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
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.