13/09/2011 Stormont Today


13/09/2011

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Martina Purdy 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. On tonight's programme: no extra

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parking charges in towns across Northern Ireland, but there's no

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reprieve for Belfast City Hospital's Accident and Emergency

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Department. While this urgent and necessary change has to go aahead

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now my objective as Minister for Health is to ensure safe and

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sustainable emergency provision in the long-term. Strange things have

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been happening in the chamber today? This may be a first, but I

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want to welcome the ministerial statement in respect of the

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reprieve granted to towns faced with the threat of onstreet car

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parking charges. Keeping me company tonight is political an analyst,

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Henry Bell. Mitt We touched on it last night, but now we have the

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full details of how our electoral map could change in the future.

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Let's look at the potential winners and losers with political analysts,

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Henry Bell. What are the main headlines? The big story is, of

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course, that Northern Ireland will lose two MPs if these are accepted.

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There is a cut down of MPs across the United Kingdom. We are not

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being hit too badly. One of the reasons for that is that we had

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large constituencies in terms of our electorate. Wales is being

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badly hit, losing ten MPs there. That is the broad picture. If you

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lose two seats, you are going to lose two MPs or potentially. That

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is one that will cause the problems in Northern Ireland. Let's look at

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Belfast first. How will that be re- shaped? Belfast has been losing it

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is population over the last 30 to 40 years. It will be taken down to

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three seats. This has been on the cards since the 1980s. Belfast in

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the 1950s had four seats, four seats out of 12. That is one third

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of the electorate of Northern Ireland within tighter boundaries

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of Belfast has today. If you look at it now, it's four seats out of

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18. Now it's brought to three out of 16. The the population has gone

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into Newtownabbey and other parts of Belfast. It's reflecting the

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fact. Now the other alternative was to do what they did before, bring

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Belfast out into the country, which has been happening. It's surprising

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when you see posters for North Belfast on the sp sandy Road Round

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about. The seat goes three ways. Really, the new seat will be much

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more East Belfast than South Belfast. And, although the SDLP

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will put a good face on it, it would not be a seat they could ever

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win. Stay with us we will talk about some of the other

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constituencies later. Up for questions today was the minister

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for Environment and Enterprise, Trade and Investment. In reply to

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party colleague, David Hilditch, Arlene Foster told the House that

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sport is very much at the heart of tourism strategy. Another member

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though was interested in a different sport. Speaks Gaelic

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don't know whether the Minister will be delighted or not. Given the

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huge number of people who travelled to the New Zealand for the rugby

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World Cup, has the Minister had or planned to have discussions with

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ministerial colleagues in the Executive or the Dublin government

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about the possibility of the rugby World Cup coming to this island in

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the future? As an Ulster rugby nan fan I would be delighted to see the

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rugby World Cup come to the British Isles, probably is a more relistic

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thing for us to hope for and I will give all of my support to them in

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that because we have a huge number of events coming up in 2012/2013.

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One of those is the World Police and Fire Games. That gives us a

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good opportunity to promote Northern Ireland and all we have to

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offer in relation to that sort of tourism. It certainly forms part of

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the package r-- pack package I want to promote. Mike Nesbitt who might

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return to golf? You are wise. Would the Minister agree that the

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potential for a chie achieving The Tourist Board's goals in terms of

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more tourists spending more per day and staying for longer lies not so

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much in the glamour of a four-day golf event but for the golfers who

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are here to play than to watch? Both actually. I do think that the

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member is right when we want to attract more golf tourists to come

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into Northern Ireland. The amount of publicity we will again frait

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holding major tournaments here will help us to do that. One of the

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reasons why the campaign, which we have been running on the home of

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champions, is to attract golf tourists into Northern Ireland, to

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play the courses where our brilliant champions come from. That

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has been proving very successful. And, he's right, in relation to our

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tourism spend figures, because we all know that golf tourism and the

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golf tourists do spend considerably more than just ordinary leisure

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tourists. Therefore, if we are to ensure that we reach those targets,

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in the emerging tourism strategy, that then we are very much needing

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more golf tourism and more spending of their money in ourville aims and

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towns across Northern Ireland. The Environment Minister was asked

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about illegal dumping of waste from the republic. Could I thank the

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member for his questions. The answer will surprise him as much as

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it surprised me. Because, during the last two years there has been

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only one incident of waste from the Republic of Ireland that's come to

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the attention of the Department. Now, the reason why I say that

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might be surprising is that you your intuewaition would tell you it

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might be more than given the history of illegal waste disposal

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in the North. There has only been one report as of now. I would ask

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we check the PSNI to determine whether they have awareness of any

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other such report. It's for the community to report to the

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Department or to the police if they are concerned about potential

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illegal waste being dumped in the North of Ireland. Ultimately, as

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one of my officials said to me earlier yesterday, the absence of

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evidence is not the evidence of absence. Thank you. Now, I thank

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the Minister and, yes, I am surprised given the quite extensive

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amount of media coverage, press coverage that there has been on the

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issue of illegal dumping. Certainly, my perception was that there was a

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strong cross-border racket, I suppose, in this area. Could I just

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ask the Minister that he is convinced that he is getting as

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much support as he would require from the statutory authorities on

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the other side of the border to help to identify whether or not

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this is a minute mim mall problem, as he has identified, whether or

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not le feels there is a need for greater coverage on matter? I thank

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the member for that supplementary. In one way, I can't go into some

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detail because, as Minister, matters are brought it my attention.

