10/02/2014 Stormont Today


10/02/2014

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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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme tonight:

:00:26.:00:29.

The Health Minister outlines the extent of the problem at the Royal

:00:30.:00:37.

Victoria Hospital's emergency unit. The inspection has confirmed

:00:38.:00:45.

concerns about stuffing levels, allegations of bullying, and a

:00:46.:00:47.

system of care that does not function fully.

:00:48.:00:49.

The Social Investment Fund finally gives the go-ahead to 23 projects.

:00:50.:00:56.

These projects amounted to more than ?33 million and from a court --

:00:57.:00:59.

across all nine zones. And I'm joined by Stephen Walker for

:01:00.:01:07.

his analysis of today's proceedings. Not enough staff, allegations of

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bullying and intolerable pressure. Harsh words that the Health Minister

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used to describe the situation at the Royal Victoria Hospital's

:01:15.:01:18.

Accident and Emergency Department. Edwin Poots was updating the

:01:19.:01:22.

Assembly on a review into A care. The review was carried out by the

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Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority following problems for

:01:26.:01:28.

both patients and staff at the Belfast hospital. Mr Poots told MLAs

:01:29.:01:32.

the system of care doesn't function as it was set up to do.

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Over the weekend of the 31st of January, they said that the quality

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of care and dignity afforded to patients in the A department.

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Secondly, I decided that rather than a lead review of the major incidents

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last month, it would be better to be a review on the rules. The IQ IAA

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has agreed to carry out to the trust for health and social care.

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And my department on its preliminary findings. I have been advised that

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the inspection gave a range of issues that give serious concern

:02:27.:02:31.

about performing to a high standard that we expect and exacting the

:02:32.:02:39.

commit months. I want to share to the Assembly the aspects of the

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feedback that has given me concern and the early findings require our

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immediate intention. The inspectors spoke to many staff

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across a range of roles and functions. They have confirmed

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concerns about staff levels, allegations of bullying, pressure

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and a system of care that does not function as it was set up to do.

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This is not something new to us in this house and community.

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Almost a year ago, a year ago next month, we had this report from the

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College of emergency medicine, outlasted -- outlining that the

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procedures were not sustainable. We had an improvement group. Can I

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ask, considering that he is widening this review out, is he now fully

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accepting that there is indeed a crisis in our emergency care?

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Thank you. I have to say in terms of emergency care, waiting times are

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coming down. In terms of how we respond to the major critical

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illnesses, such as strokes, heart attack and major trauma, we are

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getting better outcomes. So when none of those aspects you are

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looking at a crisis situation, you are looking instead at improvement.

:04:06.:04:12.

The Minister referred to the situation at the Odyssey last verse

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tonight. Can he give the Assembly his views on what caused that major

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issue as far as any concerns. And what his colleagues can do to ensure

:04:26.:04:27.

issue as far as any concerns. And Thursday night. There was around 100

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young people who required treatment. Some of that was voluntary. A lot of

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that was carried out by the Ambulance Service on-site and 17

:04:50.:04:52.

people attended the emergency departments. They were anticipating

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many more coming through with the first reports. The cause of it,

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alcohol and drugs. And the number of people who were attending the

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emergency departments were 15, 16, 17, 18-year-olds. None of them

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should have been drinking alcohol and the drugs were legal. Can the

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Minister advises white he is only now advising of a review, having

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denied that there was a crisis? And is this a result of the

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Spotlight programme and the health committee later this week?

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We were late -- we will wait and see what that programme says and what it

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says about the good things that are happening in the hospitals, or

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whether it is just attacking the health care system. What I clearly

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thought, before we learnt about anything to do with Spotlight, was

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asking the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority to go in and

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look at what was happening in the Victoria Hospital. That was not on

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the back of the media, that was because of talking to the media.

