13/01/2014 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Hello and welcome to the first Stormont Today of 2014. Coming up in


the next 30 minutes: He may have gone home, but the talks process


chaired by Dr Richard Haass is still dominating the agenda at Stormont.


I, like many others, and disappointed by the reaction. There


has been a failure of leadership. Crisis, what crisis? The Health


Minister talks down last week's major incident at the Royal Victoria


Hospital. I wish our politicians and media would be more mature and how


they assess things. And our Political Correspondent,


Gareth Gordon, joins me to cast his eye over the day's proceedings.


Perhaps it was no great surprise that the inconclusive Haass talks,


which concluded two weeks ago, dominated today's proceedings. Sinn


Fein brought a motion to the Assembly calling for the proposals


on flags, parades and the past to be implemented, but were met with


Unionist opposition. Here's a flavour of today's debate.


This is not a Republican document. This is a document that Republicans


can support in the belief it will move our society forward. We took up


the challenge. It is our belief that significant progress has been made


on to-macro of the issues. We need to have calm reflection on what


happened during those topics. I know that in the final negotiations it is


public knowledge that the Alliance party basically rejected the


proposals. It has always been my position that


no deal is better than a bad deal. I do not believe that taken as a


package that this was a good deal. I start from that process. It is only


worthwhile if it is going to improve the situation. My Alliance


colleagues know what it takes to compromise and we will not be found


wanting. We have made a significant contribution to the process. We have


acknowledged that the proposals are a basis on which to make progress.


The Alliance party has committed to deliver what is in the document. The


real issue is not those who sign up and those who do not. It will be


those who deliver and those who do not. The strongest part of the


process was the input of civic society, demonstrating their strong


desire for resolutions of the issues that face us. It is for the victims


and survivors of the conflict that he must take the opportunities


afforded us now to deal on the heads of wheat and ethically with the


past. -- to deal comprehensively and ethically.


I believe that Sinn Fein has shown leadership. I am disappointed from


the reaction of their DUs be. -- of the DUP and UUP.


She said it was not a full social and it was not the end the process.


She said we should have a forum. That confirms the position of the


first Minister and the leader of my party in seeing that there has been


work carried out, but there is still much work to do. I am very pleased


that a meeting has been called tomorrow to try and bring that


about. I am in this House as a Unionist.


When I read the seventh two minutes from Haass -- when I read the


document from Haass. Jim Allister distancing himself from


the Haass proposals. I'm joined now by our Political Correspondent,


Gareth Gordon. Gareth, two weeks into the new year, Haass is still


dominating the political agenda. Nothing seems to have changed. The


time of the debate slipped until later and later. The times of the


press conferences got later and later stop two weeks on nothing has


changed. You watch the debate today. Was that any sign of movement in any


of the parties positions? No. Just to be more detailed, the to-macro


nationalist parties, say they want full implementation, and the DUP say


they want to concentrate on discussions tomorrow. Peter Robinson


said today that their work on the Haass proposals should examine in


detail all 340 elements of the seventh Haass document. That will


take some time, one would presume. The Alliance want a time limited,


independently chaired mechanism to reach agreement on outstanding


issues. That sounds like the process we have just had.


The mood of the debate struck me as being good-tempered. It was


reasonably civilised. But still very resolute. The endgame has begun to a


limited degree. We had a substantive motion from


Sinn Fein to prevent the Haass proposals. That was defeated as were


the three amendments. In other business today, the Health


Minister, Edwin Poots, has told the Assembly there is no crisis in


Northern Ireland's Accident and Emergency units. Mr Poots was


responding to an Urgent Question from the SDLP following last week's


major incident at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. For his part,


the Minister was critical of both political and media reaction to the


problem. Last weeks circumstances were


exceptional. The escalation plan which included and that is as being


diverted work effectively. Normal arrangement resumed within a matter


of hours. We were shocked to see what happened at the Royal Victoria


on Wednesday. This is about accountability. How a decision in


one area could potentially affect another. In this case it has


affected other areas negatively. Is the tail wagging the dog? Wednesday


was a symptom, not a cause. What did happen at the Royal Victoria Mr Mac


--? They were admitting over 110. There


was a degree of backing up. I wish our politicians and media would be


more mature and how they assess things. Three hours after the


emergency plan was initiated things were back to normal. Why do you


refer to 12 and eight our waiting beaches rather than the NHS target


of being seen within four hours? Things are measured differently in


other parts of the UK than they are in northern Ireland. I will give all


the support to ensure that working conditions are good and that they


can provide the public with a great service and that they can do it in


an environment where they are able to carry out their work in an


appropriate way. We have 100 extra doctors working in the health


service in Northern Ireland since I took office. We have the percent


more nurses in Northern Ireland. Health Minister Edwin Poots pledging


his backing for Accident and Emergency staff in Northern Ireland.


We heard earlier the Assembly debate on the Richard Haass proposals, but


the First Minister also covered the topic when he faced questions in the


chamber. Peter Robinson said he doesn't expect Dr Haass to return to


Northern Ireland, but he said there is agreement in some areas and more


work could be done to get closer to a deal.


