09/11/2015 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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As the talks continued, the prospect of a new agreement


between the parties has been hanging in the air again today.


But as we've found in previous days, despite the expectations running


high, there's precious little by way of detail in the public domain.


Martin McGuinness tells MLAs that the IRA Army Council has no


I don't ever recall on one occasion anybody questioning any decision


that was made to the course of those eight years as having been subject


to a group of people in a smoke-filled room.


The Justice Minister comes in for some harsh criticism after


Unsafe, unstable, dangerous. It could not be any more damning. What


does it take for a minister in this house to take responsibility and


resign for systematic and catastrophic failure?


And with me in the studio to share her thoughts


on today's developments is the Irish News journalist, Allison Morris.


Is a political deal likely to be done this week at Stormont?


That's the question we've been asking


for a while now, and if we take on board the views of the Secretary


of State and the Taoiseach, things certainly look like they're


Both are now on the record as saying they're hopeful there'll


Enda Kenny met David Cameron earlier today in Downing Street


We discussed the question of Northern Ireland and the issues that


are there. These discussions have been going on for quite some time.


They have been discussing various points over the last of weeks and I


would be hopeful that having had briefings from the Minister for


foreign affairs that there might -- they might be concluded this week.


The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, seems hopeful that a deal can be reached


before the weekend, but it's not signed, sealed and delivered yet.


It isn't and we have heard these noises before in previous rounds of


talks and they have ended in failure. There has not been a lot of


detail coming out. There has been a lot of talk of people being hopeful


and talks being constructive. The politicians have gone very quiet and


we are all suspicious about what's going on behind closed doors. We are


in the third week now. It will be interesting to see whether they can


manage it to the end of the week. I think it will be the start of next


week before we hear anything. The Secretary of State said last


Thursday interview was in her view possible but she will wouldn't go as


far as to save the -- probable. She has seen how these things can fall


down at the last minute. We know what the hurdles are. There are


several other issues in relation to moving things forward and progress


and in the past we have been unable to reach an agreement. But because


things came to such a head over the deaths of Jack Davidson, all parties


know something has to be done. The STL P leaders said earlier today


there are still gaps bit -- before the deal can be struck. Is this


looking more like a deal that will necessarily involve all five


parties? It is almost certain it will be a deal that will have to get


the agreement of the two main parties. The other parties are going


to have to like it or lump it. The past have risen between the DUP on


Sinn Fein so those problems have to be solved. Do you think it makes a


big difference in terms of the stickability of the deal if for


example the Ulster Unionists at left outside. There talking about some


sort of change to how the assembly is set up. They will be happy enough


if they could have a change. That is one of the things being discussed.


At this point in time I think the British and the governments are


trying to get a deal between Sinn Fein and the DUP. So what we're


looking at potentially is a deal between those two big parties rather


than a storm in the steel between the five parties? Exactly and I


think it will create some animosity with the smaller parties but it


means we can retain the assembly and we are going into an election next


year anyway so the public needs some sort of change in the assembly then.


At the moment they are just trying to save the institutions.


In the Assembly, business carried on as usual and


the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers faced questions.


Martin McGuinness was on duty with a little help from the Junior


Minister, Jennifer McCann, and they were asked about subjects as diverse


as the IRA Army Council's influence, the controversial prospect of a


victims' pension and cheering on the Northern Ireland football team.


The first question came from David McNarry.


