14/05/2012 Stormont Today


14/05/2012

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


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Hello and welcome to the programme. People may be biting their nails in

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Manchester, but there is probably more unity between both sets of

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fans than the DUP and Alliance Party these days. We have seen

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failure on the part of some parties to assess what is really the case.

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Perhaps they can get their head out of the sand and start attending

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more meetings, stop trying to delay its meetings and make a more of a

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contribution. There are plenty of fast movers in

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parliament buildings but who is this?

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And without me throughout, David badminton.

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With public spending heading just about all levels of society here,

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small organisations are finding themselves facing hurdles as they

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struggle to help vulnerable people. Today, Assembly members decided to

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do their bit. Action Mendel Cao health is to be the charity of the

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year. -- action mental health. This Assembly has a charitable

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policy that we can work on for the number of years and this is the

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first time we have chosen this charity. No charity or a member. --

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or official in the past could collect money. We are now, as a

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commission, think we have a policy and we intend to implement that in

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the next year and get it out there for our members and Assembly but

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also for officials here within the Assembly.

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What will this mean for you? We are delighted by this a nomination by

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the Speaker and the Assembly Commission. It means all those

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people who are suffering with mental health issues will hopefully

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get an agenda and they will understand what the issues are. We

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will bring it to them in Stormont. Is it about raising money or is it

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about affecting government policy? It is about raising money primarily

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and trying to involve as many of the committee staff and MLAs in

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doing activities around the Stormont estate but also, about

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influencing policy. We want to make sure we have the resources to

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provide the services that our clients require. It is difficult in

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Northern Ireland because we have higher levels of mental health

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problems than elsewhere in the UK, yet it is still seen as the

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Cinderella service. It has been underfunded for the last six years

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or so. It is estimated we are up to 25% underfunded. We have a

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marvellous blue paint in a review completed in 2007. -- blueprint.

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Not much has changed since the report was published in terms of

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what services people get? We are moving in the right direction.

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There needs to be more resources and a political will and critically,

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more joined-up working between the various sectors. There's the

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statutory sector, ourselves and our community and voluntary sector and

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we need to work more closely together. What does that mean for

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people on the ground trying to access services? It means that the

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appropriate services are there and available for them, bad people have

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the right information and also that they are opened at particular times

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for those clients. The Speaker has said he is to take

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action to try to end the practice of members withdrawing questions

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after they have been published. It became clear why when four of the

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first five questions to Peter Robinson were cancelled.

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Nevertheless there was plenty to cover.

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The Minister for Social Development has indicated that work is still on

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going to develop a more accurate estimate of of the combined impact

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of the proposed welfare reforms. The Department for Social

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Development's early estimates are based on the application of the

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Department for work and pensions ball calculation for the situation

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here. These estimates are suggesting that over 10,000

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children will be lifted out of poverty as a result of the

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introduction of the Universal credit. This would be a real

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benefit in our fight against child poverty. The Executive recently

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established a sub-committee to consider the implications of

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welfare reform. It is considering how to optimise the delivery of

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welfare reform in Northern Ireland within the financial and

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legislative constraints under which we operate. To date, the committee

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has met on four occasions since the start of the year with the next

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meeting schedule is to take place later today on 14th May. Could I

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ask the junior minister at that he will give eight reassurance that

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the figures of children below 60% of median UK income, but will not

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simply be reduced by measure how we define child poverty? -- measuring.

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The determination is to do what we can to reduce Gerard property. We

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can't deviate child poverty in a statistical analysis. We can look

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at the low income target, and then the absolute low income target, the

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persistent poverty target and we can talk about it in terms of an

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amalgamation of each of these targets. The target that has been

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taking in the Child poverty act is 60% of the UK it median average. --

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UK median average. There will be no attempt to manipulate that. That is

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set down within the Act. Robinson took back the reins for a

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question on Community regulations and there might be some were with

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his Alliance colleagues... -- some work needed. Should there be Office

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of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister funding for

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bonfires? I have personal experience from a local government

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standpoint of supporting the schemes and I think they are

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valuable in insuring that the bonfire season, if I can call it

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that, is turned into a wider festivity and that it encourages

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keeping he states as clean as possible during a period of time

