticking exercise. The reporting and

:20:10.:20:14.

monitoring of arrangements will help to ensure that this will happen as a

:20:15.:20:19.

result of these amendments, the Department is required to publish an

:20:20.:20:28.

annual report. What I am glad that there will be a statue duty on

:20:29.:20:33.

public authorities to take rural needs into account when incrementing

:20:34.:20:36.

Government policies and delivering public services I'm still somewhat

:20:37.:20:42.

disappointed with the limited scope of the bill. This bill represents

:20:43.:20:47.

another missed opportunity. We only have to look at other parts of the

:20:48.:20:50.

United Kingdom where there are significantly more protection than

:20:51.:20:53.

place for rural communities, for instance, I try to place presumption

:20:54.:20:59.

against rural school closures on the face of a bill, like Scotland and

:21:00.:21:02.

England, given the limited scope of this bill it was not possible. This

:21:03.:21:08.

bill has come about as a result of the brutal White paper and action

:21:09.:21:15.

plan with the commitment to strive for an inclusive rural society where

:21:16.:21:19.

all rural drivers enjoy the same quality of the as other people

:21:20.:21:28.

referring in urban settings. The effective implementation of rural

:21:29.:21:32.

proofing across central and local Government. And other public

:21:33.:21:36.

authorities as may be specified. I think this is a historic day for the

:21:37.:21:41.

Assembly. This rural bill, the final stage of this rural bill is

:21:42.:21:45.

something that is the little for quite a number of years and I want

:21:46.:21:50.

to congratulate and compound the Minister Michele O'Neil for bringing

:21:51.:21:55.

this forward. The rural dweller and I am one of them myself, has for a

:21:56.:22:01.

long time been an estimated within their own communities. I served

:22:02.:22:08.

nearly 20 years as a councillor. In a rural area and it was a fighting

:22:09.:22:14.

match year in, year out with meetings with the council to get the

:22:15.:22:18.

right money laid aside for facilities in the rural areas. In an

:22:19.:22:22.

act this is a great new story for our communities. I think for us, we

:22:23.:22:33.

can be very, as Assembly, be very proud that we have left a fantastic

:22:34.:22:39.

legacy out of this mandate. The needs of rural communities will be

:22:40.:22:45.

reckless. For me, given that it is International Women's Day, I am a

:22:46.:22:49.

proud minister to say that I've led the way in delivering for rural

:22:50.:22:52.

communities and to make sure that we look to the future, broke me to stay

:22:53.:22:58.

so the disadvantage, they do feel that they have a statue that now,

:22:59.:23:02.

that their needs will be taken into account. It is a great newspaper

:23:03.:23:05.

Michelle O'Neill acknowledging International Women's Day.

:23:06.:23:07.

And the Assembly isn't just marking the day,

:23:08.:23:09.

it has devoted the entire week to raising the profile

:23:10.:23:12.

Earlier, a cross-party motion marked the creation of a women's

:23:13.:23:15.

parliamentary caucus here in Stormont.

:23:16.:23:21.

A political career path is deemed as not family friendly due to long

:23:22.:23:28.

sections and the demands placed on member's times. It remains true that

:23:29.:23:34.

women are main carers in our society and as such we need to expose

:23:35.:23:39.

strategies to prove worklife balance and improve issues around childcare

:23:40.:23:43.

and other caring responsibilities. This will be another key protein for

:23:44.:23:51.

the women's caucus. If more women will take up more high-profile and

:23:52.:23:55.

positions, it will help the media will inspire more women to take up

:23:56.:23:59.

higher positions. I would commend it to everybody. We can't sit back and

:24:00.:24:04.

wait on the societal changes. We must change our own society and it

:24:05.:24:07.

is my hope that the women caucus will drive these changes so the male

:24:08.:24:12.

and female ratio of this Assembly is much closer to 5050 by 2020. I want

:24:13.:24:19.

to thank you for your commitment that you have had at women in

:24:20.:24:25.

politics and in public life and I know a few months ago, Catriona

:24:26.:24:35.

Ruane and I ambushed you in your office and have some ideas that

:24:36.:24:38.

would be good for International Women's Day. You took those ideas

:24:39.:24:42.

are not needed you make this Assembly celebrate International

:24:43.:24:47.

