13/01/2014 Stormont Today


13/01/2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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they assess things. And our Political Correspondent,

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

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

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

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Fein brought a motion to the Assembly calling for the proposals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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public knowledge that the Alliance party basically rejected the

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proposals. It has always been my position that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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process was the input of civic society, demonstrating their strong

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

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and survivors of the conflict that he must take the opportunities

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

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past. -- to deal comprehensively and ethically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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about. I am in this House as a Unionist.

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

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document from Haass. Jim Allister distancing himself from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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they want to concentrate on discussions tomorrow. Peter Robinson

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

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

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

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independently chaired mechanism to reach agreement on outstanding

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

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

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

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limited degree. We had a substantive motion from

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

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the three amendments. In other business today, the Health

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

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

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

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

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

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problem. Last weeks circumstances were

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

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diverted work effectively. Normal arrangement resumed within a matter

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

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

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

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

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

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--? They were admitting over 110. There

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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more nurses in Northern Ireland. Health Minister Edwin Poots pledging

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his backing for Accident and Emergency staff in Northern Ireland.

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

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

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

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

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work could be done to get closer to a deal.

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

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

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reach agreement on outstanding issues. The unfortunate element of

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

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

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

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Unionist Party Alliance have indicated that they wish to be part

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the parties themselves will determine who was appropriate to be

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

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

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

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

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

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contribution to the lives of Northern Ireland and have a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Environment Minister took the opportunity of a Ministerial

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

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

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

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Members will be aware of my consistently expressed view that one

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

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

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

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all contributors in extending my condolences to all the families that

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

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were briefed. We all have responsibilities to ourselves and

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

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travelling on our roads is inherently dangerous, but on

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

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take their responsibilities seriously. One lapse can last a

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

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work together to reinforce this message and thank those leaders of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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leading this work. Mark H Durkan making clear his

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

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court case between the Agriculture Minister and her Executive

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

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Question Time. Simon Hamilton took legal action to prevent Michelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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goes onto the roads, it is responsibilities for the Department

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

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

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perhaps having it included in another department, perhaps the

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Department of regional development. The Rivers agency is about advising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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appropriate to take a court case without going through the executive

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

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

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discussions with the Finance Minister. Does the Minister realise

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and accept that there is a substantial difference that has

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

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

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

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

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

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

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approach on the back of a consultation on engaging with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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applies against her and her department, did she have any

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

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

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ministerial colleague? It is unfortunate that the minister went

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

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

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

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

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

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at and supporting rural communities, so some people are

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

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but the farmers are the natural custodians of the environment and

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

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

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

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

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

:22:50.:22:55.

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

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

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

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

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

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

:23:27.:23:30.

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

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

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

:23:43.:23:45.

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

:23:46.:23:52.

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

:23:53.:23:56.

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

:23:57.:24:02.

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

:24:03.:24:06.

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

:24:07.:24:11.

genuine and honest and in no way orchestrated.

:24:12.:24:14.

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

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

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

:24:30.:24:34.

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

:24:35.:24:38.

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

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

:24:43.:24:46.

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

:24:47.:24:51.

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

:24:52.:24:57.

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

:24:58.:25:03.

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

:25:04.:25:07.

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

:25:08.:25:11.

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

:25:12.:25:17.

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

:25:18.:25:21.

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

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

:25:27.:25:31.

something about it and has called the stakeholders together tomorrow

:25:32.:25:34.

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

:25:35.:25:40.

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

:25:41.:25:45.

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

:25:46.:25:49.

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

:25:50.:25:56.

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

:25:57.:26:02.

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

:26:03.:26:08.

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

:26:09.:26:11.

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

:26:12.:26:20.

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

:26:21.:26:23.

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

:26:24.:26:26.

annoyed others I saying that the Irish government brought the Dublin

:26:27.:26:31.

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

:26:32.:26:36.

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

:26:37.:26:41.

the Haass talks dominated the political agenda here for more than

:26:42.:26:43.

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

:26:44.:26:47.

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

:26:48.:26:49.

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

:26:50.:27:05.

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

:27:06.:27:08.

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

:27:09.:27:35.

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

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not have an agreement. There continues to be significant

:27:42.:27:44.

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

:27:45.:27:50.

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

:27:51.:27:55.

This afternoon he will share another round table meeting involving the

:27:56.:28:01.

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

:28:02.:28:08.

deadline. After weeks of discussions, the

:28:09.:28:11.

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

:28:12.:28:20.

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

:28:21.:28:27.

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

:28:28.:28:29.

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

:28:30.:28:36.

real privilege and we have worked with some extraordinary people and

:28:37.:28:38.

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

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

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

:28:50.:28:54.

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

:28:55.:28:58.

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

:28:59.:29:00.

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

:29:01.:29:53.

histgr9 A Napoleonic fig5ra a3p-dd 1

:29:54.:29:54.

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

:29:55.:29:58.

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

:29:59.:30:01.

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

:30:02.:30:06.

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

:30:07.:30:10.

much political strength that he could do almost everything he

:30:11.:30:14.

wanted. A

:30:15.:30:15.

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.