12/11/2012 Stormont Today


12/11/2012

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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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up in the next 30 minutes -

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the gloves are off as MLAs discuss allegations of sectarianism in

:00:30.:00:38.

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

:00:38.:00:48.
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sort of abuse. It is ugly, horrible and wrong. And with a ringside seat

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our Political Reporter Stephen Walker joins me with his insight.

:01:05.:01:07.

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

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Boxing Association separate from the existing all-Ireland governing

:01:10.:01:14.

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

:01:14.:01:16.

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

:01:16.:01:26.
:01:26.:01:28.

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

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They are poor at accessing funding and lack of facilities exacerbates

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

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

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

:01:45.:01:50.

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

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

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

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

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demonstrate the processes are there to ensure sectarianism has been

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taken out of the sport and everyone participating is free from

:02:13.:02:18.

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

:02:18.:02:24.

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

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

:02:30.:02:38.

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

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

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

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

:02:55.:03:03.

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

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

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

:03:13.:03:18.

delivered fairly across all sections of the committee but also

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

:03:21.:03:28.

those with limited capability. Boxing is a poor infrastructure.

:03:28.:03:33.

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

:03:33.:03:38.

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

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

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terms of repeated instances of discrimination, sectarianism

:03:52.:03:59.

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

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Boxing Organisation which appears to be a cold house for Protestants

:04:07.:04:12.

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

:04:12.:04:16.

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

:04:16.:04:23.

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

:04:23.:04:28.

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

:04:28.:04:37.

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

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

:04:42.:04:48.

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

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

:04:53.:05:02.

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

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

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decades. The supporters are recognised as the best in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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children involved in any sport including boxing should be subject

:05:46.:05:52.

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

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to beat the affiliates with the Amateur Boxing Association. I

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

:06:01.:06:04.

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

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

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

:06:16.:06:21.

been affiliated to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association so they

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

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

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a new Northern Ireland Amateur Boxing Association was passed with

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

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

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

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

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

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particularly surrounding this particular club and sectarianism.

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The major development tonight is the motion supporting the

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establishment of a Northern Ireland Boxing Association which is a major

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development was the sports minister said if the club wanted to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This relates to an announcement made last Wednesday night talking

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about economic measures and the leader was concerned about the way

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

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executive make an announcement that was billed as a key economic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:09:38.:09:43.

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

:09:43.:09:49.

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

:09:49.:09:54.

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

:09:54.:10:00.

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

:10:00.:10:03.

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

:10:03.:10:06.

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

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

:10:08.:10:15.

Sammy Wilson outlining the detail of the budget realignment measures.

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

:10:20.:10:25.

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

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scrutiny of members of this house when it comes to announcements

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

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

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

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services are delivered to the benefits of citizens but will also

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benefits of citizens but will also realise savings. The recurrent

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

:10:59.:11:06.

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

:11:06.:11:11.

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

:11:11.:11:14.

allocated because the remaining bids did not meet the requirements

:11:14.:11:21.

of the scheme. This funding was then made available for

:11:21.:11:26.

reallocation and it transpired there are significant delays in the

:11:26.:11:34.

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

:11:34.:11:42.

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

:11:42.:11:46.

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

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and the executive agreed this would be managed by allowing the

:11:51.:11:55.

department to reallocate internally to other areas on the condition

:11:55.:12:04.

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

:12:04.:12:09.

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

:12:09.:12:15.

maintenance and Northern Ireland projects. The delay has been caused

:12:16.:12:21.

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

:12:21.:12:26.

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

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

:12:32.:12:35.

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

:12:36.:12:45.
:12:46.:12:46.

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

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

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for members to recognise in overall terms the spending performance in

:12:56.:13:02.

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

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departments were greater than expected and successfully utilised

:13:06.:13:16.
:13:16.:13:17.

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

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have declared their requirements at this stage and how confident are

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you that a larger level reduced requirements were not present

:13:27.:13:31.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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situation, I just find it intolerable that the first thing

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

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

:14:08.:14:12.

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

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

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

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

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John O'Dowd and indeed previous education ministers fought very

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

:14:37.:14:43.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:15:07.:15:11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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year, for schools maintenance, there is money for schools

:15:41.:15:45.

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

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

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

:15:56.:16:01.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:16:40.:16:43.

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

:16:43.:16:47.

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

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

:16:50.:16:52.

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

:16:52.:17:01.

Belfast. Is the Minister aware of widespread

:17:01.:17:05.

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

:17:05.:17:11.

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

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

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

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Minister accept that he should reflect on this and review the

:17:29.:17:33.

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

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reintroduction of X sex offenders so that the Community could at

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

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

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

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

:17:59.:18:02.

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

:18:02.:18:07.

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

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

:18:15.:18:21.

public protection that could be provided is by committing --

:18:21.:18:24.

accommodating offenders in appropriate accommodation with the

:18:24.:18:27.

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

:18:27.:18:32.

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

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

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

:18:38.:18:42.

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

:18:42.:18:46.

record of all hostels which accommodate offenders, is an

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exceptionally good one in terms of supervision and the public

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

:18:54.:18:58.