Women's Day, you brought it into International women's week. I would

:24:48.:24:50.

like rabbit in the headlights. I was so nervous and so intimidated by

:24:51.:24:55.

this chamber but it has been through this support that I've had from my

:24:56.:25:00.

party colleagues, from other people within this chamber, but I can stand

:25:01.:25:04.

here today and not feel like that rabbit in the head lights. We also

:25:05.:25:10.

have a First Minister who is a women, we have two junior ministers,

:25:11.:25:15.

we have a Minister for agriculture and culture arts and leisure. That

:25:16.:25:18.

didn't happen by accident. That happens because women were taken

:25:19.:25:25.

power and also being supported by men in parties who understood the

:25:26.:25:29.

importance of true equality within each of our parties. I lost my mum

:25:30.:25:37.

in December and she was a strong women who had a great life, reared

:25:38.:25:42.

seven children and freely in different times she read those

:25:43.:25:47.

children. It is because of women like my mother and all our mothers

:25:48.:25:52.

who fought the good fight in their way, in their time. You won't make

:25:53.:25:58.

the progress you want to make in this place without the support of

:25:59.:26:02.

men, that is a given. I am hoping that a lot of other men who maybe

:26:03.:26:06.

don't need much persuasion will come on board with the initiative as time

:26:07.:26:14.

goes on. 2016 saw the first of First Minister in Northern Ireland and I'm

:26:15.:26:17.

kind God she's not here because I must admit Arlene Foster is someone

:26:18.:26:21.

I've always admired. I would be quite embarrassing visit she was in

:26:22.:26:28.

room. I dyed my hair because -- I admire her because she is a good

:26:29.:26:34.

politician. She is not only a good team are politician, generally she

:26:35.:26:40.

is a good politician. We are forced to be reckoned with. We have

:26:41.:26:43.

achieved much in our numbers and we have much to be proud of. Is up to

:26:44.:26:46.

women to put their shoulders to the door and give it a hard shell. It is

:26:47.:26:50.

up to Assembly members here that we hold that door open and encourage

:26:51.:26:53.

many others to come through. Sandra Overend and Sam

:26:54.:26:57.

McBride has rejoined me. Do you think we need great is to

:26:58.:27:04.

encourage more women to play in active part in Northern Ireland

:27:05.:27:14.

politics? Some say we do. It has to be said that has been some

:27:15.:27:17.

criticism. I think waiters are ultimately not the answer because I

:27:18.:27:22.

think they can be quite demeaning to women. They could suggest that women

:27:23.:27:25.

really need some sort of like to get on in politics. These strong

:27:26.:27:33.

political figures show that actually it you are good enough, you can get

:27:34.:27:37.

on. Ideally at this point in time, there has never been bettered by

:27:38.:27:44.

good time in which to be a female pills politician in Northern Ireland

:27:45.:27:49.

going forward for election. If you are women going forward for

:27:50.:27:52.

election, parties are my full that they need a certain percentage. If

:27:53.:27:56.

there is not a crater, your other pretty good chance of getting in

:27:57.:28:00.

there. There are some pretty impressive female politicians in the

:28:01.:28:06.

parties that. Having as female first Miller has got to be an

:28:07.:28:10.

encouragement for all parties. It is like Margaret Thatcher when she was

:28:11.:28:16.

Prime Minister. Particularly in a party like the DUP that has been

:28:17.:28:20.

criticised sometimes unfairly, it is a bit like the Conservative Party,

:28:21.:28:25.

they were the first to have a female Prime Minister and the DUP have

:28:26.:28:28.

surprised many to have the first female leader. They have chosen them

:28:29.:28:35.

in seats where they are likely to win and that is quite significant

:28:36.:28:39.

and if you that is where potentially could have people put in where they

:28:40.:28:46.

never have a chance of winning but instead you are really addressing

:28:47.:28:47.

the issue. Join me for a special edition

:28:48.:28:47.

of The View from Dublin on Thursday But before we go, can I assure

:28:48.:28:52.

the Justice Minister Can I is usual welcome the support

:28:53.:29:05.

from the vast number of members who've spoken and in GB huge crowds

:29:06.:29:12.

we can here. I suspect the whole BBC Stormont Today team are hunched over

:29:13.:29:17.

their laptop screens watching in the basement.

:29:18.:29:59.

It's a huge weekend of sport, live across the BBC.

:30:00.:30:08.

The FA Cup quarterfinals and round four of the Six Nations.

:30:09.:30:12.

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.