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It was the First Minister answering questions during Question Time

:06:16.:06:18.

today. Peter Robinson and his Junior Minister Jonathan Bell, were

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questioned on fracking, the online abuse of a Sinn Fein councillor and

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child poverty. The First Minister started by announcing a ?33 million

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investment in the first projects to benefit from the Social Investment

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Fund. I am pleased that we have announced

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today the first 23 successful projects that will be funded from

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the Social Investment Fund. These projects amount to more than ?33

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million and from across all nine zones. The list of

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million and from across all nine and we will communicate with the

:06:46.:06:56.

organisations involved. The remaining projects within the

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funding are all currently within the process and within the next few

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weeks and months we anticipate making the remaining announcements

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fully committing the remaining fund. The office of the First Minister and

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Deputy First Minister has had no discussions with the trade on

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bringing across conversation on the exploitation of shale gas. Given the

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fact that two ministers have opposed the exploitation of shale gas in

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Northern Ireland, something that 42% of kidney -- consumers who are

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struggling with fuel bills will find the watering, can he give assurance

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that there will be a serious discussion on energy policy,

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investment policy, planning policy, environmental policy and mineral

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exploitation policy to ensure that we do not lose out on the

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opportunity that has transformed the American economy and has got the

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potential to transform the Northern Ireland economy?

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It will ultimately be a matter for the Northern Ireland executive and

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stop I think the Northern Ireland executive will be judicious as they

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look at this matter. We should be aware of the best

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practice in the United States of America. We should be aware and look

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whether it is best practice in the rest of our United Kingdom. And we

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have to judiciously weigh the evidence in a measured way that

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allows us to be good stewards of the earth that we have inherited and

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that we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren, but that

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also that we don't miss out on the huge opportunities available to

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deliver jobs and investment to the people that we serve. I would like

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to ask the First Minister what his view is on the sectarian

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intimidation on the young teacher Catherine Seeley in the Boys' Model

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School? Catherine Seeley in the Boys' Model

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We have already spoken on this deplore intimidation in the

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workplace, no matter where it takes place. People should be getting jobs

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on merit, they should be allowed to carry out their employment in a

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peaceful and dignified way. Can I ask the First Minister if he

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believes that we will achieve the targets in the poverty act?

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The trends with this in terms of the economy. It is clear that

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unemployment is going down, the claimant amount is going down. More

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people are getting into work and prosperity would therefore

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increase. However, I have some problems with the issue of child of

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the statistics in that we base them on the medium incomes and therefore

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we never get rid of child of the on that basis. Poverty will always be

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with us if we use that criteria. Poverty in Northern Ireland is the

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same in India if you use that criteria, and anyone who has been

:10:02.:10:07.

the slums of India that the deputy prime -- Depp to First Minister and

:10:08.:10:13.

I saw, you know that those are two different situations. You are not

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dealing with a world recognised criteria for poverty, it is relative

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poverty. Joining me now is our Political

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Reporter, Stephen Walker. Stephen, let's start with health and

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those developments today, particularly relating to A

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provision. Yes, a lot of headlines about health

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in recent weeks, in the media and the policies dominating in

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Stormont, the stories of waiting this and waiting times. We had a

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report today saying that there was not enough doctors. Edwin Poots was

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concern about staff levels, allegations of bullying, pressure.

:10:57.:11:05.

And saying that the... System of care was not functioning properly.

:11:06.:11:12.

The intervention that we heard earlier talking about the

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The intervention that we heard inquiry. Edwin Poots made it clear

:11:16.:11:29.

that the inquiry had been launched before he knew about the programme.

:11:30.:11:38.

And we have had details of the first funding from the social investment

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funds. Yes, the delay there has been

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criticised. ?33 million to be invested in 23 projects. The whole

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idea is to deliver social change. What they want is to help people who

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have mental health issues, people who have problems of finding jobs.

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There has been a lot of criticism that it has been much delayed, but

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finally today the First Minister has been giving details of what will be

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spent. And the former Boys' Model School

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teacher Catherine Seeley, who was centre stage at the Sinn Fein Ard

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Fheis, was centre stage here today. Yes, her case was referred to twice.

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It was referred to at the First Minister's Questions and later on in

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the day by a Sinn Fein member. She was centre stage, she got a big

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reception at the Ard Fheis. Peter Robinson was asked about the case,

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he condemned what had happened, saying that nobody should be

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subjected to that. There has been a development in the case today, we

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understand that Catherine Seeley has been offered another place and that

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there have been discussions between her and the board. That element has

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been welcomed by the teaching union. They condemned what went on, but

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they welcomed that she has another job elsewhere.

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And it was the First Minister who handled the questions today. Some

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members seemed determined to provoke the Deputy First Minister.

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Yes, Gregory Campbell used the situation to have a jibe at Martin

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McGuinness. Gregory Campbell wanted to talk about the fact that Martin

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McGuinness recently Martin McGuinness. Let's hear what

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Gregory Campbell had to say. Can I welcome the positive approach

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that the Deputy First Minister have taken in relation to the seat, much

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more positive than counting the number of people who do and don't

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speak to you, making you look and sound like a real loser.

