14/11/2011 Stormont Today


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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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. You could say there are always


plenty of smoke and mirrors up here on the hill to get our politicians


to agree, but with legislation banning smoking in work and smoking


in the pub the Health Minister wants to know what you think about


stubbing out in the car? consultation will seek release from


the public -- seek views from the public. And the man who was the


voice of Folks on the Hill - Sean Crummey has died at 53. But how do


his political victims remember him? I want to be a bit more light-


hearted. I was frankly very flattered. And with me throughout


the programme, Dr Carolyn Harper from the Public Health Agency.


But first tonight, business was almost at an end for the day when a


fresh controversy blew up. A familiar enough issue - emblems.


But this time relating to the Prison Service. The topic came up


during a debate on the recent Prison Review Report. The TUV


leader Jim Allister asked if the reform of the Prison Service would


mean that they would no longer be known as Her Majesty's Prisons.


This is how the Minister David Ford responded.


Jim Alistair referred to Scylla balls and titles as they applied to


the present service. They are operational issues, but I believe


if there is to be ended up to end reform, they cannot fail to


consider the emblems and symbols. It is one of a range of operational


issues that need to be considered. A transformed culture has to be


delivered to an these issues need to be addressed, along with other


issues relating to staff and estate. We need now is the chair of the


Justice Committee. It all came out of the blue, thanks to Jim Alastair.


It certainly did. David Ford has handled this badly. To say what he


has said at the tail end of his beach at 6:30pm and the evening


when business is coming to an end about such a symbolic and sensitive


issue is a poor reflection on him as Minister. There were 29 officers


murdered during the Troubles because of their uniform and a job


that they did. What he has said will be an insult and offensive to


their memories. I want David Ford to take this up the table


immediately it and not hide behind operational decisions that this is


for the Prison Service. That is a cop out and the minister and is to


take responsibility for this and stop it. As we heard, he said that


it is part of fundamental reform and it has already happened to PSNI.


What is the big deal about this? good point. Nobody brought this up


during the discussions we had previously. I am not aware of any


other political party who have raised this and now David Ford has


put it centre-stage of this reform programme and it is going to be a


very difficult problem for him to handle, but he will have to deal


with it. But he was responding to a point that Jim Allister had raised.


He went to each member who had raised a point about prison reform.


Would it not be going out to consultation anyway and we should


not be concerned if we had as you like yours? It is a view to be


concerned about because the minister is ducking the issue. He


is saying it is a -- and operational issue four hour Prison


Service. Any minister work their socks will not allow -- any


minister worth their salt would have handled this differently. For


David for to cop out in the way that he has done is unacceptable,


and it will not wash with the public that this is an issue he


will not take responsibility for. Thank you for joining us.


The dangers of passive smoking, especially for children, were


discussed at length in the Chamber today. A topic tonight's guest


knows all about. Dr Harper from the Public Health Agency. What is your


view on the debate we have today? Do you think we should have an


outright ban, or a public awareness campaign regarding the danger of


smoking in cars? I welcome the opportunity because it gives the


public an opportunity to realise how harmful second-hand smoke is a


two adults and children. In adults it increases the risk of heart


disease and lung cancer by 25 %. In children it causes asthma, M


infections and increases the risk of serious conditions like


meningitis. To protect everyone, I would be keen to see a total ban on


smoking in all vehicles. Dr Harper that is fine for now. Let us take a


look at exactly what was said in the chamber. Sometimes government


and disassembly has to take that lead. We have to stand up and say


that this is right. It is right that the Assembly should legislate


to send out that powerful message. -- sometimes government and


Assembly. We took that stance with seat belts and now no-one would


ever think to put it child in a car without using a seat belts. I feel


that this would probably make some difference to people's smoking


habits, but a public awareness campaign could do that. The


minister needs to bring forward a public awareness campaign to make


sure the message get out there. is up for debate whether there


should be a complete ban or just in vehicles where children are present.


We need it public awareness campaign to change people's


perceptions of the dangers of passive smoking. A what about this


issue of policing it? How difficult would that be? It would not be any


more difficult than policing be seatbelt requirements. Countries


that have introduced be banned have found that most people comply.