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

:18:58.:19:03.

environment despite the shock, anger and sadness at the senseless

:19:03.:19:06.

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

:19:06.:19:11.

not underestimate the vital role prison officers to play in society

:19:11.:19:15.

in terms of working with offenders to address behaviour, to

:19:15.:19:19.

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

:19:19.:19:23.

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

:19:23.:19:27.

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

:19:27.:19:32.

justice inspection conducted and announced inspection of the prison

:19:32.:19:36.

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

:19:36.:19:40.

initial feedback has been encouraging and it has recognised

:19:40.:19:44.

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

:19:44.:19:48.

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

:19:48.:19:54.

within and outside the prison complexes in recent weeks?

:19:54.:20:01.

Certainly I can assure Mr Elliott that there have been significant

:20:01.:20:04.

review of security measures for individual prison officers, both on

:20:04.:20:10.

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

:20:10.:20:13.

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

:20:13.:20:18.

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

:20:18.:20:21.

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

:20:21.:20:27.

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

:20:28.:20:31.

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

:20:32.:20:35.

that a possibility for further knife crime and the state will

:20:35.:20:39.

remain under consideration and I will consider any additional

:20:39.:20:44.

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

:20:44.:20:51.

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

:20:51.:20:55.

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

:20:55.:20:59.

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

:20:59.:21:05.

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

:21:05.:21:10.

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

:21:10.:21:16.

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

:21:16.:21:22.

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

:21:22.:21:28.

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

:21:28.:21:32.

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

:21:32.:21:36.

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

:21:36.:21:40.

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

:21:40.:21:45.

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

:21:45.:21:51.

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

:21:51.:21:53.

An upcoming visit to Northern Ireland by the minister responsible

:21:53.:21:56.

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

:21:56.:21:58.

issues addressed by Stormont's Social Development Minister, Nelson

:21:58.:22:01.

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

:22:01.:22:04.

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

:22:04.:22:12.

their homes. This exciting new technology has the potential to

:22:12.:22:16.

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

:22:16.:22:21.

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

:22:21.:22:24.

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

:22:24.:22:28.

other aspects of addressing fuel poverty. The technology was piloted

:22:28.:22:34.

for three months and was evaluated by Carillion Energy Services and

:22:34.:22:41.

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

:22:41.:22:44.

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

:22:45.:22:49.

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

:22:49.:22:53.

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

:22:53.:22:59.

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

:22:59.:23:06.

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

:23:06.:23:10.

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

:23:10.:23:15.

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

:23:15.:23:21.

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

:23:21.:23:26.

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

:23:26.:23:30.

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

:23:30.:23:37.

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

:23:37.:23:42.

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

:23:42.:23:46.

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

:23:46.:23:51.

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

:23:51.:23:55.

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

:23:55.:24:01.

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

:24:01.:24:06.

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

:24:06.:24:10.

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

:24:10.:24:14.

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

:24:14.:24:18.

Welfare Reform Bill is currently going through the committee stage

:24:18.:24:21.

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

:24:22.:24:25.

Those who have responded to the call for evidence and other

:24:25.:24:28.

stakeholders who have been attending events held by my

:24:28.:24:32.

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

:24:32.:24:36.

mitigate the negative aspects of welfare reform without reaching

:24:36.:24:42.

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

:24:42.:24:46.

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

:24:46.:24:50.

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

:24:50.:24:53.

November to discuss how we can address the impact of housing

:24:53.:24:57.

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

:24:57.:25:03.

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

:25:03.:25:06.

Given the possible influence that could be exerted during the visit

:25:06.:25:10.

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

:25:10.:25:15.

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

:25:15.:25:19.

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

:25:19.:25:27.

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

:25:27.:25:34.

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

:25:34.:25:39.

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

:25:39.:25:45.

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

:25:45.:25:49.

that must take place primarily is between obviously the committee and

:25:49.:25:54.

stakeholders but priority -- primarily between myself and the

:25:54.:25:58.

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

:25:58.:26:02.

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

:26:02.:26:07.

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

:26:07.:26:12.

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

:26:12.:26:14.

Northern Ireland Assembly within the constraints we are aware of and

:26:14.:26:18.

whatever comes Ford from the committee, I would certainly want

:26:18.:26:22.

to give serious consideration to. Nelson McCausland. Our political

:26:22.:26:26.

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

:26:26.:26:34.

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

:26:34.:26:40.

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

:26:40.:26:46.

Ballymena went into administration. Joe Byrne called on the Executive

:26:46.:26:50.

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

:26:50.:26:56.

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

:26:56.:27:04.

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

:27:04.:27:08.

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

:27:08.:27:15.

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

:27:15.:27:19.

the programme for government will that construction set? What parts

:27:19.:27:24.

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

:27:24.:27:30.

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

:27:30.:27:35.

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

:27:35.:27:39.

all of the other competing interests? Sammy Wilson there.

:27:39.:27:47.

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

:27:47.:27:52.

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

:27:53.:27:59.

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

:27:59.:28:04.

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

:28:04.:28:08.

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

:28:08.:28:15.

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

:28:15.:28:19.

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

:28:19.:28:25.

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

:28:25.:28:31.

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

:28:31.:28:35.

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.