11/03/2014 Stormont Today


11/03/2014

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:

:00:25.:00:29.

The Health Minister responds to news of the resignation of the Belfast

:00:30.:00:32.

Health and Social Care Trust's chief Executive. The Chief Executive's

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position in the trust, the second largest in the United Kingdom, which

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comes with all of the pressures of managing local services whilst

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managing regional services, is a very stressful and tough job.

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The Justice Minister continues to distance himself from the OTR

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scheme. I was unaware of the so-called administrative scheme for

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dealing with these, Operation Red Blood issuing letters.

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And the News Letter's Sam McBride joins me in the studio with his

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thoughts. -- Operation Rapid. The resignation of the Belfast

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Health and Social Care Trust's chief Executive was raised early in

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Assembly proceedings today. Edwin Poots said he's confident there are

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people within the Health Service who could take on the challenging role

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that has been held by Colm Donaghy for almost four years. Mr Poots made

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the comments during his statement on progressing health care reform.

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When discussing health and social care delivery in Northern Ireland,

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it is important that we retain perspective. I know that our

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emergency department service is under extreme pressure and I have

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listened first-hand to the concerns of staff delivering front-line

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services. I commend those staff for continuing to deliver an excellent

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service. They continue to do continuing to deliver an excellent

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come from actually implementing DY C. I welcome the statement. I would

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suggest however, Minister, that the wider public opinion on transforming

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your care from the view of staff, the medical profession, patients,

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public opinion generally is certainly not as rosy as the

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statement that you have placed before this House today. . We were

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told at the beginning of this process that there was 70 million

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required to implement TYC in totality. We understand it today

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that there was 19 million allocated in 2012 and 2013 and a further nine

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million the following year. That, in my compilations calculation, leaves

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a shortfall of many millions. The medical profession are working

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closely with is to deliver on the ground. The medical professions and

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the bodies that represent them have never at any stage indicated that

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transforming our care is not the right way forward. I will be honest,

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I would like to have had a greater availability of money at this point

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but I read his mouth that for all departments there are challenges. We

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will have to make your case, we made it and did not get as much as we

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would like. Can the Minister state whether it is significant that the

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chief Executive of the Belfast trust has resigned and whether this means

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there is a problem? I learned last week that he had been offered a job

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elsewhere and has decided to take that job. I wish him very well in

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doing that. I think that it needs to be recognised by the Chief

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Executive's position in the Belfast trust, the second-largest trust in

:04:04.:04:09.

the United Kingdom, which comes with all of the pressures of managing

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local services whilst managing regional services, is a very, very

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stressful regional services, is a very, very

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that it will always be difficult to get people to carry out such a job

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because of the challenges that are there. But I am confident at the

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same time that there are people within the system who will step up

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to the mark and will take on what is a very challenging position.

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Edwin Poots paying tribute to Colm Donaghy, who's leaving the Belfast

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Trust for pastures new in Sussex. With me now is the Political

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Correspondent of the News Letter, Sam McBride. Was the departure of

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Colm Donaghy a surprise? It is not entirely a surprise given what has

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been going on within the trust. You certainly could not blame him for

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wanting to get out of what is a pretty thankless job. We have seen

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John Compton leave his post quite recently. Both of those men have

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been in the firing line, along with the Minister and perhaps in some

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cases instead of the Minister. They are the first line of defence. The

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Belfast trust has had particular issues. It is maybe a little bit

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surprising that he was so insistent in January that he would not resign.

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Albeit that was clearly over the barriers that had emerged at that

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point and he has not resigned over those. To be so soon after that and

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then we have the news of the sixth death which Paul Hart involves --

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which perhaps involves waiting times, it seems that there are

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serious problems within at least certain parts of the trust. You

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certainly not leaving any blaze of glory. The delay in the installation

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of the MRI scanner at the children's hospital seems to be exactly the

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kind of issue that seems to highlight the apparent gulf that

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exists between the people and the politicians. It is. I think the

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issue with the Health Service really is that no matter how much money is

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paid to it, it is like a vast there Moth that gobbles up everything that

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is given to it. -- a vast creature. Things very quickly become

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established but they have to be here and people expect them. I think that

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when there is something going rate in the Health Service, people very

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often complain that we do not reported and highlighted. People

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expected to be right and are surprised and angry when it does

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not. We now know the name of the judge who'll lead the inquiry into

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the OTR letters, Lady Justice Hallett.