Generally with the loss, whether it be seat belts, drink-driving, not


smoking in public places, most people comply. Do these bans change


smokers's habits, or does it make them feel more alienated? They are


figures from the countries that have introduced the ban in public


places, if anything there is a slight decrease in smoking rates,


but this legislation is being introduced to protect people rather


than reducing the rates. How do you see played out and what is the time


frame? The Minister indicated that he is looking to start the public


consultation early next year. The public will have the opportunity to


give their views. The minister will take a view then in terms of how


wide the legislation should go and then they will move forward from


there. Thank you. A funding decision for part of the


Maze-Long Kesh development should be decided in a matter of weeks,


the First Minister revealed today during question time. The Maze is


what might be called a pop-up topic - it appears and reappears on a


regular basis. The Regional Development Minister also faced an


urgent question on the A5 road project. But we start with the


Maze-Long Kesh plan and the failure so far to appoint a development


commission. Any application process brings for


work those who are appointed ball and it leaves behind those of who


are not needed. Whilst there are a number of people who are up a point


of all, there is a requirement to have certain skills and competences.


It is felt that it is somewhat like in private sector business and


financial experience, it's there we will have to take that into


consideration. We do have something to manoeuvre because whilst we


originally sought to have a board of six members, we can increase the


numbers be on that. -- beyond that. Please forgive me. I would like to


thank the First Minister for his responses so far. Will he be in any


position to give us any further information in respect of what the


priorities for the development of Maze-Long Kesh will be? There will


be two projects, Mr Deputy Speaker. The one that we are certain that we


want to move forward with his the proposition that there should be a


peace and reconciliation centre, call it what you may. We have a


bright for funding from Europe and we should know the outcome of that


before the end of this month heavily. We are also keen that the


agricultural show would move from Belfast to be more agricultural


setting up of the Lagan Valley. That would be a very strong anchor


it to the site, it should it be chosen. Again, we heard that would


form another key component to the site and Business and commercial


units could be built there, generating hundreds of jobs.


Another pop up topic - the shared future policy. The consultation


found that a document drawn up by a minister in the past was more


desirable than the one under the present administration. A welcome


the positive contribution you have made and I would want to encourage


that. I also work on the fact that on a cross-party basis, the junior


minister and high have seen a positive comments coming from all


the parties. It is not a time for points-scoring, but the Ulster


Union and the SDLP had their chance to do this and they failed. They


could not even get a document agreed to go to the Executive. I


appreciate that it is hard for someone else to come along and


actually do the job. To get a job that is universally agreed,


including BA agreement from the Ulster Unionist Party and to put it


Not a time for point scoring. On to regional development and an urgent


question on the A5 funding issue. Given the amount of work, public


consultation and money spent so far on the A5, all of this leading to a


public inquiry, can the Minister assure the house that he has a


reprofiling schedule for Aand not thinking of reallocating the moneys


pledged to the A5? And when is the Minister next meeting with his


counterpart Minister in the south given that the First and Deputy


First Minister have already met with the to an shuk? I am grateful


to the member for his is up -- Taoiseach? I am grateful to the


would remind him I am the Roads Minister, and I'll look at the


range of options available to utilise funding within the time


frames of the current budgetary period. I think it's also important


to state that as well as the A5 scheme, there is the position of


the A8 scheme. I know that has a trans-European network route. Any


delay in that will - would give rise to significant concern. Could


the Minister confirm that the AE8 section between Lauren and Brussely


is the only single carriageway section between the busy area of


Lauren and Cork? Yes, I think the honourable member's geography is


spot on. It does represent a significant scheme, and its


completion would I think be part of completing that trans-European


network system. The Roads Minister Danny Kennedy. The Education


Minister says the decision on whether or not to close a Lisburn


primary school will be made with the welfare of the children in mind.


Parents, teachers and pupils from Knockmore Primary came to Stormont


today to press for the school to remain open. It includes a unit for


children with special needs. There are 9,000 signatures demonstrating


why it's important to keep the school open. We're going to put it


to the Northern Ireland Assembly. This will be delivered to the


Education Minister. We want the Education Board to take note and


later this week to stop their proposal to close the school


because it provides a top-quality education service both for


mainstream children and for those that are in the special units under


the One School umbrella, fully integrated across educational and


religious ability as well, so this is a school that is a model for how


others should be delivering its service. It's vital it's kept open.


These kids with special needs all find it very difficult to learn and


settle in the educational environment. When they have settled


so well within the school, surely with a we must do is keep them in


that environment where they're learning and comfortable. You set


up a new school with new teachers, new faces, everything new, the


child is going to take months if not maybe a full school term to


settle and start learning again, and this is kids haven't got that


time. Time is of the essence for them.


I await the outcome of the South- eastern Library Education Board's


decision Sunday. If they do recommend the closure of the school,


then I will sit down and meet with the parents and the representatives.


