12/11/2012 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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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up in the next 30 minutes -


the gloves are off as MLAs discuss allegations of sectarianism in


boxing. I do not think children in any sport should be subject to that


sort of abuse. It is ugly, horrible and wrong. And with a ringside seat


our Political Reporter Stephen Walker joins me with his insight.


A motion calling for the formation of a new Northern Ireland Amateur


Boxing Association separate from the existing all-Ireland governing


body was passed in the Stormont chamber this afternoon. The debate


was conducted against the backdrop of an ongoing stand-off between the


Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and Sandy Row Boxing Club.


They are poor at accessing funding and lack of facilities exacerbates


this was that one of the problems could be foreseen is given the


dominance of one community, it will entrench the situation. There needs


to be promotion and encouragement of the sport in Protestant areas,


in working-class areas. There's a perception of the money will go


into the north and west of Belfast. She needs to demonstrate she acts


for all of Northern Ireland, there are issues around sectarianism in


the sport whether we admitted or not. The minister needs to


demonstrate the processes are there to ensure sectarianism has been


taken out of the sport and everyone participating is free from


intimidation and harassment. Could I come to what I think is the long-


term important issue. That of how boxing should be organised. In


boxing, as in other sports in Northern Ireland, if you are big


participant who wishes to box for the UK because you regard that as


the country of your birth, and the country of your allegiance, you


cannot do it. Because the recognition is given only to the


Irish Amateur Boxing Association. We have clubs in premises not fit


for use the stock we visited clubs who have newspaper stuffed in the


Sealink to keep the snow out while they were training for boxing. I


plead with those in charge to move with a haste to ensure it is


delivered fairly across all sections of the committee but also


simplify the process and make it accessible to every club, even


those with limited capability. Boxing is a poor infrastructure.


The money is to be welcomed. We have to look at the issue of the


boxing club because members are aware I represent the area and have


close knowledge of it and the challenges they face. Challenges in


terms of repeated instances of discrimination, sectarianism


against the club and members. We have fish issue of an All Ireland


Boxing Organisation which appears to be a cold house for Protestants


boxing. It is the responsibility and if they're not prepared to


address a, there are other remedies as far as the fraternity is


concerned, for example the club has been is affiliated on the grounds


that they don't have proper access and Northern Ireland clearance but


they do and can prove they do. have endured 10 years of


sectarianism. I am puzzled why the issue has not been raised with


previous culture ministers and now it is raised when we have a Sinn


Fein culture minister. A member of this house calls for a separate


Boxing Association but I feel this to be a mistake. As we know, soccer


is notorious for sectarianism... Which has dogged it over the


decades. The supporters are recognised as the best in Europe


and they're not sectarianism. Sectarianism and raised his head,


we need to challenge it, confronted and challenge it and condemn it and


resolve it. We need to move on. I am not ignoring the facts there was


insolence and allegations still around what happened. In fact, I am


on a record as condemning it and I'll do it again. I do not think


children involved in any sport including boxing should be subject


to that sort of abuse. It's ugly, horrible and it is wrong. I want it


to beat the affiliates with the Amateur Boxing Association. I


warned them to do that and what's more the boxing family want them to


do that because it's good for the support -- good for the sport. If


it wants to create its own affiliation it is up to them. It is


up to them. The criteria mentioned, it does not exclude. Sunday row has


been affiliated to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association so they


are entitled to an expression of interest. The Sports Minister,


Caral ni Chuilin. That amended motion calling for the formation of


a new Northern Ireland Amateur Boxing Association was passed with


48 votes in favour and 42 against. Our Political Reporter, Stephen


Walker, is with me. Let's talk about that boxing debate first,


Stephen. Anelays took up traditional positions. -- MLA plu


Mac at. Yes, we've heard many of the arguments before the start


they've been well documented in the press and newspapers. And


particularly surrounding this particular club and sectarianism.


The major development tonight is the motion supporting the


establishment of a Northern Ireland Boxing Association which is a major


development was the sports minister said if the club wanted to


affiliate to their association she would not have a problem with that


but it's clip from listening to the debate there are real concerns over


the issue of funding and that was something people came back to time


and time again and on the issue of funding, it was made clear she


feels boxing does have a history of underfunding and it's an issue she


says she is keen to address. other issue in the chamber, the


allocation of funding was subject to interesting discussion. It was.