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I think I will respond to the first part of that question.

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The First Minister there. Stephen, we will hear more from you later.

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The Employment and Learning Minister also faced questions today and he

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revealed that his department spends more than ?7 million a year teaching

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students from the Republic in Northern Ireland's further education

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colleges. Stephen Farry was also asked about what is being done to

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help the 250 people who were recently made redundant with the

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closure of the construction firm Mivan.

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My department has been proactive in determining what steps we can take

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to help employees facing redundancy, to help them and give them advice

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and ultimate of employment. To that end, my officials have been working

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with Mivan since the official redundancies were announced. We have

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already started delivering a package to the staff. The working with range

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of organisations, the Citizens Advice Bureau and customs to deliver

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redundancy clinics that took place on the 29th of January. Officials

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have received interest from a number of countries up -- companies about

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re-employing the affected staff. We want to make sure that the

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opportunities get the attention of the redundant workers. For the 2012

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academic year the figure was 7 million pounds. Can

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academic year the figure was 7 they have been or will be any

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academic year the figure was 7 efforts to recall any of that money

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from the Republic of Ireland bearing in mind a figure of 5 million in

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terms of the cost of educating republic of Eddie -- Republic of

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Ireland students in our universities. It is important we

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encourage a natural flow of students in both directions in Ireland. Those

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flows are dominantly from South to North. -- predominantly. The

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Catherine Seeley case highlights the reality that if we are moving to a

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more normal society there will be people from one community becoming

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an -- embedded in another. I am grateful to the member for her

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question. Those are the responsibilities for the Minister of

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education but what I would stress is that I want to see a situation where

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any teacher is capable of teaching in any type of school irrespective

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of his or her particular background. That is what should be the norm in a

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healthy and modern society. The Employment and Learning

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Minister, Stephen Farry. As this financial year draws to a close,

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MLAs spent much of today looking at the final spending plans for the

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current financial year. Numerous members and committee chairs

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highlighted areas where they felt money could be better spent. The

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Finance Minister used the highlight, once again, the possible

:18:14.:18:17.

penalties for the non-delivery of welfare reform. I have confirmed in

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January that ?15 million will be lost in the 2014 financial year. The

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forecast penalty for not progressing welfare reform is now ?105 million.

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This cannot be met through the requirements that usually

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materialise. It will therefore need all departments. Is our health

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service properly funded or will we constantly be in need of bailouts

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until the end of this budgetary period? Sinn Fein will not ignore

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the negative impact of many of the key elements of the welfare reform

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Bill. The historic institution began without a budget line determined and

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it is welcomed that the line has been found. There are also many

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victims of clerical abuse within institutions and frankly I would say

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it is not good enough to say they should go to social services if

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there is an enquiry for one group of victims surely this should be

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enquiries for all. I would like to raise again the review of the

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financial process. If we could scrutinise decisions we do need

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better read across the various financial documents before us. The

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education minister has some outstanding concerns about the

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proposed changes. Desert the Finance Minister believe he will make more

:20:16.:20:22.

headway than his predecessor? -- there's the finance minister.

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The Alliance Party's Judith Cochrane, and Daithi McKay, who

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chairs the Finance Committee, Cochrane, and Daithi McKay, who

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it all about? Today was about displaying estimates, the estimates

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for the 2013 and 2014 year were set last year in June and this is about

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a tidy up exercise be -- because between the 31st of March last year

:20:52.:21:00.

and now departments use that money so this is about tidying up. What

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you get is people talking about lots of different issues and departmental

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issues. It is a bit of a ragtag debate, isn't it? The subject matter

:21:14.:21:24.

of the debate is all the public are these will take that opportunity to

:21:25.:21:27.

talk about spending in a lot of different areas and that is their

:21:28.:21:36.

entitlement. But is it a useful exercise in terms of promoting

:21:37.:21:38.

understanding and moving the debate forward? I think more useful

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business is done in committee but I do think it is an opportunity for

:21:46.:21:51.

members to publicly express way they believe many should be allocated and

:21:52.:22:00.

hold the Minister to account. And the Minister was in a sense pointing

:22:01.:22:06.

the finger at some members as well on the issue of wealth where reform

:22:07.:22:14.

and saying -- welfare reform and he's got to set aside ?105 million

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for the next financial year. There are some issues in terms of what the

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penalties will be. Do you think they can be allocated? In terms of

:22:32.:22:40.

slamming a 5 million pounds on the assembly, the estimates he did not

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put out there with the fact that 450 million pounds could be

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put out there with the fact that 450 asked to ring fence ?105 million.