I wonder would he have time to confirm that the IRA Army Council


are also consulting routinely in decision taken by his office. I


think in the course of my duties as Deputy First Minister over the


course of the last eight years, working with both Reverend Ian


Paisley and Peter Robinson in their capacities as First Minister 's and


working with Sinn Fein ministers and the executives, I don't ever recall


on one occasion anybody questioning any decision that was made during


the course of those eight years as having been subject to a group of


people in a smoke-filled room. I really don't think the question is


appropriate but in the context of the discussions we are presently


involved in all of us recognise that is the of work to be done


collectively by the executive and by every member of this house in


standing together against those who would try to take us back to the


past. I think in the course of the last eight years the records of the


five Sinn Fein ministers in the executive are beyond question. I


think quite clearly as we move forward hopefully to an agreement in


the course of the coming days that we can devise a strategy which has


all of us singing from the same hymn sheet. I make it absolutely clear to


anybody out there who believes violence represents the way forward


for all of us, we say no. Whatever the arrangements for his colleagues,


when it comes to the Deputy First Minister is it simply a matter of


looking in the mirror when he is taking directions from the IRA Army


Council? I don't think that's an appropriate question. It obviously


comes from someone who has been hell-bent since coming into this


house to try and undermine the processes within this house. Our


department continues to continue proposals for injured victims in the


injection with the victims service. Research is ongoing into various


such as legislative requirements to allow the scheme to in a way which


benefits all victims and survivors. The Stormont House Agreement has


agreed further work will be undertaken to seek an acceptable way


forward on the proposals. As a result of this our department is


looking at attracting a document to seek opinion on various aspects of


the pension proposals. The truffle Bies omitted to the Stormont house


for consideration later this month. We want to ensure victims and


survivors receive the best services possible. In view of the refusal of


nationalist members to support a motion congratulating the Northern


Ireland foot hole team in qualifying for the European Championship 2016,


what is -- what are you doing to promote good relations within sport?


I do believe that a single team would be more effective both in


Europe and in qualifying for the World Cup but that said, I do


applaud their achievements. I have never been reluctant as has the


Minister for culture and leisure in congratulating teams from the North


love and well. I think it is something for all of us to be proud


of. The Deputy First Minister


on the recent success of The 'most dangerous' prison


in the UK. That was how Maghaberry Prison was


described in last week's report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector


of Prisons in England and Wales. Today, the Justice Minister,


David Ford, responded to He reiterated that he doesn't intend


to resign and told MLAs that the Prison Service has taken 'swift


and decisive action' to make Immediately upon receiving the


feedback from the inspection prison servers management with support from


me took steps to remove the governor and deputy governor from their posts


and to replace them with a new senior team. While I do believe it's


appropriate go further into what ongoing matters, I will say that


neither the two person I removed was redeployed within the plate --


prison service. I rise as someone in this assembly will fully supports


the reform programme which the Minister has quite properly directed


but I also rise with serious disappointment arising out of this


report. It is a damning report as the chair has rightly said and I'm


sure the Minister would agree. Central to this, in my view, is the


failure in terms of industrial relations within the prison. He


referred to an external recruitment programme. Does the Minister believe


the salaries and terms and conditions of young prison of the


adequate to retain and recruit prison officers to a standard that


are needed? Mr Swann makes a reasonable point. There have been


changes made in the terms and conditions of newly appointed


officers recently and my understanding is at this stage the


current scheme for appointing up to a hundred prison officers, we have


already something in excess of 1000 applications so it would suggest


that the terms and conditions which are being offered mixed them


acceptable to those who would can see -- consider careers in the


prison service. Would the Minister accept that the failure to implement


the recommendations of the review team specific to Maghaberry Prison


led to this report? And not sure it is reasonable to say the failure to


implement the recommendations, the recommendations are wide ranging and


far-reaching. What we saw in the expections report was a failure in


Maghaberry Prison at the time. Some very significant failings which led


to a critical report. But that is in no sense undermining the concept of


the report and its wider five -- far-reaching recommendations. I'm


delighted the Minister could stay for more than two questions today.


In terms of this report and the state and today, you have been in


position now for over six years, in charge of prisons, and you have


appointed the leadership team. Do you not accept that the leadership


team which has been a revolving door of Englishmen coming over to run the


prisons has been totally detached from the prison itself and it is


wholly disingenuous of you to skip -- a scapegoat to people who were in


position the less than a year. I have been in position for five


years, not over six. I don't appoint civil servants, there are procedures


by where civil servants are appointed. Sue McAllister is


certainly not an Englishman. The leadership team is not detached, the


leadership I see being given by the senior team is absolutely attached


to what is going on in the prison and that is no issue of


scapegoating. Leaving aside the self-serving


efforts by the Minister to give this report as soft a landing as


possible. Under safe, unstable, dangerous. It could not be any more


damning. What does it take for a minister in this house to take


responsibility and resign for systematic and catastrophic failure?