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the OTR letters, Lady Justice head around in a relatively short

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the OTR letters, Lady Justice all. I think was a collision that

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perhaps the delay was because they were scrambling around trying to

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find somebody. It is a difficult job to take on. In most significant

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thing in terms of the issue today was the terms of inference which the

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Select Committee published which in some ways really overshadowed the

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announcement of the judge because they made clear they were going to

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dig into every aspect of this aspect of who got the letters and

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compelling witnesses. It could be that the judge leading party looks

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pretty weak in comparison, pretty tame in comparison to what is going

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to happen with the Westminster inquiry. A report on complaints

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against Gerry Kelly regarding his involvement in a procession in

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Castlederg was published today. What were its main findings? It basically

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cleared him. It found that he had not been acting as an MLA but even

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if he had, he had not broken the law so could not be sanctioned. It comes

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down to the tension between free speech and what MLAs can do, which

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pushes the boundaries of that Unionists claim that he was

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glorifying terrorism. They found that that was not the case.

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Sam, for now, thank you. We will talk to you about later.

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A BBC Spotlight programme has once again got our politicians talking.

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-- a bit later. Sinn Fein brought a motion calling on the Environment

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Minister to establish an independent public inquiry into waste disposal

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in the North West. This motion has come about following

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the shocking relevant -- revelations on a recent BBC programme which has

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exposed an illegal waste dump on the outskirts of Derry. The programme

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makers and an independent report from a professor shed light on the

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indiscriminate burning of half 1 million tonnes of illegal waste

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which has gone undetected for a number of years, despite numerous

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complaints from local residents and stakeholders, such as an angling

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association. I believe that systematic failures and

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institutional neglect have facilitated waste crime in Northern

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Ireland. facilitated waste crime in Northern

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potential of a public inquiry. But into what? Mr Eastwood has quite

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rightly referred to how wide that can get, how big that could get. I

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just feel that if there is going to be a proper public inquiry into the

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illegal dumping of waste, it needs to be widespread. Having discussed a

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scale of criminality in the waste industry with my party colleague,

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the Justice Minister, he was clear that there is a sizeable criminal

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element in the Northern Ireland waste industry and that

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unfortunately, a proportion of those involved do have links to organised

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crime and paramilitaries. I understand the Minister has held

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discussions with the environment minister about how best to tackle

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this. I think I have two mention it again here, there is a real issue

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about the inability of the National Crime Agency to operate here in

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areas that are devolved, including environmental crime. We tell the

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House today that we are all opposed to criminality. We are, to be sure.

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We are not filling the general public one little bit. If we're

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going to take this issue of the disposal of waste, I suspect there

:10:13.:10:16.

is going to be some hurt and pain. Let it be understood also, when we

:10:17.:10:23.

hear of these diesel laundering plants, do we ever hear of anybody

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being arrested? It escapes me if it does. I do not hear of any arrests.

:10:29.:10:35.

I will not invincible opposed the call for the public inquiry before

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us today. There are however just three points I would make in

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conclusion. I must reiterate my view that I see little in terms of what

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value will be added to the action taken to date and the action that I

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have pledged going forward. Also they live criminal investigation. In

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fact, it may serve only to divert more resources, more time and delay

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taking the critically important action needed to address this

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problem. The Environment Minister wondering

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if a public inquiry is necessary. The Environment Minister wondering

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judgement, On The Runs the Assembly. The Justice Minister

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faced five questions on the issue at the dispatch box today.

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I was unaware of the so-called administrative scheme for dealing

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with OTRs, Operation Last -- Operation Rapid, the issue of

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letters until shortly before the findings were made public. On

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learning of it I thought a briefing with the Secretary of State and the

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briefing official. I have had no contact with the Attorney General.

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The content of these letters and to who they were issued are matters for

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the Secretary of State. I am sure that the Minister is aware that the

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Attorney General for England and Wales and said in the House of

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Commons in regard to the letters, as to the principles underlined in the

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villages, this was an administrative process that was certainly offer.