I will debate and discuss all the issues around that development


proposal. The key - the centre of the decision making of my process


will be the future well being of the pupils attending that school


and indeed the surrounding schools in the Lisburn area. May remember a


couple of months ago we had the brave DUP MLA Wales in the studio


who signed up as a programme to lose weight. 28 more took part to


get us all to think more about our health. We caught up with a few of


them to see how they have got on. feel I have got on, probably didn't


lose as much as I would have liked, but I am happy I have lost two


inches from around my waist. That's great. I am delighted about that,


and generally speaking very happy with how it's went, brilliant


support from the people at Safe Foods. I lost four pounds. I think


I have possibly moved up and down a little bit in between. But I think


the key thing is the weight I have lost I have kept off. I am pleased


about that. If I let you into a bit of a secret, I am a qualified


nutritionist. That's what I did my degree in. I should know better. I


need the humiliation of being weighed in public to get me to do


something about it. A disaster, unfortunately. I have lost no


weight whatsoever, though I have managed to lose two inches around


my waist, not a stunning victory. The lady from Cork who weighed me


said I should walk to mass every Sunday morning. I haven't. Maybe


that's the problem. I have been eating more healthily, but haven't


been taking in exercise. Maybe that's why the overall weight


hasn't gone down. I have spent most of my time being stuck in meetings,


in a car or in press interviews, none of which are healthy. We're


all aware of the fact if you have a lot of weight around the waist,


you're in direct. There is a direct link between that and heart attacks


and other conditions. We have to take this seriously and get out


there and take a bit of exercise. Dr Harper, they were very brave


signing up for it. Lots of the MLAs isn't take that step. How do you


get the message across to take a bit more exercise and cut down on


some of the unhealthier foods? Really, it's a constant message to


try and get that - those positive messages across. It's not easy to


lose weight. I certainly admire those who have. The advice is


everything in moderation and try to make those healthy choices on a


day-to-day basis. Try to keep your weight within the normal range. If


you find you have put on a couple of pounds, cut back. Portion size


really makes a big difference. It's ultimately a tiference between the


number of calories you take in and the number of calories you burn. If


you're controlling the portion size, making healthy choices and keeping


active, whether through walking, dance or sport or play, then that's


really the key to life-long maintenance of a normal weight.


problem is, though, that everybody knows that is the answer, but if it


was that easy, then everybody would be slim, so should we take more


draconian action? Should we tax on healthy food? Certainly at the


moment about 40% of the adult population are able to maintain a


normal weight despite all the temptations around us. Undoubtedly,


our lifestyles have changed. There is no doubt about it, if we had


clearly labelled food products, if we had limits on what is advertised,


if the food producers reduced the amount of fat, sugar, salt content


of their food, for example, if we had policies whereby there is


protected time within the schools to both teach children extensively


about healthy choices, food production and cooking and


protected time for exercise within schools, then that would all make


it that bit easier to develop those healthy habits that might see then


people right through their lifetimes. Not taxing, not taxing


food? Tax on unhealthy food has been shown to reduce consumption of


certain products. Again, that would be part of a total package of


actions, and it's certainly something I would welcome a debate


around. Thank you. Now, there was a real sadness around Stormont at the


news of the death of Sean Crummy. He was the voice behind the Folks


on the Hill that managed to poke fun at the goings on on the hill.


He was also a guest on Stormont Live. Today many paid tribute to


his talent. The Iron Curtain is gone. The


Berlin Wall is gone but you just want to create new barriers.


people have erected the barriers, not us, barriers in your minds.


Some got too close for comfort. We started to wonder if he was reading


the executive minutes or whether he had some informer inside. He could


encapsulate in a very short cartoon something that was topical,


something resonated with the public. I often went around schools during


the period as First Minister to meet with school children who


recognised me because of Folks on the Hill rather than because of


Stormont Live. Mark, what are we going to do? I don't know, Alex.


Maybe go for a cup of coffee? are we going to do as a party? Sinn


Fein has outmanoeuvred us, outflagged us. As for protecting


the environment, that is a whole other kettle of fish. He was one of


nature's good guys, and everybody knew that about him. Everybody saw


his public face, and he was mighty funny and all of that but his


private face was of a wonderful, loyal, generous, big-hearted, big


guy. Call back Gregory Campbell, who scored an impressive 15 points


on the siege of Derry. Londonderry! Yes, sorry. I am trying to


establish a new image. I want to be a bit more lighthearted, and I am


looking for somewhere a bit brighter and jollier. I must say,


this is just the sort of place I am looking for. It's a bit gloomy.