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and that they have and safety issues are also paramount. I

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encourage this and there are some councils who would not involve

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themselves and I would encourage them to do so. I am glad to hear

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that there is support out there. It is getting -- there is support from

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North Down Council and the Community Relations Council and I

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can see benefits from that. As far as the CSI strategy is concerned,

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it is unfortunate that there are some people who are trying to

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posture and party politicise issues around the CSI strategy. It is

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sadly the case that some of those who probably made the most noise

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are making police contribution. In particular, the Alliance Party

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would try and focus itself more on an agreed result instead of going

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out and indicate that somehow, they are leading the way when in fact,

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they are dragging their feet on the issue. Perhaps they can get their

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head out of the sand and start attending more meetings, stop

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trying to delay meetings from taking place and make more

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contributions at the meetings. On to education and newly-qualified

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teachers complain they cannot get work because teachers to have taken

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early retirement are being re- employed. Tom Buchanan was vexed

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about the Western Board. There are 11 teachers employed on a permanent

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basis who were prematurely from that -- retired in the western area.

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These teachers are employed on a part-time basis with contracts

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ranging from 10 to 20 yards per week. A further 120 it prematurely

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retired teachers are employed on a temporary basis. I should point out

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that the decision on whom to appoint in a particular post rests

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with the board of governors of the skin. My department has encouraged

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people to look at newly-qualified and experienced teachers. There is

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a disincentive in place for teachers seeking we informed on a

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substitute basis. Two rangers have been made to the funding schemes to

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incentivise schools to employ newly-qualified and experienced

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none retired teachers. We regularly receive feedback and reports back

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from boards of governors in terms of employment matters and in terms

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of the use of substitute teachers. When it is found that retired

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teachers are being used, the boards and schools will be asked why that

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is the case. The power lies with the boards of governors and both I

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and members of this house had read this issue. I would appeal to

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boards of governors to Allah and give newly-qualified teachers the

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opportunity to enter the workforce and gain experience. -- to allow.

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Cohesion sharing an integration are at CSI is meant to be our community

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relations policy. It is not leading to good relations between policies.

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Peter Robinson attacked alliance but David Ford was not holding back

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when he spoke earlier to Mark Davenport, when he outlined what he

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believed needed to be done. When I was campaigning in the

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election last year there were very few people think, worse the

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strategy? But they were asking, why can I not get my child into end

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integrated school and how do we get rid of barriers? -- an integrated

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school. They were not looking at what the outcome is, a united

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community. They specifically mentioned golf clubs as being

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places where sectarianism is under the surface. What you make of that?

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It is clear that divisions run free society and those that are seeking

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to tackle divisions come from every part of society. What is currently

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filling them is the political structures. This is organised by be

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CSI, what future do you think it has? There is talk of slimming it

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down to eight funding -- just a friend, not a funding body. We need

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an independent voice and particular, to hold the government to account.

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The Executive is failing to deliver and that is why we need an

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independent body. Our disagreements over the future

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of the CSI wider is so much delay We have seen a failure on the part

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of some parties to assess what is really the case. You cannot talk

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about shared space if you do not have a proper protocol to deal with

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symbols of the vision being erected on shared space. It is not just

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that issue, there are a range of issues.

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The golf club Commons, where did that come from? It was a clumsy use

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of language, I regret using it. I am sorry. The point being made, I

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come from a working-class community, I am proud of that, the point that

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we wanted to make was that sectarianism is not confined to

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working-class communities. A clumsy use of language. Golf plays a vital

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role in our society. The cut Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Graham

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McDowell. You look at the positive contribution that golf has made to

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bring groups together. It was a clumsy, it. I regretted, I am sorry.

