10/03/2014 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... We're


not going away - the message from victims as a widow recounts the


moment she lost her husband. He went around the corner and there was a


flash of gunfire. 17 bullets were put into him.


There's unanimous support across the chamber for the Carrier Bags Bill.


Passing this legislation will enable us to build on the success and to


make our streets cleaner. And our Political Reporter Stephen


Walker joins me in the studio. Victims took centre stage at


Stormont today when they joined MLAs and members of the public in the


Senate Chamber to mark the European Day for Victims of Terrorism. They


heard the story of RUC reservist John Proctor who was killed in 1981


leaving hospital after visiting his wife and newborn son. In December


2012 Seamus Kearney was found guilty of Mr Proctor's murder. Today June


McMullin, the widow of John Proctor, gave a moving account of life


without her husband. gave a moving account of life


childhood sweethearts. We met when I was 14 years old. We married in 1977


and our first child was born in 1979. After that, he decided to join


the police. The first time the form came, I threw it in the fire. But he


brought another one home so he joined the police. He came to the


hospital to tell us the news that Allen had been shot dead. The day of


his funeral there was a bomb scare so John did not get to the hospital


that night to see me. He came later on that evening and the ward was


quiet. There was not much being said. Close to nine o'clock, he said


it was time he was going home. We said good night and we said our


goodbyes. He went around the corner. Within a flash, I heard the gunfire.


17 bullets were put into his back. My life and my love was gone.


Night-time was the worst because when everyone went home, I was on my


own. I went upstairs and I shut the door and I was alone. There was no


one to help me. At that time no arrests had been made and time


passed. In the Historical Enquiries Team was set up and a group


contacted them on my behalf. On the 28th of November, we were back in


court. We stood in court and the judge spoke on how he came to his


decision. He took 50 minutes. He told the man responsible you are


guilty of the murder of John Proctor and we could not leave it. Amer


prayers had answered. and we could not leave it. Amer


based on law and order. In partial and fair justice has been traded for


something else. We feel let down and cannot trust the system. It is time


our government stop waiting. Victims will not be brushed under the mat.


We are not going away. It is time our government stood up for us. We


are not going away. Thank you. June McMullin, the widow of RUC


Reservist John Proctor, telling her story in the Senate Chamber today.


Our Political Reporter Stephen Walker is with me now. That was a


very powerful testimony from June McMullin and a reminder of why


victims want their issues to be at the heart of the current debate.


That is correct. It was incredibly moving. It was a reminder of all the


families that have been left behind. This was an annual event today, the


European Day for Victims of Terrorism. Today was a reminder of


the pain that is still there and how much work still must be done in the


area of victims. Politically, it is a reminder that there is no


consensus on what must happen to victims in the years ahead.


Victims and the past have been part of what the Ulster Unionist Party


has been saying today. They have released a document detailing their


thoughts on issues like the past, parades and the flags issue. On


flags, they talk about the Union Flag been blown on government


buildings, on parades they back a voluntary rather than a compulsory


code of conduct. They strongly undersize the house proposals when


it comes to things like a new investigations unit which they think


is unaccountable. This is what Mike investigations unit which they think


work. These assisted attenders produce unreliable evidence. They


break the arrangements that they have with the criminal prosecution.


Quite simply, it is a waste of resources and a waste of money and


does not produce the results we want. These people should go to


court and if guilty they should be convicted. If they have assisted in


prosecuting -- prosecuting others it would be proper for the judge to


take this into account. Has there been much reaction to what


the UUP has had to say? There has been some reaction, summer but could


it double stop Gerry Kelly said the proposals were in his words fantasy


politics, driven by electoral concerns rather than any desire to


deal with outstanding issues. There were criticisms from the DUP who


said that the Ulster Unionist Party is all awry with issues over it as a


trading days. -- over designating days. They said their policy is


mixed up. Anyone would think that there is an election coming up!


Meantime, where are we with the outstanding issues of flags, parades


and the past? We are in limbo at the moment. The talks have not gone


anywhere and Mike Nesbitt says his party will not take part in any more


meetings. With an election on the horizon there seems to be little


sign of consensus on these issues. Stephen Walker, thank you for now.


The Carrier Bags Bill passed its final stage in the Assembly today.