This relates to an announcement made last Wednesday night talking


about economic measures and the leader was concerned about the way


the measures were announced. Why is it that once more last week this


executive make an announcement that was billed as a key economic


announcement, not to this House but to the media. Is there nothing


further you can do to curb to the office contents this executive has


for this house? I thank him for his point of order. This is an issue I


can assure him I raised continually with the executive. I also have put


a letter to bit ministers on the issue as well. -- to the ministers.


I say to the whole House this is an issue for the ministers and for the


executive, I always encourage ministers to come to his house with


statements of importance but it is up for the ministers to decide what


statements are important and what are not. I do have some sympathy


with the member on the point of order that his raised but these


issues lie with the executive. Those are the views of the speaker


responding to a question from Jim Allister. What's interesting about


funding is some people will be pleased if their pet projects get


money, others will be disappointed if money is taken away from their


projects. The danger is if some of the money is not spent, it will be


returned to the Treasury, one example is the building project on


the A five. There was concern it could cost executive millions of


lost funds by the end of the year the project does not go ahead. This


is high economic stakes. Stephen, for the moment thank you.


Well, the Finance Minister picked up on that point made by Mr


Allister, telling the House he's not afraid of scrutiny. Here's


Sammy Wilson outlining the detail of the budget realignment measures.


I am happy to make statements to the House and have then queried by


members. I do not think there's any intention of running away from the


scrutiny of members of this house when it comes to announcements


which need to be made and I look forward to the scrutiny of the


members who are in the House today to take the transforming your care


reform programme. This will not only transform the way it had


services are delivered to the benefits of citizens but will also


benefits of citizens but will also realise savings. The recurrent


savings from 2014/15 onwards and this is per year are estimated at


nearly �26 million. It represents a good return on this investment.