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Most people would appreciate your point about it not just being a

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working class problem, and there is sectarianism across the board, but

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this focusing on the middle-class sectarianism divert attention from

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where it is needed, on police walls, interfaces, where people are being

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subjected to violence? There is some wonderful work happening on

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the interfaces, and I pay tribute to it. I presented an award of

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community relations person of the year to a man who had worked on

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interfaces, not just at times when the media were there, but right

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throughout the year. To those people at the grassroots, we give

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them our full support and tribute. Wherever sectarian it -- wearer the

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sectarianism is, let's look at it wherever it advises, -- rises, and

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let's tackle it. Where is the stumbling block? They have talked

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about releasing something that is not what we are looking for, and

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having to accept a less well prepared document. I have spent

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well over 100 hours over the last year chairing the meetings, looking

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at cohesion, looking up integration, how we can get a five party

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consensus. The grim mood of the five parties was that a green

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document would get better ownership by the community. I would never

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preach the confidence of those meetings. I want to take a

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constructive role. David Forde has inaccurately made a number of

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comments which he should apologise for, because, as I revealed earlier,

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I have got the e-mail trail of what they have prevaricated, asked for

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meetings to be postponed,... They have said he only missed one

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meeting. I have revealed all of the e-mail trail, one meeting was

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missed, he would not attend during Hallowe'en, he took a bit of

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January off, he did not get his documents in on time, he drags his

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feet, and he putted an incompetent position. -- he put us in an

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incompetent position. You cannot deny an e-mail trail, which I have

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revealed, and I can show you. He had said he cannot get his

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documents in on time. How does that help us move for what? -- move

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forward? We need to take the lead from the community, they want a

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better way forward. We have been clear, it is no longer them and us.

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That was the theme of the conference. It is no longer than --

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them and us. Relief from the front. I want to get back to a

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constructive working relationship to put out a document. Is it weeks

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or months? It is weeks. Motions in the chamber might not

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carry a lot of weight, but their content sometimes makes demands on

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ministers. Members voted to support a motion calling for nothing to

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happen. The notion -- motion made no demands and wants nothing to

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change. The topic, the appointment of judges. The chair changed

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identity halfway through. I am taking off my hat as chairman

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of the committee, I wish to speak as a DUP member. The reason that

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the changes took place in 2009, the party gave the reasons. It was

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because of our concerns in respect of Sinn Fein's role that it may

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have in the appointment and removal of the judiciary. One does not need

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to go too far in our past winner for the IRA targeted members of the

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judiciary, one being that Lord Justice Gibson and the attack that

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led to his death. Cricket -- but we heard clear concerns and the

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changes that were included the 2009 Act were as a result of that. That

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political context has led to the changes that have happened, and

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therefore, makes it difficult for the changes in the current system

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to take place. But this position has given the judiciary is very

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insulated, protected and privileged position from the political process.

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This is not an ideal position in a normal democracy. It is not perfect

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that judges appoint judges. But it is by far the best arrangement,

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which is attainable. You do need to know what the job entails from

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experience before you appoint others. I should or that -- I

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should do about any of these bodies would have the power, it would be a

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rich a great step. As 43% of the judiciary are women, and over the

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half of the lay magistrates and the district judges, there are no women

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at all in the High Court, and the County Court and District

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magistrate Court judges do not even make it a quarter of the quota of

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the judiciary at that level. This is a serious issue. There might be

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a discrimination, -- they might not be a discrimination, but there is

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something to take on board. There is a real problem.

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One of the biggest problems facing people who suffer from mental

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health problems is the taboo, people to not feel comfortable

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about admitting it. Yes, the stigma is a big issue, we are working with

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the assembly to try and eradicate it. What has struck me, MLAs have

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come out very helpfully and said they have had issues within their

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own families and groups of friends are. This is showing leadership and

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that it can affect anybody. It can affect a quarter of the population

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at any one time. Without mental health, there is no good health.

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We have reported and a lack of legislation here in the past, but

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are things so bad that the state has to come to drive legislation

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through at top speed? That is what it looked like earlier as the

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mystery racing driver met MLAs on the steps of parliament buildings.

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But the wheels of government perturb too slowly for the real

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racer. This impersonator was here to launch Air Festival of motor

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sport. -- to launch Air Festival. I hope he does not drive home to

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Armagh like that! That was not actually Danny Kennedy driving!

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How the Department of Employment and learned will be divided up

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there will be debated in the chamber tomorrow. It seems no

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minister will be responding to the debate. The committee has had a

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consultation on the dissolution, and its share joint winner. -- its

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chair joins me now. Are you annoyed about the lack of a response?

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Slightly disappointed. That will be a view shared by a number of people.