How do you see the process moving forward after the Haass docs? What


is required if we are to move forward in Northern Ireland is to


reach agreement on outstanding issues. The unfortunate element of


the Haass process has been that we now know that what they believed


would be possible. It is necessary for a working group to sit down, to


work out where further work is required. I know that the Ulster


Unionist Party Alliance have indicated that they wish to be part


of such a process. -- the and the Alliance. I hope that when the party


leaders meet tomorrow they can reach that kind of agreement. who should


chaired the next step of the process? Does he envisage Richard


Haass returning? I do not know. I think there are laws against


inhumane treatment, so I do not know if we would want to push Richard


Haass to return. I think certainly, I would be very happy if he did


return, but I suspect when he indicated that he was leaving on


December 31, it wasn't going to go beyond that, but that is his fixed


decision. I know that the Secretary of State has offered herself to


chair the next phase of the process. Again, I would be quite


content with that. But the choice of who chairs has been left with the


five parties collectively, that is how Richard Haass was appointed, so


I suspect if the parties are agreeable to a further phase, then


the parties themselves will determine who was appropriate to be


the chair. Let me say this in relation to the programme that seems


to have stirred up this interest, Ian Paisley has been a major figure


in public life in Northern Ireland for many generations. He was active


while most of us in this chamber were not born or were in short


trousers or plaid skirts. The fact remains, he made an enormous


contribution to the lives of Northern Ireland and have a


fantastic legacy that he has left. It saddens me that it is being


betrayed in the way that this programme appears to do it. But it


does not take away from the very significant role that he has


played. I honestly believe that if we are going to have interviews


about the past, it is far better to have them when they are fresher in


people 's memories. The First Minister, Peter Robinson.


The Environment Minister took the opportunity of a Ministerial


statement to reflect on recent road deaths. Mark H Durkan will meet


members of the Northern Ireland Road Safety Forum tomorrow. Six people


have died on the roads since the start of the year.


Members will be aware of my consistently expressed view that one


death on our roads is one death to many. I have personal experience, as


do other members, of the effects of a life lost on our roads and the


impact that it can have on a family, and I join with Minister Kennedy and


all contributors in extending my condolences to all the families that


were briefed in this tragic manner over the past couple of months. --


were briefed. We all have responsibilities to ourselves and


others when we use the roads. Recent events have reinforced that is


travelling on our roads is inherently dangerous, but on


occasions, we forget that. I, therefore, urge all road users to


take their responsibilities seriously. One lapse can last a


lifetime and can cost a life. I know that I can rely on all members to


work together to reinforce this message and thank those leaders of


society who have done so already. I have also called a meeting of the


rolled safety stakeholder Forum tomorrow to discuss these events. --


road safety. Every road safety casualty is a tragedy. We have made


tremendous strides in recent years to reduce casualties on our roads.


Further progress requires ongoing, joined up effort will stop I am


personally committed to playing a full part in leaving this work. --


leading this work. Mark H Durkan making clear his


commitment to tackling the number of deaths on our roads. The Christmas


court case between the Agriculture Minister and her Executive


colleague, the Finance Minister, came up quite a bit today during


Question Time. Simon Hamilton took legal action to prevent Michelle


O'Neill going ahead with her plan to transfer 7% of Common Agricultural


Policy funding to rural development projects. But first up, flooding.