The Environment Minister explained that the bill extends the carrier


bags levy to include re-usable bags with a retail cost of up to 20


pence. The department has always anticipated that the levy on single


use banks would generate and increase in the sales of low-cost


reusable bags. Such an increase would be welcome news if these bags


were being actively reused to full potential. But early estimates


suggest that the rate of increase is much higher than we anticipated. I


do not want much higher than we anticipated. I


want to see bags being reused as much as possible. It is with this in


mind that from the 19th of January 20 15th this will extend the levy to


reusable carrier bag is with a retail price of less than 20p. This


is intended to prevent them from being discarded prematurely and


becoming the new throwaway bag. The Department needs to make best use of


the additional time available before the extension of the levy to ensure


that this communication campaign is timely and appropriate. This


campaign must build on existing support from consumers and should be


underpinned via an understanding that bags for life must be used and


reused as long as possible. This is an example of good default


government and has enjoyed broad support. It has changed behaviour.


To my mind, that must be regarded as an outcome of good policy. Ten years


ago, not many of us would forecast that we would have a range of


coloured wins at home as well as recycling materials. I look forward


to the development of this overall proposal. I do not think it. Your.


You will see us back here in another year or two, trying to change some


of the legislation again. This is not a final proposal. I see it much


more coming this way. Tom Elliott said and do not know if it is out


the hope or fear that he suspects this is not the end of that. I hope


we are. I am currently exploring other options around items such as


bottles and election posters! The other options around items such as


of the number of wax we see tangled in our hedges. -- the number of


bags. This will enable us to build on our success to make our streets


cleaner. And that bill was passed on a


cross-community vote. The Ulster Bank and public sector


jobs were concerning MLAs in the chamber today as they questioned the


Finance Minister. First up though, the problem of empty shops in our


town and cities. The issue of empty properties is one that I am well


aware of. There is not a town in Northern Ireland that I would not


visit in my capacity and it is an issue that is raised frequently


outrageous. The revaluation... Part of the problem with empty shops is


that there is a myriad of reasons, people using online shopping, the


growth of large retailers, all of these have had an impact. -- raised


frequently with us. There is little that any change in the rating system


can do. What I can ensure is that until the end of 20 15th empty


property relief which was introduced by my predecessor which gives a 50%


relief, that will continue into the first year of operation. I am


pleased to report that nearly 230 businesses have opened since 2012.


Hundreds of people have been employed.


Book-sellers reform is synonymous with the idea cutting public service


jobs which we are all concerned about. Can I ask the minister, what


guarantee will you give to public service workers in particular public


service reform in the North does not equal job cuts?


I am keen to learn from everywhere, and I'm


I am keen to learn from everywhere, counterparts in the Irish Republic,


I am keen to learn from everywhere, further afield. The reason I don't


want to think of ourselves in isolation is because the problems in


those states, but an extensive list, near grappling with the same


problems we are witches decreasing public expenditure, and public


expectations. While ideas may not be directly applicable, there is a


source of learning and all of them. There is great concern about the


lack of clarity of scale of the Ulster Bank operation which is


causing concern among staff. I met with the Deputy First Minister


a few weeks ago and the Chief Executive of the Ulster Bank group


and the head of the Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, and as you would


expect we have sought us your answers as to what the bank would


look like moving forward in Northern Ireland. I think we need emphasise


how important Ulster Bank is to the economy in Northern Ireland, it is


by far our biggest bank and has huge market share in terms of business


customers in Northern Ireland, but it is very clear from those


conversations and the review published a few weeks ago that


moving forward, Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland and in Ireland as a


whole will be a much smaller bank. I am someone is sure do the Ulster


Bank brand is here to stay. Simon Hamilton sounding a positive


note on the Ulster Bank. The day began with a point of order from Jim


Allister who was exercised over the appearance of a woman at an event in


Parliament Buildings. The visitor, who was taking part in the


Alternative Ms Ulster event, spoke bare-chested, save for a large


feather necklace. Can I ask, what are the arrangements


in terms of the vetting and oversight of events which take place


within the precincts of this building? I refer to the incident of


indecent exhibitionism which took place on


indecent exhibitionism which took of this building. And therefore, I


want to know, when events are organised, who has responsibility


for vetting and overseeing that an acceptable standard is pertained at


all events held within this House? Is it your responsibility, the


Assembly commission's responsibility, or is it the


responsibility of the sponsoring Members of the particular event?


