11/12/2012 Stormont Today


11/12/2012

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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Transcript


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Welcome to Stormont today. The issue dominating proceedings was

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violence associated with the ongoing flag protests. The house

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came together to condemn the attempted murder of a police woman

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last night. It was on act of murderous intent. And that Act,

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like those road blocks, like that violence, are the consequence of

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the failure of the politics of this house. Doubts were raised about the

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planning minister's enthusiasm for the Narrow Water a bridge. Alex

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Attwood got his chance. I would suggest that those who continue to

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use the language of a smell are digging a series of holes. Bringing

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us the benefit of his analysis, I'm joined by journalist Steven

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Today's proceedings began in much the same way as yesterday's, with

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condemnation of overnight violence linked to the ongoing flag protests.

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Members on all sides of the House rose to speak out on an attack

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against a patrol car close to the office of the Alliance MP Naomi

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long. A female officer was in the car when protesters threw a petrol

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bomb inside. We are no longer local -- talking about the issue of how

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many days they union flag is flown on Belfast City Hall. We're not

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talking about the contest between democracy and the rule of law on

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the one hand, and terrorism and fascism on the other hand. And they

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can be no IFS or buts, no qualifications in that debate.

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There must be an utterly united voice against that. And they do say

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to certain members of this House, if they condemn violence then they

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must say that they condemn violence without the buts statements. Can I

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make it clear that nobody should use an attack on a police officer

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to score political points, and I will not do that. I want to make it

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clear that the attempted murder of the police officer yesterday

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evening was a despicable attack upon the rule of law, and something

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that this whole house should rightly United Pon and condemn

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utterly. Yesterday this party condemned without reservation,

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without qualification, without a Vegas that any violence associated

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with the decision of Belfast City Council is wrong and should stop.

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condemn all of the attacks that have taken place throughout the

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week. I would also like to welcome the statement by the leader of the

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UUP this morning, when he pointed out that since these protests don't

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seem to be able to be had in a peaceful way, that it would stand

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to bring it to a conclusion. I agree with the First Minister that

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there has to be a right to peaceful protest but I think we have gone

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beyond that this particular week. I would argue for calm over Christmas,

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for people to pull back and allow for conversations, not just about

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flags but about the whole issue of equality and an assured future.

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would bring a petrol bomb to a peaceful protest? I have many times

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spoken on the use of petrol bombs. It is not something you just pick

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up on a side street. And the people that did this went with murderous

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intent. They are not loyalist. To be a loyalist you are loyal to the

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ground. These people are not loyal to the Crown. They are not loyal to

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the flag. They are not loyal to the Union flag. They are nothing other

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than terrorists. It was an act of murderous intent. And that act,

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like those road blocks, like that of violence, are the consequence of

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the failure of the politics of this House. A failure of the politics of

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this House and of this city. And it is about time people faced up to

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their failures. Because if they do not, and they failed to step back

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from the brink, they are talking themselves into, they will be

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coming here to condemn other terrible act. This must be brought

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to an end. And it is not enough to come in here in the morning and

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condemn and go on the airwaves and continued to profile out colleagues,

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Fellow elected representatives and to signal them out as being the

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problem when in fact they are not. They are the architects of the new

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Northern Ireland. Mr McGuinness, would it be of assistance to this

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House if I or some other member of the SDLP lodged a Minette of the

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Newry and warned District Council in relation to the matter Mr

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Kennedy raised, so that this house can judge for itself whoever took

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in that decision making? Order. Order. Let us move on. We are

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coming to a point where there is not a point of order. Members are

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getting up under disguise of point of order and trying to make

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political statements. The Minister of Justice which has to make a

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statement to the house this morning. With permission, I wish to make a

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statement regarding a meeting under the auspices of the inter-

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governmental agreement on co- operation of criminal justice

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matters held in Dublin, 23rd November. Order. Order. Order.

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Order. This house is in session. The Speaker battling to keep the

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house in order. There were further developments on the flag issue

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later in the day. The planned meeting of the Assembly commission

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didn't happen because it was boycotted by Sinn Fein, STRB and

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Alliance. I was horrified. If ever there was a display of political

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insanity, that was it. Here we are with a situation where we are

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trying to convince people to be calm, to allow politics to take

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over, to sit back and make sure that the democratic process works.

