09/11/2015 Stormont Today


09/11/2015

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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As the talks continued, the prospect of a new agreement

:00:27.:00:31.

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

:00:32.:00:34.

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

:00:35.:00:37.

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

:00:38.:00:39.

Martin McGuinness tells MLAs that the IRA Army Council has no

:00:40.:00:43.

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

:00:44.:00:55.

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

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

:01:02.:01:03.

The Justice Minister comes in for some harsh criticism after

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

:01:07.:01:23.

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

:01:24.:01:27.

resign for systematic and catastrophic failure?

:01:28.:01:30.

And with me in the studio to share her thoughts

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

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

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That's the question we've been asking

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

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

:01:49.:01:50.

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

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Enda Kenny met David Cameron earlier today in Downing Street

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We discussed the question of Northern Ireland and the issues that

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

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

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would be hopeful that having had briefings from the Minister for

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

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

:02:31.:02:35.

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

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

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

:02:46.:02:51.

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

:02:52.:03:02.

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

:03:03.:03:05.

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

:03:06.:03:15.

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

:03:16.:03:18.

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

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

:03:26.:03:27.

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

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

:03:33.:03:36.

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

:03:37.:03:41.

several other issues in relation to moving things forward and progress

:03:42.:03:47.

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

:03:48.:03:53.

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

:03:54.:03:59.

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

:04:00.:04:06.

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

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looking more like a deal that will necessarily involve all five

:04:11.:04:15.

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

:04:16.:04:19.

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

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

:04:31.:04:36.

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

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

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

:04:46.:04:52.

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

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

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

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

:05:09.:05:15.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In the Assembly, business carried on as usual and

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

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

:05:49.:05:51.

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

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

:05:54.:05:56.

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

:05:57.:05:59.

The first question came from David McNarry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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on one occasion anybody questioning any decision that was made during

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

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

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appropriate but in the context of the discussions we are presently

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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anybody out there who believes violence represents the way forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

:08:20.:08:25.

department continues to continue proposals for injured victims in the

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injection with the victims service. Research is ongoing into various

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

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benefits all victims and survivors. The Stormont House Agreement has

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agreed further work will be undertaken to seek an acceptable way

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

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

:08:53.:08:56.

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

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

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

:09:06.:09:12.

nationalist members to support a motion congratulating the Northern

:09:13.:09:15.

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

:09:16.:09:24.

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

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

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

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

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Minister for culture and leisure in congratulating teams from the North

:09:47.:09:50.

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

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of. The Deputy First Minister

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on the recent success of The 'most dangerous' prison

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in the UK. That was how Maghaberry Prison was

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

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

:10:02.:10:04.

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

:10:05.:10:06.

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

:10:07.:10:10.

and decisive action' to make Immediately upon receiving the

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feedback from the inspection prison servers management with support from

:10:24.:10:30.

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

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

:10:34.:10:38.

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

:10:39.:10:43.

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

:10:44.:10:50.

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

:10:51.:10:53.

the reform programme which the Minister has quite properly directed

:10:54.:11:00.

but I also rise with serious disappointment arising out of this

:11:01.:11:06.

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

:11:07.:11:11.

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

:11:12.:11:16.

failure in terms of industrial relations within the prison. He

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referred to an external recruitment programme. Does the Minister believe

:11:23.:11:26.

the salaries and terms and conditions of young prison of the

:11:27.:11:29.

adequate to retain and recruit prison officers to a standard that

:11:30.:11:39.

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

:11:40.:11:43.

changes made in the terms and conditions of newly appointed

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officers recently and my understanding is at this stage the

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

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already something in excess of 1000 applications so it would suggest

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that the terms and conditions which are being offered mixed them

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

:12:09.:12:12.

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

:12:13.:12:16.

the recommendations of the review team specific to Maghaberry Prison

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

:12:24.:12:31.

implement the recommendations, the recommendations are wide ranging and

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

:12:37.:12:41.

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

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

:12:47.:12:51.

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

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

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

:13:00.:13:08.

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

:13:09.:13:11.