I thank the Member for us by the order. It is not a matter for this


House, it is certainly not the response ability of the Speaker on


whatever event is happening in Parliament buildings, but let me say


to the House and Members, it is the responsibility of Members respond to


events in this House, and they certainly need to be held to


account. With this bigger be able to inform


us, are there papers in this House, allowed in this House, with page


three whether nude pictures of women and object occasion of women? And I


wonder if the previous person who made the point of order, is he


concerned about those pages? I'm tried to make sure this does not


turn into a full-blooded debate about events here in Parliament


buildings. I would say to the Member on that further point of order, it


is not the responsibility of this House or for the Speaker what


newspapers Members are reading in this House.


The Speaker, William Hay, resisting the temptation to get drawn into a


debate on Members' newspaper reading habits.


The Employment and Learning Minister was asked about teacher training and


the recognition of Northern Ireland qualifications by universities in


the Republic during Question Time today. But it was industrial


relations at further education colleges that came under the


spotlight first. Can I ask the Minister for his


reaction to the published that implied that work in 64 magician


colleges is not fit for purpose? I no much welcome


colleges is not fit for purpose? the FC sector. It is important to


stress that colleges and I took forward the commissioning of this


report and has reported to them. This is not something that has been


imposed upon the sector, it is something the sector was proactive


in taking forward, and the Member will recall that such a process was


one of the recommendations arising from the McConnell report into the


industrial relations situation. In terms of the way forward for teacher


education, we are looking to have a rounded solution that meets the


needs of Northern Ireland society as a whole, and it is my firm belief a


situation of teacher training were any individual can be trained to


work in any type of school and indeed any particular sector within


our education system. I believe there is a number of different


formats in which that can be achieved. Whenever the Member makes


reference to the ethos, I would stress that the college itself


should not be seen as an exclusive training college by the sector. And


enrolment figures may show a majority of Protestants, it is more


diverse than people might at first think.


Or discussions have you had with your kind about in the South and


what discussions have taken place about perceived inequality with the


CEO system that prevents students from the North accessing degree


courses in the South? This is an ongoing issue, and indeed


it is an issue of deep concern to both myself and John Dowd, the


Minister for education. The Member will be aware that the Trinity


College and Dublin city University have recently relaxed their entry


requirements to more readily facilitates applications from


Northern Ireland. I'm also aware that University College, Galway, is


also considering making similar moves.


also considering making similar be on a uniform basis to facilitate


the ease of access. Looking about from a more strategic level, it is a


matter of deep concern that we have much more students coming from the


south of the island to the North than we have flowing in the north to


south direction. There are a number of barriers in that regard.


Stephen Farry on the challenge for students from Northern Ireland


securing university places in the Republic. The sale of so-called


legal highs came under the scrutiny of the chamber earlier. A DUP motion


said they were being sold under false pretences by using disclaimers


such as "not fit for human consumption." The Health Minister,


Edwin Poots. Cannabis, heroin and marijuana are


old news, instead, these so-called legal highs are slick impersonations


of illegal drugs but are more lethal and more deadly than any of the


outlawed products whose effects they are designated to mimic.


These legal highs often make use of disclaimers such as, not fit for


human consumption, motor not clearly identifiable in terms of the


content. Bizarre see how they are unsuitable and how they may


negatively affect someone's health. -- they do not say how they are


answered. Mike.


The youngest dealer at that time that the victim in my constituency


had bought from was ten years old. The emphasis was placed on the


supplier by the legislation which was enacted to ensure that the


person who sets up what are called head shops has to prove the


substances and the products they are selling do not have unintended


consequences, indeed are downright dangerous.


And leave have been some good first step in addressing the issue. So far


temperate bands step in addressing the issue. So far


issue. However, I personally believe we have to do more. That is why I


recently raised this issue with the Home Secretary, seeking a more


robust and consistent approach. The Health Minister, Edwin Poots.


