13/03/2017 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, on the day


in the recent Assembly election came up to the chamber


But with the future of the devolved institutions right at the heart


of the ongoing talks between the parties,


the future of this place is, for now at least, far from clear.


For some it was the first day of school, but old friends


I extend a particular welcome to those who are present in the chamber


for the first time. We would also like to put on the record our


appreciation to those colleagues from all sides of the chamber who


either decided not to run, return were not re-elected.


But none of the 90 MLAs present can get back to work until the current


None of this is easy, it is all very difficult, but what we are focused


on is about bringing back devolution to Northern Ireland and that is


where my focus is I hope it's for everybody else's is as well.


And joining me to share his thoughts on today's developments


is Professor Rick Wilford from Queen's University.


They may have been successful at the ballot box ten days ago,


but this afternoon it became official as 90 freshly elected


politicians came to Stormont to formally sign in.


won't see the inside of the Assembly chamber for another fortnight


when the deadline to propose a First and Deputy First Minister runs out.


But ceremony waits for no man, nor deadline.


Please take your seats. Before we proceed with today's business, I


would like to offer my congratulations to all of you


following the election. As well as welcoming back former members, I


extend a particular welcome to those who are present in the chamber for


the first time. I would also like to put on a record our appreciation to


those colleagues from all sides of the chamber who either decided not


to run, return or I will not be elected. We thank them for their


service. Item two on the order paper it is the signing of the undertaking


and the rule of membership. Before we proceed, members, they might find


it helpful if the undertaking is read into the record. Clark, please


read the undertaking. The undertaking is as follows, to


undertake to support the rule of law unequivocally in word and deed and


to support our efforts to oppose it, to work collectively with the other


members of the Assembly to achieve the society free of paramilitaries,


to challenge all paramilitary activity and associated criminality,


to call for and to work together with the other members of the


Assembly to achieve the disbandment of all paramilitary organisations


under structures, to challenge paramilitary attempts to control


committee -- communities, to support those who are determined to make the


transition away from paramilitaries, to accept no authority, direction or


control or political activities other than the democratic mandate


alongside my own personal and party judgment.


45 minutes - that's all it took - and now the chamber sits silent


There is a symbolic value to today's procedure but it doesn't remove the


bigger issues forward at all, does it? Noel, it is a necessary


procedure they have to go through. On the first day, normally would be


electing the speaker. That has been put back by common consensus. Today,


the Senate chamber, there was a session there. From all parties in


the UK and elsewhere. Two minutes, half a minute each for them today.


When they get through it we can go into gardening leave for a couple of


weeks. Those who are not engage in their ongoing talks, of course. We


have to tread water for the next couple of weeks until maybe there is


a chink of light. Wright lives get your assessment of that talks


process. Do you see any sign at all of significant progress -- progress


at this stage? No, I don't. Wright do you have any hope there will be


in the two weeks remaining, theoretically? We don't quite know


what might happen beyond the 27th of March, ostensibly the deadline for


this round of talks. There may be an extended round of talks. As far as


broken Jaya can exercise. They started roundtable talks. -- James


Brokenshire. I don't think there is any significant sign of forward


movement at all. We don't know, for example, the extent to which there


are red lines on which party are putting down which red lines. Not


just Sinn Fein amid EU people. -- DUP. That has been postponed as an


issue and less until we get some agreement on issues. One of the


things Sinn Fein have been at some pains to stress is that this is


about implementing agreements that were struck in the past. I vividly


remember and he recounted in his member of the talks process, George


Mitchell, it is one thing to reach an agreement but it is something


completely different are actually implemented. That is where we are.


Wright we are supposed to see nominations for the first and equity


First Minister on the 27th. Wright I don't think anyone is holding a


great deal of breath for that to happen. We should have the election


speaker on that day. It is not clear who that would be. Probably not be


current person? Most unlikely. He lost the confidence of the majority


of the House before we went into election. Wright what are the


options? There has been an agreement between Sinn Fein and the DBT retain


his speakership. They are going to have to look else where. Maybe the


SDLP, maybe Alliance. Wright B have pretty much ruled themselves out.


There are two former Deputy speakers in the elderly group may. It could


be one of them. We will hopefully see in the next fortnight. -- here.


Rick, thank-you very much, we'll hear more from


Among the 90 MLAs signing in today were several new faces,


including Ulster Unionist John Stewart.