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When it comes comes to enforcement, in respect of criminal authorities,

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when the northern authorities and the southern authorities work

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together and work with the Gardai and the PSNI in tracking and taking

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action in those involved in cross- border and illegal waste activities.

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I'm absolutely certain that the co- operation is working effectively.

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That's why, of the 17 sites where there has been illegal dumping

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identified in the North, two of those sites have been cleared.

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There's one in BaliMartin in County Down currently being cleared. They

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may have been the critical sites and the other sites over the next

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five years will be cleared. Cleared at a cost of disposal of 100% to

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the Republic of Ireland authorities and at a cost of 0% of the cost of

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removal of the offending items from the North to the Republic of

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Ireland and 20% from our own coffers that demonstrates that the

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Republic of Ireland authorities are fully engaged and fully committed

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and very nearly fully funding this issue. The Health Minister put on-

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the-record his plans for the City hospital's Accident & Emergency

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department. It's been claimed the closure will place lives at risk. I

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deplore such ill founded and irresponsible comment. The clear

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fact of the matter, based on expert, clinical and management advice, is

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that, on the contrary, seeking to maintain the status quo would

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create risks that can no longer be managed safely. I recognise there

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are major challenges in managing that change. That is why I want the

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Assembly, and the public, to get behind the managers and clinicians

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in Belfast Trust and all the other affected organisations and do all

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we can to help this make this temporary change work. While this

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urgent and necessary change has to go-ahead now, my objective, as

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Minister for Health is to ensure safe and sustainable emergency

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department service provision in the longer term. Any decision on the

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permanent reconfiguration of emergency department services will

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be a matter for me, as Minister, to determine. It is a decision I will

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take only after I have listened to what key stake holders, in

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particular the public, and their representatives have to say through

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an a process of effective engagement and transparent

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consultation. Back to the boundary changes now. We spoke to three MLAs

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whose seats are affected. Well, obviously, the Assembly elections

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are based on the Westminster elections. If there are two less

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constituencies there will be 12 less MLAs. That doesn't pose any

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party any particular problems. They will all have to fight in the new

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16 constituencies are. I don't think it throws up any particular

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problem for Sinn Fein over and above the issues that all the

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parties will have to deal with. think that we all accept that we

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are over governed. We have too many MLAs we need to contract. This will

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reduce the numbers down by 12. That is the proposal to come from 108 to

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96. That is stpil generous. I think all parties are agreed. Most

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parties are agreed we need to look at that further and see a further

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contraction. Bearing in mind, we are reorganising local government.

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Bearing in mind, powers will go out to local government. It's hard to

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justify such a large political establishment here at Stormont.

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won't mean a better working Assembly, but it will mean, perhaps,

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some money will be saved and times are difficult. I think we are all

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prepared to take a bit, take a bit of the pinch that's out there.

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While, you know, it's always better to have a large number of Assembly

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members working very hard, serving the public, I think we are going to

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have to live with it. There will be reduction from 108 down to 96. That

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is, certainly, tolerable. Henry, we heard there from three MLAs, not

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great opposition to it though? I think everyone agrees 10 is

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perhaps too many. We are coming down to 96 not the end of it,

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bringing it down to a reasonable number. You must remember that you

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know, we have 650 MPs at Westminster. We have 10 MLAs here.

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The United States America has a Congress, lower house 450 and Upper

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House has slightly more. changes at Westminster will have a

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knock-on effect on the MLAs. Back to the Westminster seats then. What

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happens in the west, Pat Docherty's seat is likely to disappear? West

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Tyrone was one of the flaky seats. It only came in recently tsm was

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the last seat to come in moving us up from 17 to 18. It was blow what

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we call, "quota" it's the number of people in a constituencies. This

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bill is trying to make the seats as equal as possible. This is an old

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situation, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

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There has to be changes it's a reorganisation of the west of the

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province. West Tyrone goes, mid- Ulster is split. New constituencies

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of GlenShane comes in. GlenShane should probably go to Sinn Fein. If

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that happens, there will be no unionist in the west of the

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province for the first time in the history of Northern Ireland. That

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might cause a bit of concern because there are large pockets of

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unionism within that area, but no representation. So, that's