Well, I notice the customary positive and constructive attitude


to these things! The simple question is, on what basis does a minister


resigned when action is being taken to redress failings which are


highlighted in the report by people running a particular service which


is being taken at the appropriate level with full support from the


Minister. The Employment Minister was also


answering questions today. Stephen Farry updated Members


on how he's resolving European Social Fund difficulties, but first,


he responded to questions about the closure of Ulster University's


School of Modern Languages. Ulster University's decision to


close its School of Modern Languages is the


outworking of cuts to my department As a result, Ulster University has


sought to rationalise its course offerings across campuses which has


resulted in the decision to close The university has advised that


a number of factors were taken into consideration, including


student demand, attrition rate, student satisfaction, employment


statistics Consolidation of the teaching


provision across all campuses will have budgetary savings


without impacting on the quality of


teaching which remains paramount. The level of interest and demand


from students choosing modern languages subjects


at all universities is low. Both in terms of the number


of students who select modern languages as a first choice and


in terms of those who meet While acknowledging concern amongst


business and other stakeholders regarding access to online language


causes, because of language skills of modern language learning


in in Northern Ireland The Minister has made reference to


further education colleges taking up the slack left by the


Ulster University abandoning courses Perhaps he can gice


more detail about what consultations and discussions have been had with


the college of further education, what additional resources he is


making available to them? I have had some discussions with


the Minister of Education regarding In terms of further education


itself, they are very clear in terms of their own admission


about supporting the local economy. As the member will appreciate,


we are finalising a new further education deal


which will consolidate much My department is continuing to


process claims from departments originally funded


by the European Union. The majority


of organisations have received full My department has brought


on further staff to assist this process and ensure it is completed


as soon as possible. I'm pleased to report that 66


projects under the 2014-2020 Many have been up and running


since April while some of the other EU-funded programmes


both here and in other parts of the UK have yet to initiate


their application processes. In order to ease cash flow issues


for the new projects, my department is implementing an interim measure


whereby 50% of the EFS and DEL contribution in unpaid


claims is paid out and half later. Can I ask the Minister what


meetings he intends to have with groups that are still impacted


by the loss of NSF funding? At this stage, I am open to


groups who want to get in touch with me and to ask for meetings


and we will facilitate those. My officials will interact with


groups on an ongoing basis as well. The last time the second stage


of the Housing Bill came before the House it wasn't moved because


there was no minister in post. Today, with business back to normal,


the Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey,


set out the bill's main aims. In recognition of the limited time


available to pass the legislation within


the current mandate, I have decided not to proceed with the proposals


relating to short tenancies, eligibility for homeless assistance


and injunctions This is so that a more concise


bill could be drafted and achieve The bill is a short


but potentially very effective The provisions


of the bill are necessary to support the strategies and initiatives


for dealing with empty homes, anti-social behaviour and disrepair


in the private housing sector. The committee did note that it only


relates to social landlords and there is concern that absentee


landlords are being missed. That tenants who move


from social housing for anti-social behaviour could move to a private


sector home and the landlord will not have been made aware of their


anti-social behaviour history. The definition of anti-social


behaviour, there is a note about widening it to people not


maintaining the property and I would urge caution around that because


there could be a number of reasons. a person with disability or mental


ill-health. So I want to be very clear


when that might be used. Are we going to protect the


Housing Executive and social housing associations


against potentially disruptive And if we do that and do not have


some mechanism for including private sector landlords, we risk actually


pushing those involved in that anti-social activity


into the private rented sector. While the identification and


hopefully reincorporation of empty homes into either the social or


private sector is important, it is I hope the Minister will


readily recognise that. It is a small step to deal with both


properties that are a nuisance in the area but also provide useful


means of providing housing. I welcome the opportunity to take


part in this second stage debate, But the Minister was flip-flopping


in and out of government. He told us that business could not


be as usual because the IRA had murdered and once the independent