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

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

:13:17.:13:19.

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

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

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

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

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by where civil servants are appointed. Sue McAllister is

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

:13:56.:14:02.

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

:14:03.:14:05.

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

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scapegoating. Leaving aside the self-serving

:14:07.:14:15.

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

:14:16.:14:20.

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

:14:21.:14:26.

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

:14:27.:14:33.

responsibility and resign for systematic and catastrophic failure?

:14:34.:14:44.

Well, I notice the customary positive and constructive attitude

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

:14:49.:14:53.

resigned when action is being taken to redress failings which are

:14:54.:15:01.

highlighted in the report by people running a particular service which

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

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Minister. The Employment Minister was also

:15:07.:15:07.

answering questions today. Stephen Farry updated Members

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

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

:15:14.:15:15.

School of Modern Languages. Ulster University's decision to

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close its School of Modern Languages is the

:15:20.:15:21.

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

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sought to rationalise its course offerings across campuses which has

:15:25.:15:30.

resulted in the decision to close The university has advised that

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a number of factors were taken into consideration, including

:15:34.:15:41.

student demand, attrition rate, student satisfaction, employment

:15:42.:15:44.

statistics Consolidation of the teaching

:15:45.:15:47.

provision across all campuses will have budgetary savings

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without impacting on the quality of

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teaching which remains paramount. The level of interest and demand

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from students choosing modern languages subjects

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

:16:01.:16:11.

of students who select modern languages as a first choice and

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in terms of those who meet While acknowledging concern amongst

:16:16.:16:18.

business and other stakeholders regarding access to online language

:16:19.:16:23.

causes, because of language skills of modern language learning

:16:24.:16:26.

in in Northern Ireland The Minister has made reference to

:16:27.:16:33.

further education colleges taking up the slack left by the

:16:34.:16:37.

Ulster University abandoning courses Perhaps he can gice

:16:38.:16:39.

more detail about what consultations and discussions have been had with

:16:40.:16:43.

the college of further education, what additional resources he is

:16:44.:16:48.

making available to them? I have had some discussions with

:16:49.:16:52.

the Minister of Education regarding In terms of further education

:16:53.:16:55.

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

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

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we are finalising a new further education deal

:17:15.:17:18.

which will consolidate much My department is continuing to

:17:19.:17:20.

process claims from departments originally funded

:17:21.:17:24.

by the European Union. The majority

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of organisations have received full My department has brought

:17:33.:17:36.

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

:17:37.:17:39.

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

:17:40.:17:42.

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

:17:43.:17:44.

since April while some of the other EU-funded programmes

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

:17:51.:17:54.

their application processes. In order to ease cash flow issues

:17:55.:18:00.

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

:18:01.:18:03.

whereby 50% of the EFS and DEL contribution in unpaid

:18:04.:18:12.

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

:18:13.:18:15.

meetings he intends to have with groups that are still impacted

:18:16.:18:18.

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

:18:19.:18:27.

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

:18:28.:18:33.

and we will facilitate those. My officials will interact with

:18:34.:18:36.

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

:18:37.:18:39.

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

:18:40.:18:44.

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

:18:45.:18:47.

the Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey,

:18:48.:18:50.

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

:18:51.:18:54.

available to pass the legislation within

:18:55.:18:56.

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

:18:57.:18:59.

relating to short tenancies, eligibility for homeless assistance

:19:00.:19:04.

and injunctions This is so that a more concise

:19:05.:19:07.

bill could be drafted and achieve The bill is a short

:19:08.:19:13.

but potentially very effective The provisions

:19:14.:19:22.

of the bill are necessary to support the strategies and initiatives

:19:23.:19:27.

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

:19:28.:19:30.

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

:19:31.:19:37.

relates to social landlords and there is concern that absentee

:19:38.:19:54.

landlords are being missed. That tenants who move

:19:55.:20:02.

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

:20:03.:20:04.

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

:20:05.:20:07.

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

:20:08.:20:09.

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

:20:10.:20:11.

maintaining the property and I would urge caution around that because

:20:12.:20:14.