Exactly. I, frankly was, very flattered about being portrayed by


Sean and regularly Folks on the Hill would watch it and say, "We


saw you Saturday night." I would say, "No, it wasn't me. It was an


impersonation". It was the way it became almost an alter ego which


was me. As far as the majority of the people there are concerned they


have always been part of Belfast. As far as I am concerned that is an


illegal majority created by a gerrymander. Lisburn should be part


of a whole. It certainly is whole. Lisburn - you exaggerate a word,


and that gives you a handle on his voice, as it were.


Well, Alex Atwood is with us. You featured heavily in the programmes


both on TV and radio. What did you think about it? Well, I think first


of all that Sean Crummey was a great guy. Whatever - the public


person - in private he was, as I said, warmhearted, big hearted,


thoughtful, generous. Everybody knew that, that there was never any


harshness in what he said that his humour was very cutting but never


personally offensive. I think that's the great skill of a


satirist, to tell the story of politics in the north that made


people laugh when we needed to, but also told some home truths with


never being personally nasty. you think it did influence


political life and the peace process? Yes, I think it did. I


think Jimmy Young 20, 30 years ago had that capacity to make us laugh


at ourselves in very difficult times, and he did the same. He made


us laugh at ourselves and made sure that politicians - because we - at


the end of the day, we're big fish in a small fish bowls, and nothing


more than that. He made us aware of our own limitations. I think that


was very necessary over the last ten and 15 years. He did it with a


big smile and a big heart, and we're all - we will all greatly


miss him as a consequence. there a sense around Stormont that


if you were in the programme, you were extra special and maybe if you


weren't, your nose was a bit put out of joint? I think anybody that


was in the programme didn't feel extra special, but I think that


those who weren't in the programme thought that those who were in it


were extra special. I think that's the right perspective to have on


what he said and did over those years. None of us are big enough to


take ourselves that seriously. There are serious issues, though,


and just while you're here, I want to ask you about the programme for


government we're hoping to see later in the week. In terms of the


reform of councils, you're keen on 15. The DUP and Sinn Fein keen on


11. What do you think is going to be written in the programme for


government? We'll see what will be written, but what I want is for


good government and fast politics to reveal, and that the


overwhelming argument in terms of local council reorganisation is 15


councils. It is the best value for money. It is the most efficient. It


reflects local loyalties and identities, and if other parties


can't see the weight of argument, that's a problem for them. Do they


not say there won't be savings over the term of reform that you would


get if you had cut it down to 11? Since a year ago when that argument


was made, the councils themselves have come forward with proposals


for sharing and collaboration between councils that will see


hundreds of millions of pounds saved over ten and 20 years, so the


game has moved on a year since last year when even I voted for 11. I


want my Ministerial colleagues - DUP and Sinn Fein - to recognise


the thing has changed that it has moved on, and that the overwhelming


argument evidence and what I think will be popularly supported is a 15


model, and we'll see on Wednesday whether good argument and wisdom


prevails rather than the politics of compromise. We have to leave it


there. Thanks for joining us. The executives programme for Government


is its plan of action for how to spend the budget. But there has


been no sign of it so far, but that may be about to change this week as


our political editor told me earlier. Six months on from the


election and still no programme for government. It has been a long


delay and something you probably couldn't conceive of getting across


in Edinburgh or London where the programme for government is


followed very shortly after the election or even before in as far


as they were manifesto promises. We have had this six-month period, but


now it looks like we're going to get a certain amount of action here


in Stormont with talk of a special executive meeting Wednesday evening


followed by a special Assembly meeting Thursday. I asked the


Finance Minister Sammy Wilson about this when he was my guest over the


weekend on the Inside Politics programme, and he actually was


playing down the importance of the programme for government. I am


amazed at the infatuation there is with this programme for government.


You know, it's as if this is some magic piece of paper which is going


to transform what happens in Northern Ireland. The truth of the


matter is, most people know because they saw where the budget


allocations were made last year and what the budget allocations were


made for and what the department said we were going to do with the


budget and what we were going to do to live within a restricted budget


- most people know what departments are doing. What do you expect to be


in the programme? If he's to be believed, nothing terribly radical


because he says most of the big decisions were already made when he


set the parameters in the measures for the budget he passed. We'll get


some numbers in terms of jobs executive hoes to attract in,


various other targets in relation to justice and so on. We'll have to


see how the executive deals with issues like local government reform


where different executive Ministers are pulling in different direction,


but it's not going to probably be the kind of dynamic documents we've


seen in London or in Edinburgh, and I think that all goes down to the


system of government we have here where you have this kind of haggle


which lasts for months over a programme for government, and


ultimately you come out with pliebt of lowest-common-denominator


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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