There was unanimous support for a motion calling for more women to get


involved in politics. The debate, which came two days after


International Women's Day, was proposed by Sinn Fein's Megan


Fearon. City to present overpopulation are


female, however women hold only 18 present of elected positions on this


island. Of 108 MLAs only 19% are female. This Assembly chamber is in


the way represent it as of the society we live in. Is it any wonder


women get turned off by politics? I could spend this whole debate


detailing the ins and outs of every sexist comment and joke that has


been made to me, never mind the other woman. It is just as well


people don't get to hear what happens in other parts this


building. I congratulate the southern


government for its brave move in bringing forward quarters in terms


of the level and number of female candidates which parties have to and


will have to adhere to, because it is unfortunate that almost 100 years


on from woman winning the right to vote there are still too few women


were presented in public and political life. It would seem that


we may well have to introduce mandatory quarters in order to have


any realistic expectation of improving the number of female


representatives coming through. I am the result of a so-called


women's development programme that backfired on me. Back in 2008 I was


elected as a party officer with response ability for women's


development and so I had a free hand to create my own women's develop and


programme for the Ulster Unionist Party we had meetings and training


sessions and I worked to encourage Party we had meetings and training


processes for selection to Party we had meetings and training


needed to go forward. Onto selection and on to election. I didn't expect


to be in this role myself. I wouldn't be the first to mention


that this is often a match all and petty and adversarial environment.


-- macho environment. This often turns women of politics. BC this a


hothouse for trivial party politics and bickering. The general


dissatisfaction with politics is a factor. It is not just women who are


not getting involved, it is also people with moderate views, young


people, ethnic minorities, Members of the LGBT community.


I now -- I know that my own story of how got involved, it was not where I


wanted to be, I was happy with my life before politics. It may not be


the best job, but it is not that bad.


Paula Bradley with her slightly sceptical view of the political


world. And if young women aren't inspired to enter the world of


politics, maybe they could be Northern Ireland's next gold


medallist. Kelly Gallagher from Bangor, with her guide Charlotte


Evans, won Britain's first ever Paralympics gold at a Winter Games


this morning. And our MLAs were quick to offer their


congratulations. There is a strong message here for


us all. This is a great day. Especially for those people living


with a disability. I think the message quite simply is, whatever


the adversity, keep working through and you will achieve your goals.


Sometimes critics of this House will accuse us of going downhill. At


least today we can celebrate the achievement of somebody going


downhill. In the week of international women's day, Northern


Ireland has a very positive role model, people who are disabled have


Ireland has a very positive role of us in Northern Ireland have a


act as inspiration. I hope I united voice


act as inspiration. I hope I united of, well done, Kelly, you have done


us all proud. Kelly Gallagher wrappers and two of


the groups least represented in sport, namely disabled and women. --


Kelly Gallagher represents two of the groups least represented. It is


wonderful that she won the first gold medal for Great Britain, and


she represents very much all of us. Congratulations and congratulations


all my party to Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans.


Sinn Fein's Cathal O hOisin. Stephen Walker is with me again. Just before


we go - a lot of our politicians are heading stateside this week for the


St Patrick's Day celebrations. Yes, the annual trip once again his


year and lots of politicians jumping on planes and trains. The UUP leader


will be there, Gerry Adams is going, Stephen Farry from the Alliance


party is going, the first and deadly first Ministers will be going. They


are all converging on Washington for the end of the week. How significant


will it be if Barack Obama doesn't meet Peter Robinson and Martin


McGuinness during their trip to Washington? At the moment he is not


slated to meet them. It has been flagged up that he


possibly may not meet them, and Peter Robinson has been quite


relaxed about that and basically said, look, the president of the


United States is a very busy man, there is a lot going on. He has


Ukraine on his agenda. So it is possible they may not meet. First


Minister will be at an event hosted by Joe Biden, the vice president,


and it is hoped that Barack Obama may pop in at that event. But if it


does not happen, the politicians out there understand the reasons why.


It has always been a bit up in the air in the past before the visit


happened, hasn't it? Yes, and timetables change, however


it has been traditional to expect Barack Obama to meet the first and


deadly first Ministers. There will be a routine eating


deadly first Ministers. between this T-shirt and this I


deadly first Ministers. Minister and Downing Street. It's


possible that Ukraine will be discussed, and it seems fairly


likely that the Taoiseach will talk about the massacre and again call


for an enquiry into those shootings.


That's it for tonight. Join me again tomorrow night at the same time -


11.20pm here on BBC Two. Until then, from everyone in the team, bye bye.


We stood there, packed like sardines...


The fellow next to you, he was your best friend.


Perhaps didn't know him the day before.


Others just stood staring at the cloudless sky.


We were told that we were to be prepared to receive orders


They were the longest and the shortest hours in life.


And then zero hour, and all hell let loose.


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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