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

:20:15.:20:17.

ill-health. So I want to be very clear

:20:18.:20:20.

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

:20:21.:20:25.

Housing Executive and social housing associations

:20:26.:20:28.

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

:20:29.:20:33.

some mechanism for including private sector landlords, we risk actually

:20:34.:20:39.

pushing those involved in that anti-social activity

:20:40.:20:44.

into the private rented sector. While the identification and

:20:45.:20:49.

hopefully reincorporation of empty homes into either the social or

:20:50.:20:54.

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

:20:55.:20:59.

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

:21:00.:21:06.

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

:21:07.:21:10.

means of providing housing. I welcome the opportunity to take

:21:11.:21:18.

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

:21:19.:21:21.

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

:21:22.:21:30.

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

:21:31.:21:34.

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

:21:35.:21:38.

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

:21:39.:21:42.

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

:21:43.:21:47.

nothing to do with principle or conviction in politics,

:21:48.:21:51.

but everything to do with And that bill passed

:21:52.:21:54.

its second stage. And the Minister didn't move

:21:55.:22:02.

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

:22:03.:22:05.

in Multiple Occupation Bill. The Assembly has debated

:22:06.:22:09.

a proposed independent investigation into one of the darkest events

:22:10.:22:12.

of the Troubles. 11 people died following a series

:22:13.:22:15.

of shootings by members of the Parachute Regiment

:22:16.:22:17.

in west Belfast in 1971. The families of those killed

:22:18.:22:21.

in Ballymurphy 44 years ago want an investigation, along similar

:22:22.:22:24.

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

:22:25.:22:28.

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

:22:29.:22:42.

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

:22:43.:22:47.

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

:22:48.:22:52.

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

:22:53.:22:57.

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

:22:58.:23:00.

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

:23:01.:23:04.

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

:23:05.:23:10.

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

:23:11.:23:15.

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

:23:16.:23:21.

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

:23:22.:23:25.

people were innocent victims, unlawfully killed, and those actions

:23:26.:23:30.

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

:23:31.:23:35.

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

:23:36.:23:37.

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

:23:38.:23:44.

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

:23:45.:23:49.

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

:23:50.:23:58.

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

:23:59.:24:03.

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

:24:04.:24:07.

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

:24:08.:24:16.

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

:24:17.:24:21.

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

:24:22.:24:24.

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

:24:25.:24:30.

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

:24:31.:24:36.

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

:24:37.:24:46.

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

:24:47.:24:50.

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

:24:51.:24:55.

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

:24:56.:25:02.

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

:25:03.:25:10.

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

:25:11.:25:15.

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

:25:16.:25:21.

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

:25:22.:25:41.

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

:25:42.:25:48.

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

:25:49.:25:52.

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

:25:53.:25:57.

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

:25:58.:26:00.

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

:26:01.:26:06.

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

:26:07.:26:11.

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

:26:12.:26:18.

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

:26:19.:26:22.

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

:26:23.:26:29.

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

:26:30.:26:32.

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

:26:33.:26:35.

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

:26:36.:26:38.

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

:26:39.:26:51.

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

:26:52.:26:55.

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

:26:56.:27:02.

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

:27:03.:27:11.

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

:27:12.:27:14.

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

:27:15.:27:22.

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

:27:23.:27:26.

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

:27:27.:27:32.

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

:27:33.:27:36.

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

:27:37.:27:44.

How significant is that? His contribution was very significant.

:27:45.:27:48.

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

:27:49.:27:52.

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

:27:53.:28:01.

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

:28:02.:28:06.

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

:28:07.:28:10.

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

:28:11.:28:16.

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

:28:17.:28:21.

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

:28:22.:28:29.

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

:28:30.:28:34.

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

:28:35.:28:38.

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

:28:39.:28:42.

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

:28:43.:28:47.

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

:28:48.:28:49.

There is something cooking. I'll be back tomorrow

:28:50.:28:51.

at the same time here on BBC Two.

:28:52.:28:57.

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.