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We have done a lot of work, it is very important, and a lot of people

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worry about it. We want to know what they are thinking about.

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it comes to the consultation, it reads as a shambles in terms of

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continuity, because every single sector since to have a different

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opinion on where they think they're a bit of the pie should end up.

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That is part of the problem, because nobody is sure about what

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might be on offer, everybody puts forward their own particular view.

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It is no surprise, different people will think about things from there

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and context. -- from their own context. We need to get some way

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forward, because if we go into the summer without having this resolved,

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the role will plummet, people that of relying on us will suffer.

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of the consultation is a staff survey, which revealed interesting

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results. The details, we will talk about tomorrow, but it is unusual

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for us to ask the staff. Quite often, Rica to the normal

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stakeholders. -- we go to the normal stakeholders. The staff are

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affected by the changes, they are knowledgeable. A lot of them put

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forward constructive suggestions. But there was some criticism of

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everybody, to say, this is no way to run a country. Those are my

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words. But it is along the lines of, if this is just political

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expediency, it is not good. Do you think the consultation will be

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taken on board when it comes to the executive deciding? I intend to

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make that point tomorrow. I am sure that other colleagues on the

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committee will stress the importance. The good thing that

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came out is how well it is thought of and what a good job it does. But

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we are not sure that the department have got the message or have got a

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solution about what they will do next. They are doing their own

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consultation, but we do not know what it is. I think there will be

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more pressure on them to come back with real plans very shortly.

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have not had a Department of Employment and learned for that

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long, and these organisations and departments survived before. It is

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true that we do seem to change and reconfigure quite often, but every

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time you do that, you get a loss of service. There is a bedding down

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period. A lot of people have got used to the new arrangements, they

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are quite happy. Added to that, there might be other changes to

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other departments, it introduces a huge amount of uncertainty. If this

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was a private sector business that had announced a merger, you would

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have every MLA campaigning to say it is ridiculous, this is no way to

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go ahead, and this is not the right way to reorganise the Government.

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Your charity receives funding from them, what do you think? We have

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received funding from them. They provide a very professional service.

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We would be very concerned if there is any change to that.

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We may have been joking about the state driving through legislation,

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but some MLAs feel there is a serious point to be made about the

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lack of executive business. More pressure was exerted on the

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executive today. Two independent MLAs will ask the

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business committee tomorrow if they can have the Assembly debate a

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motion which calls on the executive to give a timetable for when

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legislation is coming down the line. There is a sense of frustration

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that this is a legislative assembly and there is not enough for members

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to do. The executive have told me that ministers are doing other

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things, they have introduced six Bills, three have been executed,

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and they have made over 70 or statements. But it is said it is

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not what the executive is to signed today. We have had the Titanic

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commemorations, and there is more to come. The next event, the

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covenant, the centenary. Jim Alastair has been pressing for a

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take off for everybody. But he was told that the executive has not

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discussed the option. The assembly put out a statement, saying they

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had agreed a set of principles around commemorations and what

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should be commemorated, but they have agreed in principle to market

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the Easter rising as well as the Battle of the Somme. -- to market

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the Easter rising. Irish is becoming more popular. Yes, the

0:26:510:26:57

Culture Minister said that the initiative for had been a great

0:26:570:27:02

success can and they were well above their target of 1000 people.

0:27:020:27:08

They will put some more resources One of the areas of difficulty that

0:27:080:27:15

has been widely publicised is the psychiatric help for children

0:27:150:27:17

within the mental health service. Is that something Giffin still

0:27:170:27:23

needs to be pushed with government? Yes, it is the joined-up between

0:27:230:27:28

adult and child services. The services need to be more joined-up,

0:27:280:27:34

to provide a more efficient service. When people get to 17 or 18, they

0:27:340:27:40

moved, and they could lose their psychiatrist. Yes, the degree of

0:27:400:27:48

support and resources are reduces. Did you think that being the

0:27:480:27:53

charity of the year will give you the ear of the minister? I hope it

0:27:530:27:56

will help influence him. There are many other charities trying to do

0:27:560:28:00

the same, but I hope he will because more favourably. Why were

0:28:000:28:07

you chosen? We have managed to deliver a good, efficient service,

0:28:070:28:12

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