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They all know and a waiting to hear what happens when the Assembly

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commission, is there a political way forward? And parties decide to

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boycott the meeting of the Assembly commission. I think that is wrong.

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A group of senior Unionist representatives met at parliament

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buildings during the night to discuss all of that. Steven

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McCaffrey is political correspondent of The Detail website.

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Let's talk about this joint statement that was issued this

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afternoon. How significant is it, in your view? It shows that

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whatever the efforts to try and calm down the flag crisis on the

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streets, it is certainly a major political issue. Today the

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commission didn't happen. This statement has been put together by

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the Unionist parties. They make their anger clear at the fact the

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meeting didn't go ahead. They describe it as deplorable. This

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group is made up of the DUP, the UUP and also Jim Allister, the UKIP

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representative and the Independent. They've all round it on the other

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parties that didn't take part in the meeting that was planned to

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discuss the flag. They are demanding a further meeting happen

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on 14th December. It is a stepping up of the political pressure on

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this issue. This is Wednesday, and they are insisting a meeting will

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take place by Friday at the latest. I don't know if they can make that

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happen if the others don't turnout. Do you know quite what the

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choreography or developments might be in the next 48 hours?

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argument today was it wasn't possible to reach a quorum, so the

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Commission said they couldn't meet. Just because those other parties

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didn't turn up? Correct. I know that privately some of the Unionist

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parties, members are being paid for members of the commission. There is

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also the issue that if people want to say -- say democracy is working,

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then the Unionist parties will say it will be increasingly difficult

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for this commission to meet. On the face of it it appears this attempt

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to possibly keep the issue in play and perhaps keep the political

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tension in play, but given that the statement asks for a review process,

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this could also be read as an attempt to begin what would be a

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very lengthy and potentially drawn- out process to see what, if

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anything, happens with the flag. The statement goes on to condemn

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the ongoing violence very clearly. But it says, any protest that takes

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place must be peaceful. The First Minister a couple of days ago said

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he wanted protests to be suspended. That is not in a statement.

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certainly does seem to be a little disjointed. There is also the

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impression that the other parties have ruled behind the DUP on this.

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Although Mike Nesbitt spoke of the issue tonight, they're very much

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was a feeling this evening it was Peter Robinson who was speaking on

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behalf of the people who met to discuss this issue. I think there

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is an element of confusion about where this is going, but this is a

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symptom of the fact this is a very confused, tense and difficult

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situation all round. Last Tuesday there was a clash of ministers and

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the Chamber. Sammy Wilson questioned the speed with which

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Alex Attwood granted planning permission to the Narrow Water a

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bridge project. Mr Wilson said the decision had the smell of politics

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about it. Today, Mr Attwood got his chance to have his say. In a

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contribution to that Tuesday debate on Narrow Water, be replying

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Minister stated, this was an article 31 planning application, so

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it was decided and signed off at the planning ministry. He may want

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to correct me on this, but we have never had an article 31 planning

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application with all the sensitivities that are involved in

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this one dealt with so quickly. Unquote, let me repeat, we have

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never had an article 31 application dealt with so quickly. So what did

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I do? I request a review of planning files to identify article

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31 applications signed off by the Planning Minister and dealt with

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quickly. The list is extensive. Ikea Hollywood exchange, and

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industrial development, a shopping development in Glengormley. A high

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school in County Down. That decision was taken in five months.

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And a business park Instagram. There is a smell around this one.

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He may try to deny that but it seems very strange that we have an

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application lodged on 9th February and the minister has an older man

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dusted within a couple of months. Is the minister now telling us

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today that from this day forth, all article 31s will be dealt with as

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swiftly and quickly as he has dealt with this one? If he does that then

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I think he will go some distance to allay the concerns of members of

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this house. I find it a matter of regret that the irregular and false

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words, in my view, used previously, and I want to tread cautiously here

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so correct me if you think I'm going too far because sometimes

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they can go too far. I think it is inappropriate and doesn't reflect

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the content of my statement, to repeat an assertion that in my view

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has been comprehensively, robustly and firmly rebutted in the content

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of my statement, in respect of this planning application. Let me repeat.

