10/02/2014 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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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme tonight:


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


Victoria Hospital's emergency unit. The inspection has confirmed


concerns about stuffing levels, allegations of bullying, and a


system of care that does not function fully.


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


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


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


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


bullying and intolerable pressure. Harsh words that the Health Minister


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


Accident and Emergency Department. Edwin Poots was updating the


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


Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority following problems for


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the inspection gave a range of issues that give serious concern


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


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


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


immediate intention. The inspectors spoke to many staff


across a range of roles and functions. They have confirmed


concerns about staff levels, allegations of bullying, pressure


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


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


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


College of emergency medicine, outlasted -- outlining that the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Minister referred to the situation at the Odyssey last verse


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


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


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


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


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


people attended the emergency departments. They were anticipating


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


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


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


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


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


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


Spotlight programme and the health committee later this week?


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


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


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


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


asking the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority to go in and


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


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


It was the First Minister answering questions during Question Time


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


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


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


investment in the first projects to benefit from the Social Investment


Fund. I am pleased that we have announced


today the first 23 successful projects that will be funded from


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


million and from across all nine zones. The list of


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


organisations involved. The remaining projects within the


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


weeks and months we anticipate making the remaining announcements


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


Deputy First Minister has had no discussions with the trade on


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


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


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


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


that there will be a serious discussion on energy policy,


investment policy, planning policy, environmental policy and mineral


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


opportunity that has transformed the American economy and has got the


potential to transform the Northern Ireland economy?


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


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


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


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


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


have to judiciously weigh the evidence in a measured way that


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


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


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


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


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


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


School? Catherine Seeley in the Boys' Model


We have already spoken on this deplore intimidation in the


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


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


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


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


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


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


people are getting into work and prosperity would therefore


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


poverty. Joining me now is our Political


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


those developments today, particularly relating to A


provision. Yes, a lot of headlines about health


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


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


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


concern about staff levels, allegations of bullying, pressure.


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


The intervention that we heard earlier talking about the


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


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


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


funds. Yes, the delay there has been


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


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


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


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


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


spent. And the former Boys' Model School


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


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


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


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


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


he condemned what had happened, saying that nobody should be


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


understand that Catherine Seeley has been offered another place and that


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


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


they welcomed that she has another job elsewhere.


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


members seemed determined to provoke the Deputy First Minister.


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


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


McGuinness recently Martin McGuinness. Let's hear what


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Employment and Learning Minister also faced questions today and he


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


students from the Republic in Northern Ireland's further education


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


help the 250 people who were recently made redundant with the


closure of the construction firm Mivan.


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


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


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


with Mivan since the official redundancies were announced. We have


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


of organisations, the Citizens Advice Bureau and customs to deliver


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


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


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


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


academic year the figure was 7 million pounds. Can


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


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


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


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


Ireland students in our universities. It is important we


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


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


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


more normal society there will be people from one community becoming


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


question. Those are the responsibilities for the Minister of


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


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


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


healthy and modern society. The Employment and Learning


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


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


current financial year. Numerous members and committee chairs


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


Finance Minister used the highlight, once again, the possible


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


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


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


This cannot be met through the requirements that usually


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


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


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


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


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


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


victims of clerical abuse within institutions and frankly I would say


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


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


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


financial process. If we could scrutinise decisions we do need


better read across the various financial documents before us. The


education minister has some outstanding concerns about the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


understanding and moving the debate forward? I think more useful


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


welfare reform issue will be reformed when the DUP gets serious


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


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


for joining us. The current blanket ban preventing


council employees standing in council elections was discussed in


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


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


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


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


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


that employed them? There are suggestions it could be difficult


for other councillors as well as difficult for other employees and


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


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


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


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


not your blanket but minister you have said they will


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


European Convention which is the free expression. It is actually


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


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


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


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


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


bench any conflict of interest arise, showed a council employee


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


amendment seeking to exempt paperbacks.


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


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


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


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


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.