:22:55.:23:00.

When is that issue going to be resolved once and for all? The

:23:01.:23:06.

welfare reform issue will be reformed when the DUP gets serious

:23:07.:23:12.

about it. They said they could not look at a lot of welfare issues that

:23:13.:23:21.

Sinn Fein push them and we have to push that a bit further. Thank you

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for joining us. The current blanket ban preventing

:23:31.:23:32.

council employees standing in council elections was discussed in

:23:33.:23:35.

detail at last week's Environment Committee. The Minister, Mark H

:23:36.:23:38.

Durkan, told members the blanket ban has to go as he's been advised it's

:23:39.:23:42.

against the EU Convention on Human Rights. The view I would be of

:23:43.:23:51.

would-be it would be very restricting on an employee as both

:23:52.:23:59.

an employee and a counsellor, should there be a councillor on the council

:24:00.:24:06.

that employed them? There are suggestions it could be difficult

:24:07.:24:10.

for other councillors as well as difficult for other employees and

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we're looking at what practice there is in the June restrictions and

:24:16.:24:29.

whether this takes place. -- a virtue restrictions. I think it is a

:24:30.:24:46.

case when some will be more equal than others. It's going to create

:24:47.:24:57.

and I am away about the legislation but minister you have said they will

:24:58.:25:00.

not your blanket but minister you have said they will

:25:01.:25:15.

others. I do see a potential challenge there. I am of the view

:25:16.:25:21.

that if you decide your career is in local government you have made that

:25:22.:25:24.

decision and you know what you're doing and that is fine but then

:25:25.:25:32.

stick by that. The blanket ban has been challenged successfully. I

:25:33.:25:39.

don't think you can be a gamekeeper and approach at the same time. That

:25:40.:25:46.

is the real difficulty. What is the legal advice to the Department on

:25:47.:25:53.

this? On the blanket ban the legal advice is that it is against the

:25:54.:25:58.

European Convention which is the free expression. It is actually

:25:59.:26:08.

around elections and the ability to stand so it's that part of the

:26:09.:26:12.

European Convention. That is what has been driving the need to put a

:26:13.:26:16.

clause in that lifts the blanket ban, albeit as the Minister said, we

:26:17.:26:25.

need to think geographically and in terms of position as how to limit

:26:26.:26:31.

that in such a way it will minimise the clear conflicts of interest and

:26:32.:26:37.

bench any conflict of interest arise, showed a council employee

:26:38.:26:43.

could to another area, that will be dealt with. -- showed a council

:26:44.:26:50.

employee. I would say the blanket and has to go and we will be

:26:51.:26:57.

looking, the way I am looking at it now, this change could be employees

:26:58.:27:04.

to a certain level will be able to run for election. In another council

:27:05.:27:18.

area but not in their own. That covers it legally.

:27:19.:27:29.

area but not in their own. That go tonight to developments worth

:27:30.:27:32.

talking about. Firstly, welfare reform back in the headlines. As we

:27:33.:27:39.

heard earlier, this has been a real battle around the executive table

:27:40.:27:42.

and many figures are being bandied about. Today's developments surround

:27:43.:27:48.

the finance minister who has written to the executive warning them if

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there is a failure to implement the welfare changes being introduced in

:27:55.:27:56.

great written it could cost the executive more than 1 billion over

:27:57.:28:12.

the next five years. A fairly stark warning from him. And the bill

:28:13.:28:16.

surrounding plastic bags might have hit a snag? There was a bit of a

:28:17.:28:24.

surprise today. This has transformed the way people of carried out

:28:25.:28:27.

shopping. The carrier bags bill would increase the price of shopping

:28:28.:28:35.

bags. That debate has been postponed after Jim Allister tables and

:28:36.:28:39.

amendment seeking to exempt paperbacks.

:28:40.:28:43.

Stephen, thank-you. That's it for now. I'm back tomorrow night, same

:28:44.:28:46.

time, same place. 11.20pm on BBC Two. For now, though, goodbye.

:28:47.:28:56.

MUSIC: "Flight Of The Bumblebee" by Rimsky-Korsakov

:28:57.:29:16.

This Friday night, things are about to get lively...

:29:17.:29:21.

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.


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