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There is no political smell. This process was absolutely proper. The

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pardon was proper. The process from February to the decision later in

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the autumn was absolutely proper. Any contention otherwise is

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unhelpful and inaccurate, in my view. I would suggest that those

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who continue to use the language of a smell are actually digging a

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series of holes, looking for the deepest one and jumping into it.

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Alex Attwood. Arlene Foster has been defending Northern Ireland as

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a tourist destination, despite recent disappointing visitor

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figures. The minister has been keen to point out they are provisional

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and incomplete, but it didn't stop her fellow MLA calling for a change

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of tack. Obviously the minister will share everybody's

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disappointment that figures are down. Whilst the minister might try

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to blame Tourism Ireland, there are a number of factors. Would the

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Minister agree with me that promoting the island of Ireland as

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a single tourism destination where visitors can go to the giant's

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Causeway, be Fermanagh Lakeland and the clips in one single trip in

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trying to promote two different markets? In answer to his question,

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he needs to look at the markets he is looking at. The TV market, we

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had a piece of work carried out not just by the Northern Ireland

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Tourist Board but bike Culture Ireland and the number of industry

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providers as well, they did a piece of work specifically into the

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market. What they are essentially saying is what we've been doing is

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not producing the results we need to produce. There needs to be a

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Northern Ireland specific campaign in Great Britain. That is the word

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not of May but of the Tourism Task Force. If the member wants to look

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at objectives, that is the objective reporter should look at.

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I'm pleased that the tourism recovery task force has now plotted

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out a way forward which has been taken forward by Tourism Ireland

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and by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. We will look forward to

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I thank the Minister for her answer so far and don't disagree with

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anything she says. But given that Ireland and Britain here the -- saw

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the wins of the past in a very public way last year, does the

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Minister not agree that we should maximise every opportunity to

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ensure that visitors coming from Britain visit Northern Ireland as

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well? That is precisely what we will be doing with our campaign,

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which looks at the UK City of Culture. It is UK City of Culture.

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We are inviting the rest of the UK to come to Northern Ireland to

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celebrate the very first UK City of Culture. We're having the world

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Police and Fire Games here for the very first time. That will be a

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tremendous celebration. The G8 Summit is coming to County

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Fermanagh, because we are part of the United Kingdom. Because we are

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part of the UK we are able to host the summit.

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Any wild salmon caught during recreational angling will soon have

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to be returned to the water unharmed under plans announced

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today. Caral Ni Chuilin, responsible for angling, announced

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new measures over the fear of dwindling numbers of North Atlantic

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salmon. My statement in March this year set

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out grounds for concern. International census have concern

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that Atlantic salmon are dying at sea in significant numbers. Some in

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North America and Britain are threatened with extinction.

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Bushmills salmon station its shows a decline in return of around 30%

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in 1997 to 5% today. The key messages that emerged was that 83%

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of respondents supported a total cessation of commercial salmon

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fishing and 74% supported the introduction of mandatory catch and

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release for recreational angling. I believe that the measures I am

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announcing today are appropriate and essential to conserve and

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protect wild salmon stocks in the future. I would like to consider

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the commercial fishing of wild salmon. In doing so, I recognise

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that the continuation of commercial fishing for salmon is a complex and

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contentious issue. Fishermen have harvested salmon for hundreds of

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fears off the North Antrim and county down coasts. -- hundreds of

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years. They recognise steps must be taken to ensure the long-term

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survival of the species. They have shown this commitment by not

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fishing in 2012. There is a need to achieve a balance between

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conservation and fishing but they allowed for the sustainable

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harvesting of salmon in the future, should stock levels permit this. --

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that may laugh. I will therefore introduce legislation to impose

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mandatory cessation of commercial wild salmon fisheries to take

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effect in the 2014 season. This would remain in place until such

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times as scientific evidence confirms that a sustainable surplus

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of fish is over conservation limits for a number of years. I wish to

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consider recreational fishing of wild salmon. That is against the

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public interest. I'm pleased to say many recreational anglers

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understand this and have, in general, supported my call for a

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voluntary catch and release during 2012. It is essential catch and

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release before Broad caught salmon continues. It maintains social and

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economic benefits while ensuring the continuation of salmon. I am

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introducing legislation to impose mandatory catch and release across

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the jurisdiction, with effect from the 2014 season. I will also

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legislate the sale off this from Paddy 14.