There's some �6.4 million of resource funding left on -- and


allocated because the remaining bids did not meet the requirements


of the scheme. This funding was then made available for


reallocation and it transpired there are significant delays in the


delivery of the road schemes. The delay has been most acute in


relation to the A five. The delay has resulted in an easement of


reach of development of a �31 million and in this financial year


and the executive agreed this would be managed by allowing the


department to reallocate internally to other areas on the condition


that this funding would be returned to the road schemes in 2013/14 and


2014/15. The funding will be used to accelerate wrote structural


maintenance and Northern Ireland projects. The delay has been caused


by legal action being taken and the issue remains unresolved and for


each month that passes, they will be an easement of �10 million which


means they could be up to an additional �50 million a returning


to the centre in this Bernacchi efforts of my officials carried out


an analysis of under Spencer -- and the... There was scope for


departments to surrender funding in the period 2013/15. It's important


for members to recognise in overall terms the spending performance in


2011/12 was good. The reduced requirements so rented by it


departments were greater than expected and successfully utilised


Meaney the underspend fell with in Do you believe that all departments


have declared their requirements at this stage and how confident are


you that a larger level reduced requirements were not present


themselves in generate? If there is likely to be an underspend, don't


leave it to the last moment because we do not have the flexibility that


we used to have in previous years, albeit we have negotiated some


flexibility. We do not have the open-ended flexibility that we had


in previous years to carry money forward. When we make announcements


which carry genuine effort by the Executive, to try and improve the


situation, I just find it intolerable that the first thing


that some of the commentators in Northern Ireland do is pick over it,


to see what bad news they can get out of it, rather than present it


as positive work for this Assembly. There are times we get things wrong


and deserve to be beaten for it but when we get things right we deserve


a credit. On that note, when people do get things right, they deserve a


bit of credit and I wonder if the minister would agree with me that


John O'Dowd and indeed previous education ministers fought very


hard, very, very hard for funding for building of schools and also


schools are States. I know old habits die hard but I wonder if the


minister of woke up this morning thinking how am are going to get at


Sinn Fein today? That is what it feels like on this side of the


house. I am coming to my question. Would the Minister agree with me


that the money secured by John O'Dowd for maintenance is money


very important for the schools estate? I have got to say, I am


surprised that the member's response because if she thinks I


wake up in the morning and think how can I get at Sinn Fein today,


she must think that I lead a very sad life! If one looks at the


statement, I have a funny way of getting that Sinn Fein. There are


�130 million worth of getting at Sinn Fein and the Education


Minister in the statement because there is �90 million directly for


schools budget, there is �10 million for capital investment next


year, for schools maintenance, there is money for schools


maintenance in this particular year and it all amounts to, I cannot


quickly add it up but it amounts to well over �120 million. I do not


think that the member can honestly say that I look at ways of getting


at Sinn Fein. Can I say this to the House, I do have my difficulties


with some Sinn Fein members. And ministers as well. But judgments


will not be made and let me emphasise, Mr Speaker, judgments


will not be made on the basis of whether I get on with the minister


or do not get on with the minister. Judgments will be made on the basis


of do we have money, is there a problem, has the Minister presented


that problem and made a case to justify needing extra money? If he


or she does, I do not care what party they come from.


The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson. Following the murder of David Black,


the Justice Minister David Ford, told his fellow MLAs there has been


a review into the security of prison officers. But first, here is


Mr Ford answering questions on the reopening of a hostel for ex-


prisoners, including sex offenders, in a residential area of north


Belfast. Is the Minister aware of widespread


concern in the community in relation to his decision to house X


sex offenders at Thomson House. Given the fact that there are well


over 2000 school children who use the Antrim Road at that area, going


to and from school during the course of the day, would the


Minister accept that he should reflect on this and review the


decision with a view to at least creating a moratorium on the


reintroduction of X sex offenders so that the Community could at


least have an opportunity to see how the situation might develop in


the future? Well, if that Mr McGuinness for that point but when


he refers to my decision, it is not my decision. Thompson house has


been accommodating offenders for 30 years, many of whom have been sex


offenders during that time. During that time there has been no


incident involving any child in the immediate area of Thomson House, by


a resident of Thomson House. The practical reality is the best


public protection that could be provided is by committing --


accommodating offenders in appropriate accommodation with the


level of supervision that exists in Thomson has, supporting the work


done by probation and others with their clients and externally. At


his best way of protecting the people of North Belfast and every


other area, and not somehow suggesting that we can solve the


problem by moving them to a different area. The reality is, the


record of all hostels which accommodate offenders, is an


exceptionally good one in terms of supervision and the public


protection they provide. I want to pay tribute to the professionalism


of the staff who continue to do a difficult job in a challenging


environment despite the shock, anger and sadness at the senseless


murder of a valued colleague. I have said several times we should


not underestimate the vital role prison officers to play in society


in terms of working with offenders to address behaviour, to


rehabilitate, to reduce the risk of reoffending and to enhance public


safety across Northern Ireland. This is a role which we are


continuing to build on. Members will be aware that the criminal


justice inspection conducted and announced inspection of the prison


in March 2012. While the final report has not yet been published,


initial feedback has been encouraging and it has recognised


it as an improving establishment. Can the minister did tell whether


there have been any reviews of security for a prison officers both


within and outside the prison complexes in recent weeks?


Certainly I can assure Mr Elliott that there have been significant


review of security measures for individual prison officers, both on


the issue of home security, the issue of weapons and the issue of


security going into establishments and leaving them. I do not think


the house would expect me to go into detail but there has been


significantly work done. I have had meetings with the Chief Constable


and others. I will be meeting the minister with responsibility for


the home protection scheme later this week. I can assure the member


that a possibility for further knife crime and the state will


remain under consideration and I will consider any additional


measures which would be effective in reducing knife crime. I thank


the Minister for his response. The previous two knife amnesty is led


to 14,000 knives being handed in. Does the Minister accept the while


this low-cost initiative is a useful measure among others to help


tackle the serious problem within our society? I appreciate the point


he is trying to make in how things are operating and how they worked.


The fact is, as he correctly highlights, there were nearly 1,500


weapons handed in in the two Amnesty's of 2006. However, the


total cost of that was �300,000. When he describes that as the low


cost, I am not sure it is an effective use of money in it


straitened times. I am open to any specific arrangements which would


seem to make a real difference. The reality is, we did not see that


particular amnesty, as opposed to a general trend in the use of knives


and crimes paying dividends. The Justice Minister, David Ford.


