14/11/2011 Stormont Today


14/11/2011

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


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

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

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

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

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stubbing out in the car? consultation will seek release from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is how the Minister David Ford responded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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murdered during the Troubles because of their uniform and a job

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

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

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immediately it and not hide behind operational decisions that this is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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concerned about because the minister is ducking the issue. He

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

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

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minister worth their salt would have handled this differently. For

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

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

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

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The dangers of passive smoking, especially for children, were

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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infections and increases the risk of serious conditions like

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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minister needs to bring forward a public awareness campaign to make

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

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

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We need it public awareness campaign to change people's

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

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

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more difficult than policing be seatbelt requirements. Countries

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

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

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

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

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figures from the countries that have introduced the ban in public

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

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but this legislation is being introduced to protect people rather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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regular basis. The Regional Development Minister also faced an

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

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

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commission. Any application process brings for

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

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

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

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

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

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consideration. We do have something to manoeuvre because whilst we

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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agricultural show would move from Belfast to be more agricultural

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

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

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form another key component to the site and Business and commercial

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units could be built there, generating hundreds of jobs.

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

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

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desirable than the one under the present administration. A welcome

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

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

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minister and high have seen a positive comments coming from all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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reprofiling schedule for Aand not thinking of reallocating the moneys

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

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counterpart Minister in the south given that the First and Deputy

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

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

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

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range of options available to utilise funding within the time

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

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

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

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

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the Minister confirm that the AE8 section between Lauren and Brussely

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is the only single carriageway section between the busy area of

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

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

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

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network system. The Roads Minister Danny Kennedy. The Education

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

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

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Parents, teachers and pupils from Knockmore Primary came to Stormont

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

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

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

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

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

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later this week to stop their proposal to close the school

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because it provides a top-quality education service both for

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

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the One School umbrella, fully integrated across educational and

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

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

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

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settle in the educational environment. When they have settled

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

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

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

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

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

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time. Time is of the essence for them.

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

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

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

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I will debate and discuss all the issues around that development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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normal weight despite all the temptations around us. Undoubtedly,

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

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

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

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

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protected time within the schools to both teach children extensively

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about healthy choices, food production and cooking and

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

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

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people right through their lifetimes. Not taxing, not taxing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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his talent. The Iron Curtain is gone. The

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

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

:21:47.:21:52.

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

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

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encapsulate in a very short cartoon something that was topical,

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

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the period as First Minister to meet with school children who

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

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

:22:20.:22:27.

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

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Fein has outmanoeuvred us, outflagged us. As for protecting

:22:33.:22:38.

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

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

:22:43.:22:47.

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

:22:47.:22:53.

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

:22:53.:22:56.

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

:22:56.:23:02.

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

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

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

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

:23:16.:23:20.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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illegal majority created by a gerrymander. Lisburn should be part

:23:51.:23:58.

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

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

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

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

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

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

:24:27.:24:32.

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

:24:32.:24:38.

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

:24:38.:24:41.

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

:24:41.:24:45.

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

:24:45.:24:50.

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

:24:50.:24:53.

never being personally nasty. you think it did influence

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

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

:25:02.:25:05.

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

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

:25:10.:25:13.

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

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

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

:25:22.:25:27.

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

:25:27.:25:31.

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

:25:31.:25:34.

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

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

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

:25:42.:25:45.

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

:25:45.:25:49.

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

:25:49.:25:55.

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

:25:55.:25:58.

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

:25:58.:26:02.

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

:26:02.:26:05.

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

:26:05.:26:11.

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

:26:11.:26:13.

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

:26:13.:26:18.

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

:26:18.:26:23.

good government and fast politics to reveal, and that the

:26:23.:26:27.

overwhelming argument in terms of local council reorganisation is 15

:26:27.:26:33.

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

:26:33.:26:36.

reflects local loyalties and identities, and if other parties

:26:36.:26:40.

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

:26:40.:26:44.

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

:26:44.:26:50.

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

:26:50.:26:54.

was made, the councils themselves have come forward with proposals

:26:55.:26:57.

for sharing and collaboration between councils that will see

:26:57.:27:02.

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

:27:02.:27:08.

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

:27:08.:27:13.

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

:27:13.:27:18.

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

:27:18.:27:23.

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

:27:23.:27:28.

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

:27:28.:27:31.

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

:27:31.:27:35.

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

:27:35.:27:38.

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

:27:38.:27:42.

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

:27:42.:27:46.

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

:27:46.:27:49.

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

:27:50.:27:53.

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

:27:53.:27:57.

in Edinburgh or London where the programme for government is

:27:57.:28:01.

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

:28:01.:28:03.

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

:28:03.:28:08.

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

:28:08.:28:11.

in Stormont with talk of a special executive meeting Wednesday evening

:28:11.:28:15.

followed by a special Assembly meeting Thursday. I asked the

:28:15.:28:19.

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

:28:19.:28:22.

weekend on the Inside Politics programme, and he actually was

:28:22.:28:27.

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

:28:27.:28:30.

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

:28:30.:28:34.

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

:28:34.:28:39.

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

:28:39.:28:42.

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

:28:42.:28:45.

allocations were made last year and what the budget allocations were

:28:45.:28:48.

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

:28:48.:28:54.

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

:28:54.:28:58.

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

:28:58.:29:01.

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

:29:01.:29:05.

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

:29:06.:29:11.

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

:29:11.:29:15.

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

:29:15.:29:18.

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

:29:18.:29:22.

see how the executive deals with issues like local government reform

:29:22.:29:25.

where different executive Ministers are pulling in different direction,

:29:25.:29:29.

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

:29:29.:29:33.

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

:29:33.:29:36.

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

:29:36.:29:39.

which lasts for months over a programme for government, and

:29:40.:29:46.

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

:29:46.:29:50.

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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