11/03/2014 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:


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


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


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


comes with all of the pressures of managing local services whilst


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


The Justice Minister continues to distance himself from the OTR


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


dealing with these, Operation Red Blood issuing letters.


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


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


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


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


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


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


the comments during his statement on progressing health care reform.


When discussing health and social care delivery in Northern Ireland,


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


emergency department service is under extreme pressure and I have


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


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


service. They continue to do continuing to deliver an excellent


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


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


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


public opinion generally is certainly not as rosy as the


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


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


required to implement TYC in totality. We understand it today


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


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


a shortfall of many millions. The medical profession are working


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


stressful regional services, is a very, very


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


which perhaps involves waiting times, it seems that there are


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


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


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


kind of issue that seems to highlight the apparent gulf that


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


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


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


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


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


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


often complain that we do not reported and highlighted. People


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


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


the OTR letters, Lady Justice Hallett.


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


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


perhaps the delay was because they were scrambling around trying to


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


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


Select Committee published which in some ways really overshadowed the


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


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


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


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


to happen with the Westminster inquiry. A report on complaints


against Gerry Kelly regarding his involvement in a procession in


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


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


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


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


pushes the boundaries of that Unionists claim that he was


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


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


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


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


Minister to establish an independent public inquiry into waste disposal


in the North West. This motion has come about following


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


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


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


indiscriminate burning of half 1 million tonnes of illegal waste


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


complaints from local residents and stakeholders, such as an angling


association. I believe that systematic failures and


institutional neglect have facilitated waste crime in Northern


Ireland. facilitated waste crime in Northern


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


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


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


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


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


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


element in the Northern Ireland waste industry and that


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


crime and paramilitaries. I understand the Minister has held


discussions with the environment minister about how best to tackle


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


taking the critically important action needed to address this


problem. The Environment Minister wondering


if a public inquiry is necessary. The Environment Minister wondering


judgement, On The Runs the Assembly. The Justice Minister


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


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


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


letters until shortly before the findings were made public. On


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


is make sure that pleasing architecture is respected, that we


have respect for the police ombudsman and the primacy of the


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


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


The Justice Minister, David Ford, underscoring the complexity of


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


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


Those were just some of the complaints raised with the Health


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


money. tell us that there simply isn't the


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


two words that are current and closed in Craigavon area hospital


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


incredibly technical piece of equipment with the best imaging you


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


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


involving asbestos removal. It will involve ensuring that the building


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


about radioactivity. Edwin Poots explaining why the new


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


expected to be installed. The Education Minister has confirmed


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


his counterparts in England and Wales are making dramatic changes.


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


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


must have access to qualifications that enable


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


intentions of acting in a way that will disadvantage young people


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


change the exams has given real advantage to those applying for


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


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


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


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


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


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


Schools will continue to be free to choose exam specifications from


other awarding organisations, provided those organisations can


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


has been noted previously and favourably commented on, our


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


literacy encompasses not just reading and writing, but also the


wider skill of communication. Employers frequently stressed to me


the importance of making sure that young people can indicate


affectively and apply their knowledge and practical settings.


Qualifications in English will only be considered valid for young people


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


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


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


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


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


was when it comes to EU funding? That


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


instead commend all ministers who have secured significant funding.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


requested financial contributions of 590 euros. Experience shows that


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


taking full advantage of the funding of European Union opportunities.


This new programme which supports research and innovation offers


tremendous opportunities for high-level links and collaboration


with other companies and research bodies across Europe and further


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


well. drawdown. So, they have done very


for education and learning. The executive set itself the programme


for government target to increase drawdown of competitive fund space


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


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


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


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


encourage participation in the Europe-wide networks and to


facilitate partnership working with the best in Europe.


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


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


of the Civil Service answering questions. Unhappy with delays in


receiving information from the department, Members asked Dr Malcolm


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


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


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


ministers and to further special advisers. That undoubtedly impacts


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


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


other conventional departments. Is it possible that the dysfunctional


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


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


are trying to improve the relationship. I believe that the


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


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


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


that months ago the Minister for education when the consultation on


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


fundamental, basic rights that people have and the perception is


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


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


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


and survivors from all communities, and something that everyone can


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


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


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


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


Correspondent, Sam McBride, is with me again.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


McGuinness standing beside celebrities in HBO 's studios


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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