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something that maybe will come out when the inquiries begin in a few

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We will talk about the timetable a bit later. The department

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responsible for roads has done a U- turn on its plans to introduce on-

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street parking charges in 30 towns. We do not develop at minister Danny

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Kennedy said he did up believe it was the right time to implement a

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proposal. The chair of the committee, Jimmy Spratt, made the

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case that Belfast motorists would have to pay more to park. The

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announcement went down well with members, one in particular. Having

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listened to the key points from across Northern Ireland, I have

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decided I will not now introduce a new, on-street car parking charges

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in the proposed 30 towns and cities. I have heard a united voice in

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opposition to these proposals and I believe that not introducing these

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charges is the right decision in the current economic climate. Mr

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Speaker, I recognise that on-street charging can provide vital traffic

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management improvements. Indeed, on St charging has been operating in

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Belfast since 1987 and in Lisburn at Newry since 2008. I am very

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familiar with the skiing in Newry and I know it has brought

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significant improvements to traffic flows and access to retail and

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tourism attractions in the city. I am always open to requests to

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introduce on-street charging from traders and local councils in any

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town or city where they anticipate traffic management and commercial

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benefit. I that the Minister for his statement. It is disappointing

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that we see a 100% increase in on- street car parking fees over the

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next few years. Whilst there is the argument Belfast should not be the

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only place to bear the pain, it is equally true Belfast enjoyed a

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greater public transport trends -- provision and like towns in rural

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areas where the in adequate transport structure necessitates

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bringing cars into towns. This will adversely impact on rural dwellers

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and I also note from the Roads Service website that there are

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approximately 60 car parks with about 15,600 spaces where no

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tariffs are charged at all, and perhaps spreading the load would

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have been bettered. This may be a first, but I want to welcome the

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ministerial statement in respect of the reprieve granted to towns faced

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with the threat of on-street car parking charges, and particularly

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in Ballymena. The minister referred to the fact in regard to the pain

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there are 28 car parts coming into the charging regime. Can he

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identified those in respect of my constituency? Can he explain why D

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R D car parks run so much at a loss, whereas private car parks where the

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charging regime is not that different are very profitable

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operations? That must suggests inefficiency in the running of the

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departmental car parks. I am flattered to the extreme that the

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member has found it in his heart to welcome my ministerial statement.

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It really is a celebration of unrelenting destroyed on my behalf.

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The whole house will share in the enormity of the statement the

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member has made to date will stop Government red tape is holding up a

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building projects and leading to job losses according to the

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construction industry. 30,000 jobs have been lost in the sector since

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the downturn. Those representing builders, plumbers and politicians

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came to Stormont to press MLAs to do more to end bureaucracy. We feel

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money needs to come from the Assembly and pushed out onto the

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street to be spent on projects that will bring orders into work again.

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We have lost 30,000 jobs over the last three years. How do you get

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people back to work? What can the Government do? This a backlog of

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bureaucracy and holding up planning issues and procurement problems

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that does not allow the money to flow quickly enough to resolve the

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issues we have. Are there projects that could be going ahead at the

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minute that I stalled? Yes, they could come more quickly. That is

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the sort of issues we are bringing forward to the all-party group to

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see if they can approach ministers to alleviate these problems and get

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money released. What sort of projects are we talking about?

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projects I am aware of our infrastructure and fairly big

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projects. The money has been approved it would appear and we

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wonder when that is going to come out into the street. What feedback

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did you get? We got the feedback from the committee they will now go

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forward and strike and had a meeting with ministers, secretaries

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and people from various departments that these issues relate to.

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Hopefully we can sit in a room together and try and resolve the

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issues because the construction industry in Northern Ireland is the

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second biggest employer and his relative to a lot of people. With

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me now is the SDLP's Patsy McGlone who chairs the all-party group on

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construction. What is the hold up? The big things coming forwards were

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issues around procurement, getting new capital projects started, new-

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build schemes, hospitals, schools, getting those projects started.

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Infrastructure like roads and other things we could probably call red

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tape issues, procurement issues, tender issues and issues around

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planning. We identified a lot of the problems today. There were a

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number of solutions, such as the new green deal, which is much

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talked about. That means home insulation projects, for example

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for older people. They can stay in their homes and it costs them less

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to heat their homes. As a consequence, many can be kept out

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of hospitals. What they were saying was the capital projects are bare.

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The plans have been given the go- ahead, they cannot get the money

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out of the Government. If that is quite right. The issues coming

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before us today were issues of frustration and we had many sectors

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of industry involved today. We had professional people, people

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involved with the building trade, and those who were representative

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of builders and contractors. The big issue emerging today it was we

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have blocks of departments and what we agreed with the industry is that

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our next meeting should be with representatives of each department

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at very senior level, either ministerial or the more junior

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secretary at each department. The Parliamentary Secretary.