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Can the Minister tell us whether he agrees or disagrees Mr Mark --

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underlined in this letter. As I have no knowledge, I am in no position to

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determine whether or not it was lawful. As the Justice committee was

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told on the 20th of every, we can start to really see where cracks are

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opening up to stop -- 20th of debris. The reality is, the longer

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the impasse, the bigger the impasse. I have recently discussed the issue

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with the Secretary of State and Chief Constable. In addition, the

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officials have been working with the NI oh, the Home Office and other

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organised crime task force partners. would he agree with me that the

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parties opposite by continuing to Chris agree with this, our allying

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criminal gangs to flourish? It is two months now since I wrote to

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them, seeking meetings to discuss two months now since I wrote to

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Justice to know how to address the problems we don't know what the

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problems are. Given all the blanks and information relating to On The

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Runs, we are quite right to be sceptical? What we have sought to do

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is make sure that pleasing architecture is respected, that we

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have respect for the police ombudsman and the primacy of the

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PSNI, including the Chief Constable, being the final arbiter of how the

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MCA will be involved in Northern Ireland. -- MCA.

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The Justice Minister, David Ford, underscoring the complexity of

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policing here. No hospital beds, a lack of money and a delay in

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installing a mRI scanner at Belfast's Children's Hospital.

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Those were just some of the complaints raised with the Health

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Minister during Question Time. But Edwin Poots began by announcing that

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there's been a rise in the number of medical negligence cases settled.

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The number of new cases created and close to the year to date are online

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with last year 's numbers. About 207. There has been a significant

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increase in the number of individual cases that have been settled that

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exceed more than half ?1 million. It cases were settled last year, as was

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the case into the -- the year before that. The 207 cases that have been

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settled at this, 23 cases have been settled that more than half ?1

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million. Is the Minister aware that from six o'clock last night and

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balances were backed up with Gavin emergency departments. Staff did not

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know where patients reported to be admitted to because there have been

:15:25.:15:27.

no beds available there for the last number of weeks. Could the Minister

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not be honest with the Assembly and tell us that there simply isn't the

:15:35.:15:36.

money. tell us that there simply isn't the

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money to open tell us that there simply isn't the

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two words that are current and closed in Craigavon area hospital

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can be open to meet the need of the emergency departments? An

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interesting speech. She knows full well that the trust received more

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beds for winter pressures. That is something that we didn't hold off

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from any trust. Each trust in each hospital will come under pressure,

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particularly at this time of year. It is important that across Northern

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Ireland we manage that and ensure that other trusts will step in to

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provide support. There was approval granted in 2012 for the MRI

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scanner. I supported the development of the scanner in the Children's

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Hospital. It was previously part of the plan. We need to recognise that

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we are not installing a 42 inch television screen. It is an

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incredibly technical piece of equipment with the best imaging you

:16:56.:17:00.

can get. You need to have the right people in place to manage it, but

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the installation is very important. It will involve piling. It is

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involving asbestos removal. It will involve ensuring that the building

:17:14.:17:18.

it is enclosed in old in that of other wards because you're talking

:17:19.:17:23.

about radioactivity. Edwin Poots explaining why the new

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MRI scanner for the Children's Hospital is taking longer than

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expected to be installed. The Education Minister has confirmed

:17:29.:17:31.

that GCSE and A-Level exams here will remain largely unchanged, while

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his counterparts in England and Wales are making dramatic changes.

:17:35.:17:37.

John O'Dowd says he wants pupils to have a choice of exam styles, either

:17:38.:17:41.

testing after each module or at the end of two years. Our young people

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must have access to qualifications that enable

:17:52.:18:01.

must have access to qualifications of this jurisdiction. I have no

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intentions of acting in a way that will disadvantage young people

:18:06.:18:07.

wanting to study across these islands. I believe my decision to

:18:08.:18:19.

change the exams has given real advantage to those applying for

:18:20.:18:24.

universities in England. One issue that I've had to consider is whether

:18:25.:18:29.

the changes being made elsewhere are so great that they might affect our

:18:30.:18:33.

ability to minty and an open qualifications market for schools. I

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want to make clear that I can see value in ensuring the schools have

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access to as wide a range of choice of qualifications as possible.

