11/12/2012 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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Welcome to Stormont today. The issue dominating proceedings was


violence associated with the ongoing flag protests. The house


came together to condemn the attempted murder of a police woman


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


condemnation of overnight violence linked to the ongoing flag protests.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


clear that the attempted murder of the police officer yesterday


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


that this whole house should rightly United Pon and condemn


utterly. Yesterday this party condemned without reservation,


without qualification, without a Vegas that any violence associated


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


condemn all of the attacks that have taken place throughout the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Fellow elected representatives and to signal them out as being the


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


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


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


Newry and warned District Council in relation to the matter Mr


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


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


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


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


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


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


statement regarding a meeting under the auspices of the inter-


governmental agreement on co- operation of criminal justice


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


A group of senior Unionist representatives met at parliament


buildings during the night to discuss all of that. Steven


McCaffrey is political correspondent of The Detail website.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


discuss the flag. They are demanding a further meeting happen


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


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


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


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


choreography or developments might be in the next 48 hours?


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


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


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


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


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


then the Unionist parties will say it will be increasingly difficult


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the Chamber. Sammy Wilson questioned the speed with which


Alex Attwood granted planning permission to the Narrow Water a


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


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


contribution to that Tuesday debate on Narrow Water, be replying


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


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


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


application with all the sensitivities that are involved in


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


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


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


31 applications signed off by the Planning Minister and dealt with


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


industrial development, a shopping development in Glengormley. A high


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


has been comprehensively, robustly and firmly rebutted in the content


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


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


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


the autumn was absolutely proper. Any contention otherwise is


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


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


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


Alex Attwood. Arlene Foster has been defending Northern Ireland as


a tourist destination, despite recent disappointing visitor


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


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


of tack. Obviously the minister will share everybody's


disappointment that figures are down. Whilst the minister might try


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


Minister agree with me that promoting the island of Ireland as


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


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


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


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


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


Tourist Board but bike Culture Ireland and the number of industry


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Minister not agree that we should maximise every opportunity to


ensure that visitors coming from Britain visit Northern Ireland as


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


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


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


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


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


tremendous celebration. The G8 Summit is coming to County


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


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


Any wild salmon caught during recreational angling will soon have


to be returned to the water unharmed under plans announced


today. Caral Ni Chuilin, responsible for angling, announced


new measures over the fear of dwindling numbers of North Atlantic


salmon. My statement in March this year set


out grounds for concern. International census have concern


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


North America and Britain are threatened with extinction.


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


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


of respondents supported a total cessation of commercial salmon


fishing and 74% supported the introduction of mandatory catch and


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


announcing today are appropriate and essential to conserve and


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


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


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


contentious issue. Fishermen have harvested salmon for hundreds of


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


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


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


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


conservation and fishing but they allowed for the sustainable


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


that may laugh. I will therefore introduce legislation to impose


mandatory cessation of commercial wild salmon fisheries to take


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


times as scientific evidence confirms that a sustainable surplus


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


consider recreational fishing of wild salmon. That is against the


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


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


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


release before Broad caught salmon continues. It maintains social and


economic benefits while ensuring the continuation of salmon. I am


introducing legislation to impose mandatory catch and release across


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


legislate the sale off this from Paddy 14.


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


Attwood work and the increase, which she said reflects the


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


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


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


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


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


quarter last year, approvals for new single dwellings in the


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


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


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


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


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


of decisions and recommendations for approval and refusal, there had


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


in this chamber, there seemed to be deferential treatment of


applications in some areas, especially the west compared to the


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


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


planning officials and representatives, I thought that


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


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


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


review unless I thought there was further interpretation required in


order to ensure consistency and in order to ensure the proper


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


out to him that he should know better.


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


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


Executive. Their representative of Invest NI appeared before the


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


committee business. Has a bonus been paid for the last


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


agreed a contract based on that remuneration package. Given those


difficulties, Invest NI sought approval to renegotiate the package


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


renegotiated with the Chief Executive, all normal due process


was followed, and does remunerations have been put in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


you. Let's talk about the census. The


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


decade and what might happen, another intriguing question to ask


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


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


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


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


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.