panel confirmed that the IRA had murdered and they had guns and an


army council, suddenly it was time to sweep murder under the carpet and


it is time for business as usual. That brings us back here today,


nothing to do with principle or conviction in politics,


but everything to do with And that bill passed


its second stage. And the Minister didn't move


the second stage of another bill relating to housing - the Houses


in Multiple Occupation Bill. The Assembly has debated


a proposed independent investigation into one of the darkest events


of the Troubles. 11 people died following a series


of shootings by members of the Parachute Regiment


in west Belfast in 1971. The families of those killed


in Ballymurphy 44 years ago want an investigation, along similar


lines to the Hillsborough Inquiry, jointly funded by both the British


and Irish governments. 44 years ago, in the summer of 1971,


the British army went on a three-day killing spree in the month of


August. Throughout the area, the wreaks havoc on the streets. At the


end of that three-day period, 11 people lay dead and lives were


changed for ever. For over four decades, the families of those who


were killed have been campaigning to find the truth of what happened,


that was responsible, what decisions were taken that led to the murders


of their loved ones. Those efforts have been thwarted with closed doors


at every turn. Notwithstanding that, a robust body of evidence has been


gathered by the families at which point to the fact that all those


people were innocent victims, unlawfully killed, and those actions


represent a breach of Article two of the European Convention of human


rights. I have listened with interest and I have absolutely no


doubt that the victims and the families that are left want to hear


the truth of what actually occurred in that unique piece of our history.


And I think that is something which I certainly have sympathy with and


understand. Those were not the only events to take place when no one has


ever been brought to account. Where we had major breaches of Article


two, the right to life in this province. It is timely that we have


this debate today, Mr Speaker because not only is the shadow of


Ballymurphy over this chamber, it is over the negotiations that are


ongoing not far away from here. And the shadow of all of the past is


across all of those negotiations that are ongoing as we speak.


Victims have had a huge range of experiences. From the 14 who died on


bloody Sunday which has seen not one, but two Public enquiries and an


expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds, to the many relatives of


over 1000 dead who still wait for something since the HET was wound


up. There has been nothing for that huge number of people who, like the


Ballymurphy families of truth, truth, justice, and knowledge and,


information. I suppose the biggest difficulty with the activity of this


motion is that the community that I know best, many within it will say,


where is the inquiry into Consett -- La Mon, where is the inquiry into a


litany of other ills. It will surprise people that I'm standing


here making this plea. I am wearing a poppy and there is a reason for


that. I want to be proud of our army and I want to commemorate and


acknowledge the sacrifice that the Army has made over the years in


theatres of war. This was not a theatre of war. And if the Army has


misbehaved, in the circumstances, I think they need to be able to


acknowledge it. It happened in the bloody Sunday which never needed to


happen. If this have been happily investigated. So I want to continue


to regard the Army with pride and I think that they need to cooperate is


such an inquiry can be put together. A very personal contribution to the


debate from the Alliance Party's Trevor Lunn - and that motion was


defeated by 48 votes to 44. Allison, the Ballymurphy families'


situation has been covered by your paper for many years. Today's motion


was defeated, that is airing momentum behind an inquiry? Varies.


There has been a number of new developments down to the families


and victims' groups. It is nothing that the government have pushed. The


families will continue until they get a closure. We will never see an


inquiry like the one for bloody Sunday. But the Hillsborough type


investigation, that is something that could help with healing. Not


just the Ballymurphy, but other unsolved cases. The motion was


brought by two Sinn Fein members and the Alliance Party's Trevor Lunn.


How significant is that? His contribution was very significant.


You could hear the waiver in his voice. He is right, if people are to


support the British Army, they have to be held to account. The bloody


Sunday and the other cases are clear indications when the army was wrong.


This cannot just be swept under the carpet. Finally, we heard the


Justice Minister David Ford getting a grilling following that was --


report on Maghaberry Prison. It does not appear that he is considering


his position. He is not, and Sue McAllister is not either. That is


incredible. If this was in England, Scotland or Wales, this would not


happen. Heads would roll. Maghaberry Prison the worst prison in Europe.


Will we have a deal at the end of next week? I'm not optimistic for


this week, but I think at the end of next week, we will have one. Whether


it was Dick or whether it will just be sticking plaster I'm not sure.


There is something cooking. I'll be back tomorrow


at the same time here on BBC Two.


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.