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Therefore, I do not intend to restrict schools to qualifications.

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Schools will continue to be free to choose exam specifications from

:18:56.:19:00.

other awarding organisations, provided those organisations can

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satisfy House that they meet the requirements of our curriculum. As

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has been noted previously and favourably commented on, our

:19:09.:19:12.

curriculum has a focus on knowledge, on skills. Our focus on

:19:13.:19:17.

literacy encompasses not just reading and writing, but also the

:19:18.:19:25.

wider skill of communication. Employers frequently stressed to me

:19:26.:19:28.

the importance of making sure that young people can indicate

:19:29.:19:32.

affectively and apply their knowledge and practical settings.

:19:33.:19:38.

Qualifications in English will only be considered valid for young people

:19:39.:19:43.

if they include as an integral part the assessment of speaking and

:19:44.:19:48.

listening. I am not persuaded that the GCSE qualifications should be

:19:49.:19:56.

banned from 1-9. Nevertheless, I shall keep this issue under review.

:19:57.:20:03.

The Education Minister, John O'Dowd. Is the Republic of Ireland 17 times

:20:04.:20:06.

more ambitious than Northern Ireland when it comes to EU funding? That

:20:07.:20:08.

was when it comes to EU funding? That

:20:09.:20:19.

motion, which singled out the DRD Minister for particular praise, to

:20:20.:20:22.

instead commend all ministers who have secured significant funding.

:20:23.:20:24.

Here's the motion's proposer, Mike Nesbitt. Economic league, how

:20:25.:20:35.

competitive are we in terms of drawdown? How successful are we? The

:20:36.:20:44.

proper message -- measure I suggest is the number of requested financial

:20:45.:20:48.

contributions" of Northern Ireland for framework seven. We requested 35

:20:49.:20:55.

euro and 33 cents per head of population. Compared to Wales, it is

:20:56.:21:03.

must exactly the same. Compared to England it is less than half an

:21:04.:21:06.

compared to Scotland is as about a third. The shocker is the comparison

:21:07.:21:10.

with the Republic of Ireland where per head of population the republic

:21:11.:21:17.

requested financial contributions of 590 euros. Experience shows that

:21:18.:21:24.

small and medium-sized Irish companies north and south are not

:21:25.:21:28.

taking full advantage of the funding of European Union opportunities.

:21:29.:21:32.

This new programme which supports research and innovation offers

:21:33.:21:36.

tremendous opportunities for high-level links and collaboration

:21:37.:21:39.

with other companies and research bodies across Europe and further

:21:40.:21:46.

afield. Do we need to draw them were funding? Of course we do. The

:21:47.:21:51.

figures to run into the melting pot by headline grabbers, but they do

:21:52.:21:55.

not paint the whole picture. Given that when they are broken down the

:21:56.:21:59.

money used to calculate the 500 90 million euros is in fact the of the

:22:00.:22:04.

Republic of Ireland applied for to Europe, not the amount received.

:22:05.:22:11.

From -- contrary to the suggestion in the motion, I believe the DRD is

:22:12.:22:16.

not the Department of the largest drawdown. So, they have done very

:22:17.:22:20.

well. drawdown. So, they have done very

:22:21.:22:32.

for education and learning. The executive set itself the programme

:22:33.:22:36.

for government target to increase drawdown of competitive fund space

:22:37.:22:41.

20%. Departments can need to make good progress against this target.

:22:42.:22:47.

At the halfway point, ?41 million has been secured and this represents

:22:48.:22:52.

64% of the ?64 million needed. The executive said 20% targets as a damp

:22:53.:23:02.

-- developmental target. The primary purpose of the 20% target is to

:23:03.:23:06.

encourage participation in the Europe-wide networks and to

:23:07.:23:08.

facilitate partnership working with the best in Europe.

:23:09.:23:13.

The amended motion passed. The OFM/DFM committee had a busy

:23:14.:23:16.

meeting last week with both the Victims' Commissioner and the Head

:23:17.:23:19.

of the Civil Service answering questions. Unhappy with delays in

:23:20.:23:23.

receiving information from the department, Members asked Dr Malcolm

:23:24.:23:26.