I spoke to him shortly after he'd signed the register and I asked


if he felt he was perhaps arriving at Stormont just as


There is a sense of an pension, nobody knows what's going on. There


is frustration for myself and many of my colleagues he want to get down


and get work done. At the moment that is not possible. What is your


personal delight at being successful in East Antrim offset by the party's


overall poor performance? Bittersweet, when I gave my


acceptance speech he was standing down and it was sad to see. We are


any results -based game of which seats are seen as points and we


dropped seats and in that respect it wasn't a great election for the


Ulster Unionist Party. You say you lost to seats and a leader. How


significant is that the party at such a critical time? It is not


ideal. I think the party is in a position where it has to get


together and look forward and see what we have to do for ourselves. Do


you think that was right to stand down? He just advised his decision


rightly. He felt was the result was me performance he had been looking


for. Who are you backing for the leadership? There is a process


going. The AGM will be held on the eighth. The process is open to


anybody. I am not sure who else is put their name and forehead. At the


moment, I have signalled to Robinson on that I be giving my support. Does


he look like a very strong contender? He does indeed. He is


very strong in his policy. He resonates with the public and I


think you do a great job for the Ulster Unionist Party. Did you come


a school trip if you use a good because you were so inspired what


you start that he wanted to pursue a career in politics and maybe come


back Sunday as an NLE? I with your instrument Stormont was in the


special as well. We came up and handy for oil tour of the building.


We met with some of the politicians. I said to my teacher was something I


really wanted to do. I wasn't involved in politics than 16 years


later here we are. How did the day feel for you, the realisation of


that? It was nice, the first time I had sat in the gene and is 2000 when


I was last year. To go from that to being an actual MLE it was a


frightening moment. If there is another election, your seat could be


vulnerable. Is that a scenario that keeps you awake at night? Not at


all. Nothing keeps me awake but what I am thinking about is getting on


the ground in addressing the issues that constituents have brought to


me. I am not thinking about another election. I am not worried about it.


Every seat is up for grabs and will be fighting to hold onto what have.


Are you optimistic that the ongoing talks process will be successful and


the institutions will be up and running again sooner rather than


later? We have two. The public overwhelmingly gave politicians a


mandate to go out. There is an expectation from the public we have


to get things up and running again. I am optimistic and I think people


have to be. We have to get around the negotiating table.


And I'm now joined by another first-time Member,


Thanks for joining us. Congratulations on your success in a


Lagan Valley. You try to win a seat number of times before, your third


attempt at the Assembly. Did you really believe you can do it this


time? We went from a very loyal and increased early vote. We felt there


was always going to be belief and we felt it was possible. It was a case


of trying to engage people, show them we can do it and it was OK. You


backed yourself, that's the important thing. I did indeed. You


benefit from the cancer. His comment paid dividends? That is something


that has been going on. -- you benefited from the Ulster Unionist


Party ends. It worked the other way as well. A lot of constituents's


roads were gone to elect other members of the Assembly who are here


at the moment. It worked out fairly evenly. It was helpful to me in the


Lagan Valley that I got that cross community support. I remember on


Friday night, it just sort of happened when you interviewed me


just after the result has come in and I genuinely don't see... I want


to be representative of all of that one community I don't see too. That


is all this together trying to do better. Is that what you believe


your mandate as for Lagan Valley, to represent everybody in that


constituency, not just the SDLP? Absolutely everyone. I had an old


life, a life in bars. I didn't ask who came through the doors whenever


the Cayman in order to be served are looking for something to eat. We


have to be representative of everyone and take everyone's


concerns, worries and fears and bring them up here, thrash it out


and begin to deliberate. I look for are you this is an Assembly that can


get up and running and make a difference if it does get up and


running? There is a lot of fear in politics another Mallard isn't


really going anywhere at the moment. We're just treading water.


There is a fear there but I am ready to engage. I am more than ready to


go out there and do the hard work. To make Northern Ireland work. Every


door that a knock-on, I promise to do that I would go out to make


Northern Ireland work. It's my home and wants to be represented above.


I'm sure that the people that footage for me, I want to know is a


costly demand. -- I want to be known as the cost community man. I'm going


to run it like the business. That is what I promise was. It would be a


huge disappointment for you if this doesn't work. If it doesn't work, is


doesn't work. But it would be a huge is a bond for everyone. I wanted to


work. I genuinely want the PR image in Ireland today better. We deserve


better. The two largest things I believe are coming down is we have


Brexit and the health service. I would see that we are against. That


was the main concern on the doors. There are other parts of. There are


business people that need certainty. They need to see that they are


represented. Business itself is a volatile market out there. The world


is not waiting for us. It's outside. We've issue of the best. You very


much indeed. So, talks to restore


devolution are underway. It's been a week since the first


meetings between parties took place. James Brokenshire and Charlie


Flanagan have been on hand One of the issues that has dogged


every Assembly and agreement has been the past and how


to deal with it. Today is European Victims' Day


and earlier the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, took a break


from talks to meet with We'll continue with those talks are


today. Dealing with the past and with the legacy is only part of what


we have to deal with. It's a very aborted part and one which I


personally take a great interest and for obvious reasons. -- it's a very


important part. Some people take a very different opinion of things.