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construction representative said that Scotland and the Republic have

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particular schemes in place to try to hurry up the money so they can

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get working and get people back into work. Is that something

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Northern Ireland's Maze to have urges Lib? I absolutely. As their

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representative from Mid Ulster there is no place worse hit, such

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as Dungannon, where the unemployment levels have almost

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trebled. The reason is the downturn in the construction industry. There

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were solutions identified today. Well any of them happen? That is

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the purpose of today. The whole purpose was there were issues

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identified, solutions identified, problems are identified. Some of

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those problems involved payments coming out from the public sector

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pay. It is for us to take it to the next stage and bring all

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representatives together in one room with representatives of the

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industry and each one here from the other what the problem is and

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identify solutions. Unemployment is growing, people are finding it

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difficult to put a loaf on the table for their families and that

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is not good enough and we must deliver to the community. I have to

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ask you about the leadership campaign. The deadline is

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approaching. Who is going to be running against you? I am sure

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there is a lot of speculation in the media at the moment. There is

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one thing for certain, I am going to be there. I have been speaking

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to branches, listening to councillors and have covered a

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whole range of Spectrum in the party. I am enjoying it, it is

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political engagement, discussing politics. Where are you supporters?

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I will put it you this way. There is a broad spectrum of support for

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me. That is not for me as an individual. It is for a change in

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the party and for the benefit of the party and it is for us to move

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forward in the best interests of the people who elect us and in the

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best interests of the community. There was something of a love-in

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around the corridors of power yesterday following the Sinn Fein

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conference at the weekend. But as our political correspondent Martina

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Purdy told be, there is a notable exception.

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Sh in Fein are still spreading the love Tower, but the TUC leader put

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a question saying he was not happy with the Irish language bodies

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having a huge delay in their annual accounts. Her response did not

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making any happier. I detected a statement rather than a question.

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If the member was to write to me, I will be happy to answer his

0:24:410:24:47

question. We have become firm friends. If he is going to ask a

0:24:470:24:55

specific question, I am happy to answer him. Order. Is it in order

0:24:550:25:00

for a minister to mislead the House? To suggest I wrote to her

0:25:000:25:08

the other day? Order, order. Sense that exchange, Gemma Alastair has

0:25:080:25:13

issued a statement insisting there is no truth to suggestions he

0:25:130:25:17

writes regularly to the minister and they certainly are not firm

0:25:170:25:24

friends and he is also asking the Speaker to review his ruling.

0:25:240:25:29

are standing beside this impressive painting of the former deputy prime

0:25:290:25:35

minister and you have news of other artwork. This was done in 2003 by

0:25:350:25:39

the Belfast artist Rita Duffy after the commission decided there should

0:25:390:25:44

have portraits of the first and deputy ministers as well as the

0:25:440:25:54
0:25:540:25:55

speakers. Since then, there is no money any more. There is now a cap

0:25:550:26:01

on how much you can spend on a portrait. It is fired 1000. It is

0:26:010:26:07

limited to 25 inches by 37 inches. There is no projects on portraits

0:26:070:26:12

around Lord's trembled and the Deputy First Minister. Their

0:26:120:26:21

portraits are being done now. The Speaker of the transitional

0:26:210:26:26

Assembly, Irene Bell, her portrait will be unveiled next month.

0:26:260:26:30

A talk about the timetable and are these changes likely to happen?

0:26:310:26:36

There are two things which could derail them. It will not derail the

0:26:360:26:43

number of MPs. The 16 are set now. Unless the whole thing comes off

0:26:430:26:48

the rails. There are significant problems in England and Wales. It

0:26:480:26:52

is possible it might be postponed and not happen at the next election.

0:26:520:26:57

That is distinctly possible. The Lib Dems are getting cold feet

0:26:570:27:01

about this one. In Northern Ireland there will be an opportunity for

0:27:010:27:07

people to go to tribunals. There is a whole raft of issues. If you cut

0:27:070:27:11

a bit out of the constituency, you have got to compensate somewhere

0:27:110:27:15

else. There are towns like Ballymena which are going to be

0:27:150:27:19

left on the edge of the hinterland. There will be local issues,

0:27:190:27:24

political issues and the dreaded word gerrymander will come up at

0:27:240:27:28

some stage. The problem with single-member constituencies is

0:27:280:27:38
0:27:380:27:39

they are basically dictated in where they are. Patsy McGlone, your

0:27:390:27:44

party will be affected. What are your views are Ed? Essentially we

0:27:440:27:48

have to sit down ourselves and consider what the implications are.

0:27:480:27:54

My initial reaction is it seems crazy. It is a gerrymander. The

0:27:540:28:00

type of society it will lead to, the polarisation East and West,

0:28:000:28:04

where communities, and indeed the polarisation within the smaller

0:28:040:28:08

A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Martina Purdy 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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