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Planning permission from houses in rural areas is on the rise. Alex

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Attwood work and the increase, which she said reflects the

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importance of strong rural communities. -- which he said.

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What we have been trying to do is make it easier for forming rural

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drivers and non-performing will all do well this -- farming and none

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for mink and rural dwellers to build homes in the countryside. I

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would like to confirm that with one figure. Compared with a similar

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quarter last year, approvals for new single dwellings in the

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:20:05.:20:13.

countryside are up from 83.9-EDF 0.5, and replacement dwellings in -

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- are up to 92%. Does the Minister accept there is a perception to

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rural attitudes between the east and west of Northern Ireland, and

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the role of land used generally? Bat is a fair question. It would

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have been more accurate 18 months ago. When I looked at the profile

:20:33.:20:39.

of decisions and recommendations for approval and refusal, there had

:20:39.:20:45.

seemed to me to be a disparity. When I spoke to MLAs across parties

:20:45.:20:49.

in this chamber, there seemed to be deferential treatment of

:20:49.:20:53.

applications in some areas, especially the west compared to the

:20:53.:20:56.

east and daring, with in some particular areas of the West. That

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is why, because of the evidence that was coming forward to me from

:21:03.:21:10.

planning officials and representatives, I thought that

:21:10.:21:13.

there was a point consistent with the sentiment of that question.

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When you look at the application of policy here and now compared with

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then, that perception is less acute. I would not be continuing the

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review unless I thought there was further interpretation required in

:21:28.:21:31.

order to ensure consistency and in order to ensure the proper

:21:31.:21:38.

flexibility of the policy. I thank the Minister for his answers so far

:21:38.:21:43.

and his acknowledgement of the right of the rural people to have a

:21:43.:21:51.

home in a place where they were born. Is the Minister cover cent of

:21:51.:22:01.
:22:01.:22:01.

the problem that might have arisen where it is commonly known that the

:22:01.:22:11.

rural countryside is becoming like Donegal? I had reason to write to a

:22:11.:22:18.

former Secretary of State of this place, criticising him win in the

:22:18.:22:22.

House of Lords he said about six months ago, when it came to English

:22:22.:22:28.

rural countryside policy, you didn't want to have what happened

:22:28.:22:34.

in Northern Ireland, as he saw it, over there. The reason why I wrote

:22:34.:22:39.

to Lord King, formerly Secretary of State of this place, was to point

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out to him that he should know better.

:22:45.:22:50.

The agency to half with attracting jobs to Northern Ireland has come

:22:50.:22:54.

under scrutiny following news of a new pay deal for its Chief

:22:54.:22:57.

Executive. Their representative of Invest NI appeared before the

:22:57.:23:02.

Enterprise Committee last week, as we come here in our weekly look at

:23:02.:23:09.

committee business. Has a bonus been paid for the last

:23:09.:23:19.
:23:19.:23:22.

three years? A performance element, I would commit. Will the salary be

:23:22.:23:29.

backdated? That payment has now been made. Once the renegotiated

:23:29.:23:39.

package was approved by the minister, the minister for finance.

:23:39.:23:43.

The postal there is being paid what his previous contract entitled him

:23:43.:23:52.

to get. Is the post holder down money? He is paid what was due

:23:52.:23:58.

based on the rich eat -- renegotiated package. Just to be

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perfectly clear, if the performance element had been paid, it would be

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an additional over 20,000 above what he actually would have been

:24:09.:24:19.
:24:19.:24:20.

paid for one year. �20,000 a year? About �7,000 a year for three years.