An upcoming visit to Northern Ireland by the minister responsible


for welfare reform in Westminster, Lord Freud, was just one of the


issues addressed by Stormont's Social Development Minister, Nelson


McCausland today. First though, Mr McCausland was asked about the


implementation of a pay-as-you-go system for people using oil to heat


their homes. This exciting new technology has the potential to


allow householders to pay for oil when they use it similar to how


people pay for their electricity and gas. I take a personal interest


in this. It is something I identify as a priority issue, along with


other aspects of addressing fuel poverty. The technology was piloted


for three months and was evaluated by Carillion Energy Services and


the Housing Executive. Both of those housing schemes were positive.


Those who took part in the pilot said they would recommend the


technology to other has told us. I'm disappointed that it is taking


so long to get this up and running but there are important issues to


be resolved in ensuring we address issues with the cost of the product


and the running cost associated with it. Thank -- I thank the


Minister for his update. Can the Minister give a firm timescale


given that we are now in the depth of winter as to when this scheme


will be mainstream? I welcome the fact that the member gave credit


for this, this issue of people giving credit for something which


has been achieved seems to be breaking out as a habit in this


house. I am disappointed it has taken so long. I cannot give a


timescale at present. It would be wrong to do that because there are


two issues of importance in there about the cost of the product and


the running cost. We need to get this right because it is such an


important issue for people, in terms of the cost of fuel and the


fuel poverty that can arise as a result. I'm disappointed we have


not quite got there yet but I continued to make it a priority. I


do not believe this is the place to go through the finer details of our


negotiations with Lord Freud. As the member will be aware, the


Welfare Reform Bill is currently going through the committee stage


of the Assembly and I have been listening to the views of the MLAs.


Those who have responded to the call for evidence and other


stakeholders who have been attending events held by my


department, I remain committed to hearing ideas on how we can


mitigate the negative aspects of welfare reform without reaching


parity. In my statement on 22nd October, I said that Lord Freud has


a genuine interest on the specific challenges which are facing us in


Northern Ireland. He has accepted my invitation to visit us in


November to discuss how we can address the impact of housing


benefit changes. He is aware of some of the issues in Northern


Ireland on how the housing sector can contribute to finding solutions.


Given the possible influence that could be exerted during the visit


the minister has referred to, is he concerned that because of a range


of delays, the committee, which is considering it, is aiming to


collude their work on the very first day of his visit? Is that a


missed opportunity? No, I do not think it is a. It is a matter of


real concern. I am content that the visit he is making is very much to


engage with and to listen to views which will be expressed. However,


it has to be borne in mind this is a devolved matter. The conversation


that must take place primarily is between obviously the committee and


stakeholders but priority -- primarily between myself and the


minister. We should not get the hold of this thing of running off


to Westminster or seeking to short- circuit things and some way or


think there is an easy answer by talking directly to Lord Freud. The


key thing is it is a devolved matter, it is a matter for the


Northern Ireland Assembly within the constraints we are aware of and


whatever comes Ford from the committee, I would certainly want


to give serious consideration to. Nelson McCausland. Our political


reporter, Stephen Walker, is with me again. Stephen, there was also a


motion on help for the construction industry today. That is right. It


was an SDLP inspired debate. It was after the pattern group in


Ballymena went into administration. Joe Byrne called on the Executive


to do more to help the construction industry. One issue which is


causing big problems and massive job losses, bankruptcy, pain being


experienced by workers and managers of the construction company. I have


got to say to members, if they wish to have more money put into


construction works, the first thing we have got a dig is where within


the programme for government will that construction set? What parts


of current spending do we sacrifice to do that? And thirdly, if we are


going to do that, how can we ensure that it is going to have overall


benefit for the Northern Ireland economy, one of course there are


all of the other competing interests? Sammy Wilson there.


Stephen, what should we be looking out for tomorrow? It is interesting,


because we had a debate about boxing. The debate about sport


continues. Stephen Agnew will be petitioning to make sport --


athletics a priority. Later there is a debate about the legacy of the


Paralympic Games so a lot of sport around tomorrow. And of course, our


First and Deputy First Ministers are on foreign shores? That is


right. They are on their way to China leading a delegation. They


are taking 35 companies with them. They are going to Shanghai and Hong


Kong. It is a huge market. What the first and Deputy First Minister are


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.