Given the fact that my understanding is water when it is in Belfast Lough


is the responsibility of one agency and when it enters the rivers, it is


the responsibility of the Rivers agency, if it goes on to the ground


it is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, if it


goes onto the roads, it is responsibilities for the Department


of the roads. Rivers agencies, with all of responsibilities it has, at


times of flooding, why should they continue... Can they see the logic


perhaps having it included in another department, perhaps the


Department of regional development. The Rivers agency is about advising


the entire group under the elements in terms of the weather and the


potential that could have occurred. In terms of the overarching... It


was a multi-agency approach, it was multi-agency because of the various


responsibilities and this comes back to the point that was raised on the


back of the report for it looked at what is the responsibility, should


there be on responsibility for the overarching flooding issue. It is


something that will be considered on the wider view of departments and


what should be done. I wrote to all ministers and Department seeking


their views on the issue of my pillar transfer and the potential


for transfer. EDF P Minister made no response to that. They thought it


appropriate to take a court case without going through the executive


and the normal procedure, so that is the correspondence I had with


ministers prior to the decision. The minister has been alluding to the


discussions with the Finance Minister. Does the Minister realise


and accept that there is a substantial difference that has


occurred between before 2007 and since 2007 that issues like this too


needs to be brought before the executive for approval, rather than


simply proceeding on a stand-alone basis? I took this decision on the


basis that this is the core business of my department, I saw no reason to


take it to the executive. The remote of my department is to improve the


infrastructure of local communities, and this is a decision on a balanced


approach on the back of a consultation on engaging with


stakeholders, that looks towards the needs of farmers, the environment


and road dwellers and rural businesses, so for me, the transfer


rate was logical to take forward. The court, the minister had no issue


with the transfer rate when he was written to and made no response to


that, but yet, they failed to have executive discussion but wanted to


go to court, we need to look at the motivation and is at a politically


motivated the session. In view of the early comments from the Minister


and the public, political slapping about which the DUP Finance Minister


applies against her and her department, did she have any


comments to make on the failure of political leadership which were the


words used in the judgement as a result of the case taken by her


ministerial colleague? It is unfortunate that the minister went


to the court as opposed to going to the executive to have a reasoned and


logical discussion will stop I would question the motives as to why that


would happen? I will not be sidetracked. This decision has been


taken and we have no transfer rate, we have an opportunity to review


that and we will look towards that. We have to be serious about looking


at and supporting rural communities, so some people are


attempting to portray this as it is farmers and versus the environment,


but the farmers are the natural custodians of the environment and


depend on it, so it is about a balanced approach.


Michelle O'Neill. MLAs took time today to pay tribute to the former


NIO Minister, Paul Goggins, who died last week. Mr Goggins came to


Northern Ireland as a Junior Minister in 2006, and was Minister


of State for three years from 2007. Paul Goggins came here some years


ago as a junior minister. Many of us met him as a stranger. But he very


quickly became a trusted Minister and in time, a valued friend to all


of us. Many former Northern Ireland office ministers, when they become


ex-ministers, they will be periodic the referring to their time in


Northern Ireland, it was not the same with Paul Goggins. He had a


deep sense of companionship, of humanitarian work, until of the


people of Northern Ireland. I took over some of the Wallace is he had


in the health departments, the smoking ban in public places, the


suicide policy, and also work in negotiations with him to make sure


that the foreign to rescue service was part of the new police training


college. In those respects, he touched the lives of everybody in


Northern Ireland. He had a very personal style and genuine approach


to politics. He was contrasting in a lot of ways to the kind of what was


expected of new Labour politicians, he seemed to offer a warmth that was


genuine and honest and in no way orchestrated.


Tributes paid to the former Northern Ireland Minister, Paul Goggins, who


died last week. Gareth Gordon has rejoined me. Paul Goggins was


universally popular. Yes, as is the case with all walks of life, some


people are held with more genuine affection than others, and he seemed


to be well liked across the political spectrum. I looked at the


tributes paid to him in Westminster last week and they were similar to


those paid in Stormont from all sides, it's not all people get warm


tributes from Sinn Fein and the Orange order, Paul Goggins was one


man that did. The Richard Haass talks are a big issue of discussion


today, but also, road safety. From having one of the worst road safety


records in the world, Northern Ireland seems to have turned a


corner. Year-on-year, things were improving, that reversed last year.


In the first 13 days of 2014, six people had been killed on our roads,


in different circumstances, but it is a figure that has shocked many of


it has shocked the Minister responsible. He feels he must do


something about it and has called the stakeholders together tomorrow


for a meeting to discuss what, if anything, can be done. The


government can do so much, it is ultimately up to the road users to


do something as well. And what you think the impact is likely to be of


the 2-part BBC television series on the life and times of Ian Paisley,


the former DUP leader? That is still unfolding, he was a major political


figure. He is, for some people, a figure dating into history. He is


largely retired from public life, but his words can still have an


impact when he speaks. The first part of that documentary has already


caused waves. It is believed to please many nationalists about civil


rights and the state of Northern Ireland in the 60s, but it has


annoyed others I saying that the Irish government brought the Dublin


and Monaghan bombings on themselves. What he is said about the DUP in the


next programme, that will have the real impact. Gareth thank-you. Well,


the Haass talks dominated the political agenda here for more than


six months. As today's proceeding showed, there's still little sign of


consensus, though that's not for the want of trying on the part of


Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan. For those of you have not met me, I


am Richard Haass and this is Meghan O'Sullivan. We are all here to


launch this political process. Nice to see you. How is it going? It


is going. The not so good news is that we do


not have an agreement. There continues to be significant


differences, and if it does make sense to return, we will do just


that. Richard Haass's Christmas in America lasted a mere three days.


This afternoon he will share another round table meeting involving the


five executive parties. Let me be clear, Monday is our absolute


deadline. After weeks of discussions, the


talks have ended without multiparty agreement. We would not have had to


spend the last six months commuting back and forth, but if you ask me do


we now have in place a foundation and a serious possibility for


meaningful political progress, the answer is yes. This has truly been a


real privilege and we have worked with some extraordinary people and


it is safe to say that we will remember this for ever, but that


does not mean that we are eager to get home. I expect we will see some


of you have not all of you again in the future. Thank you very much. --


if not all of you. That's it for tonight. I'll be back


tomorrow night at the same time, 11.20 on BBC Two. Until then, from


everyone in the team, good night. A Napoleonic fig5ra a3p-dd 1


histgr9 A Napoleonic fig5ra a3p-dd 1


histgry, sithall ph!t A Napoleonic fig5ra a3p-dd 1


history, with all that that i-plie3. He's not someone that you see and


you can stay indifferent about. You have an opinion. You love him or you


hate him, you're afraid of him or you want to be with him. He had so


much political strength that he could do almost everything he


wanted. A


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.