McKibbin why he thought the Office of First Minister and Deputy First

:23:27.:23:34.

Minister took so long to respond. It is a departments with two

:23:35.:23:41.

ministers, supported basic special advisers. There are the two junior

:23:42.:23:47.

ministers and to further special advisers. That undoubtedly impacts

:23:48.:23:52.

on the speed of policy developments and decision-making. It is not

:23:53.:23:57.

surprising. It quite surely is a more complex your operates within

:23:58.:24:11.

other conventional departments. Is it possible that the dysfunctional

:24:12.:24:14.

relationship in terms of these briefings papers to be regarded as a

:24:15.:24:21.

reach of the law? I don't regard the relationship is dysfunctional. We

:24:22.:24:31.

are trying to improve the relationship. I believe that the

:24:32.:24:37.

committee can help us what Lizzie development and I am keen to assist

:24:38.:24:39.

them to assist us. development and I am keen to assist

:24:40.:24:54.

education. It took 299 working days to get a response, despite the fact

:24:55.:25:00.

that months ago the Minister for education when the consultation on

:25:01.:25:03.

changing the scheme. It seems to me that anybody could have written the

:25:04.:25:06.

response in two minutes, basically to the effect of because the

:25:07.:25:12.

Minister of education is, the consultation we can no longer answer

:25:13.:25:16.

your request. Yet it sap and sap and sat. -- yet it sat and sap and sap.

:25:17.:25:35.

We can assure the those cases will be reduced in number. I don't want

:25:36.:25:41.

to get into a discussion about the rights and wrongs of it. What it

:25:42.:25:46.

highlights for me and colleagues at the commission is that this is

:25:47.:25:51.

another example where the Dems of all sides have been perceived to

:25:52.:25:58.

have been denied justice and denied access to justice. Those are such

:25:59.:26:06.

fundamental, basic rights that people have and the perception is

:26:07.:26:13.

that, yet again, for a particular group of people, they have been

:26:14.:26:16.

taken away. Whether that perception is accurate or not, we will have the

:26:17.:26:24.

review. It is certainly an experience that is common to victims

:26:25.:26:27.

and survivors from all communities, and something that everyone can

:26:28.:26:33.

attempt to fight with. It has been very challenging time with a lot of

:26:34.:26:41.

angry, upset and hurt people who feel betrayed. It also makes me

:26:42.:26:51.

think about how we will look at dealing with the past.

:26:52.:26:54.

The Victims' Commissioner, Kathryn Stone. The News Letter's Political

:26:55.:26:56.

Correspondent, Sam McBride, is with me again.

:26:57.:27:09.

Correspondent, Sam McBride, is with political process here. He did. He

:27:10.:27:14.

hinted at lots of things and said a few things explicitly. When Richard

:27:15.:27:18.

Haass came into this process into temper last year he had a reputation

:27:19.:27:23.

as someone who would not take any nonsense. In some ways he didn't

:27:24.:27:28.

live up to that reputation, in public anyway. He seemed to be very

:27:29.:27:35.

diplomatic, come and -- consensual. He clearly felt that the Ulster

:27:36.:27:38.

unionists should stay in the process. Because of these On The

:27:39.:27:52.

Runs letters, this process will be pushed back to after the election.

:27:53.:27:57.

Have we heard any more from the First and Deputy First Minister's

:27:58.:28:07.

trip to Washington? We have the odd site of Peter Robinson and Martin

:28:08.:28:10.

McGuinness standing beside celebrities in HBO 's studios

:28:11.:28:21.

smiling, looking incredibly happy, after we heard that this place was

:28:22.:28:26.

in crisis and the relationship was in tatters. It is difficult to see

:28:27.:28:37.

how the public facing America, smiling, United leaders, can play

:28:38.:28:45.

with a very divided scene that there is back at home.

:28:46.:28:51.

We will see their smiling when get back. Thanks, Sam. That's it for

:28:52.:28:54.

tonight. Do join me for The View on Thursday night. As our politicians

:28:55.:28:57.

gather in Washington to mark St Patrick's Day, we'll hear from our

:28:58.:29:01.

correspondent Martina Purdy, who's with them. Until then, goodbye.

:29:02.:29:03.

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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