:24:20.:24:24.

The request for hard facts is helpful and important. We would

:24:24.:24:29.

want to be helpful to the committee. I am sure the committee will

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appreciate this would not be a proper forum to discuss, for

:24:32.:24:37.

example, the performance of the Chief Executive or anything. I

:24:37.:24:42.

would want to try and lay that as a barometer at the start. As far as a

:24:42.:24:48.

hard facts are concerned, the Chief Executive applied for a post which

:24:48.:24:54.

was advertised on the basis that there would be a salary of �160,000

:24:54.:25:02.

per year with a performance-related element of the total remuneration

:25:02.:25:10.

package equivalent to 30% of that. It became clear with the passage of

:25:10.:25:16.

time that performance related pay was discredited, as a concept if

:25:16.:25:22.

you like, and that presented a difficulty for Invest NI because

:25:22.:25:27.

the Chief Executive had applied for a job, been successful, and then

:25:27.:25:33.

agreed a contract based on that remuneration package. Given those

:25:33.:25:42.

difficulties, Invest NI sought approval to renegotiate the package

:25:42.:25:50.

with the department. That approval was granted. A new package was

:25:50.:25:55.

renegotiated with the Chief Executive, all normal due process

:25:55.:26:00.

was followed, and does remunerations have been put in

:26:00.:26:07.

place. You said nothing had been paid in relation to performance-

:26:07.:26:10.

related salary over the last few years. My conclusion I am drawing

:26:10.:26:20.
:26:20.:26:21.

from that, but Chief Executive's position was paid �160,000? 160,000

:26:21.:26:26.

up until the last three years, and then the back dated element, there

:26:26.:26:35.

is no agreed position at this point in time, so once that was agreed

:26:35.:26:41.

and had ministerial approval which was six weeks ago, that was then

:26:41.:26:48.

paid to the Chief Executive. point being, what he had been paid

:26:48.:26:52.

over this last wire, he said nothing had been paid in relation

:26:52.:26:57.

to performance management? Correct. That clears that up for me, thank

:26:57.:27:02.

you. Let's talk about the census. The

:27:02.:27:05.

figures were published today. How do some of the revelations square

:27:05.:27:11.

with what has been happening on the ground? They headline from the

:27:11.:27:15.

census was that the Protestant population has fallen to 48%, so

:27:15.:27:19.

for the first time, the fact but it has dropped below 50 is quite

:27:20.:27:25.

significant. -- that it has dropped. It probably would have been a big

:27:26.:27:31.

story were it not for all issues today. It caused me to reflect on

:27:31.:27:34.

Peter Robinson's speech at his party conference a couple of weeks

:27:34.:27:37.

ago. We will remember in that speech, he made an appeal to his

:27:37.:27:44.

party faithful and said, there is a portion of the Kaka lit -- Catholic

:27:44.:27:47.

community that if Unionists could strike a deal that would secure the

:27:47.:27:50.

union for a lengthy period into the future. Figures suggest he might

:27:50.:27:56.

have been on to something with that. For the first time we see hard data

:27:56.:28:01.

that 21% describe themselves as Northern Irish. Since the figures

:28:02.:28:06.

today, we have had scenes on the streets of protests and violence,

:28:06.:28:10.

and that can't have failed but to have a negative impact on those

:28:10.:28:13.

very same Catholic quarters he might have wanted to appeal to.

:28:13.:28:19.

it seems no time since he was making that speech thing there is a

:28:19.:28:23.

difference on the part of some of those individuals in identifying as

:28:23.:28:28.

Northern Irish, but not necessarily British? If we do what I think

:28:28.:28:31.

Peter Robinson is doing, and cast our minds forward into the next

:28:32.:28:36.

decade and what might happen, another intriguing question to ask

:28:36.:28:39.

his, his argument was framed around the notion that people would be

:28:39.:28:42.

presented with a question as to whether they would like the border

:28:42.:28:46.

to disappear tomorrow, but if we look at the Scottish experience,

:28:47.:28:49.

would be question be more important, given the figures we have seen

:28:49.:28:54.

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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