How do you square between giving people what they want and satisfying


Sinn Fein's demands. Is that about opinion, it's about fact. That's the


difficulty. Different narratives have arisen in relation to what


actually happened. I think we have to get back to the situation. That


is that 90% of those that were injured or murdered was by


terrorists from Ida Royalists Republicans. That has to be


recognised. -- from either royalists or Republicans. There can be no


rewriting of the past. One of the issues that we really need to deal


with is the definition of a victim. That still continues to cause a


great deal of pain and hurt to those people who are innocent victims


because on the current definition of a victim, that includes the


perpetrator, that is simply wrong. It should not be allowed to stand.


On the second week of these talks, what are the chances of a deal being


done? We still as a party remain committed to writing the return of


devolution because he believes it's the best thing for all of Northern


Ireland. We hope that everybody else enters the top with those -- the


talks with that focus. Does that in any way make life easier in terms of


what you are trying to do? None of easy. What we're focused on is being


backed devolution to Northern Ireland. I hope everybody else is


focused there as well. Arlene Foster telling Gareth Gordon


she's focused on the task ahead. However, when Sinn Fein spoke


to reporters earlier the talk wasn't The British Tories are on the verge


of triggering Article 50. That is going to take the north out of the


EU against the express wishes of the majority of people here. That is


also against the express wishes of the more majority of parties across


as Ireland. They are continuing to refuse to listen to the majority of


use and they are refusing to honour their commitments and agreements.


Brexit, as you stated on many occasions, will be a disaster for


the economy. For eyes, that increases the urgency for a


referendum. The people of Scotland... Brexit has increased the


urgency for a unity referendum. We believe that should happen sooner


than possible. It's very clear that a lot of conversation has moved on.


The wider population is discussing the future constitutional position


of the silent as a result of Brexit. -- of this island as a result of


Brexit. And away from Stormont


the big political story was Scotland's First Minister saying


she would ask for permission to hold a second referendum


on Scottish independence. You heard Michelle O'Neill say


there that Nicola Sturgeon's move had no bearing on Sinn Fein's


renewed call for a United Ireland. Over in the grounds


of Stormont Castle, the Irish Foreign Minister,


Charlie Flanagan, was here again for talks and he was asked


for his perspective on the issue. It's not something to which the


Irish Government will make a comment either way. On the basis that this


is entirely a matter for the people of Scotland and entirely an issue


for the British Government and the Scottish administration. However,


while I'm silent on the matter of Scotland, that does not pertain to


Northern Ireland, where of course I have a stakeholding. Irish


Government is cool, two of the Good Friday agreement. As far as a


consideration of border controls, these are longer term issues. It's


more potent to do with the urgent things. For instance, the


administration up and running here and the need to agree a budget. They


need to put together a programme for the Government for the people here


are not around. Also, the imminent withdrawal of the UK from the


European Union. Anything else is premature and for the longer term.


Charlie Flanagan talking to reporters this afternoon.


And Rick has rejoined me for a final word.


Is the renewed debate over Scottish independence likely to influence


events in this part of the world over coming months?


It's certainly going to give a bit of a sprint to the step of


nationalists that are keen to propose and ferment the idea of the


border poll. I miss you mean that when she asked for permission, --


I'm mushrooming of that when Nicola Sturgeon asks... They have turned or


see proposal. Interestingly enough, the polls in Scotland haven't


changed very much since the first referendum. For some time, there's


been a contingency about the UK as a state. We are a fluid state and not


a steady state. What this does is further warbles the extent to which


the union can hold. The centrifugal forces are recovered. Whether the


centripetal forces are, this will be a consequence of what the outcome of


the Brexit negotiations are. Chris saw it has a bearing on out? --


sultanate has a bearing on as you? Brexit is not just a small evidently


from it large elephant in the room. It dominates. Nobody likes an


election more than you and me. The chances of another snap election?


I'd be very surprised if Brokenshire takes that step. He has forgotten


his opportunity to go to the White House. -- he has forgotten his


opportunity. My best guess would be that we have an extended period of


talks beyond this. If they fail, I suspect... We will see. Thank you


for now. That is it for tonight. Our next scheduled


Stormont Today isn't That's the deadline


for the nomination of the First Meantime, I'll be back


with The View on Thursday night The very embodiment of the England


that must emerge. I have my own path to follow.




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.

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