15/03/2016 Stormont Today


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

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Hello and welcome to the final edition of Stormont Today before


There was a distinct 'last day of term' feel to proceedings


as Members not standing again made what they knew would be their last


For others who know they can't take their re-election for granted,


there must have been a strange mixture of nostalgia and dread.


And while the plan had always been to tidy up any legislative loose


ends today, the mood did change markedly as news came


through that the prison officer attacked by dissident republicans


eleven days ago had died unexpectedly.


There was condemnation from all corners of the House...


It was a case of fond farewells from those MLAs we won't see


It was meant to be a day of passing legislation and saying goodbye


to retiring colleagues, but the bouyant mood on the hill


changed not long after midday when news of the death of the prison


officer injured in a dissident republican attack reached MLAs.


Adrian Ismay was seriously hurt after a booby-trap device exploded


under his van in Belfast earlier this month.


It's understood he died from a heart attack after being rushed back


The last item of business in this mandate was a late-evening statement


I know I speak for everyone in the assembly when I say that our


thoughts and prayer is an with his wife, his daughters and the wider


family circle as well is his problem as Michael colleagues and friends.


Adrian's death has come as a shock, he was a husband, father and


grandfather and was in his family home, the pain of his loss will be


felt most. This demonstrates that despite the progress that has been


made over the past decade, there are still those in our society who will


target a husband and father because of the uniform he wears to work.


There is nothing noble or braver about skulking around in the shadows


and bringing death. I think it is also appropriate that we sent a


clear message to those who carry out these types of incidents and now an


attack in which a person has died, but they have no mandate or a little


or no support and with the Minister agree that the best way we can send


that message is to remain united in our approach to these people. I


agree that what we need is united condemnation from disassembly and we


need a united community response against those who would seek to


divide us. Today we are reminded once again that despite our


differences, we are one society, one people, united and indivisible in


the face of terror. We stand as Democrats against such terror. They


will not succeed, Mr Speaker and can I simply ask, would he directly


convey to the family our thoughts this evening to Adrian's family and


friends? Certainly I am expecting to be seeing the family during the day


tomorrow and I will be conveying the wishes expressed around this house


which I am no doubt will continue unanimously when I meet the family.


I want to join with the Minister and the entire house to express profound


sadness at the death earlier today of the prison officer. I want to its


breath sympathy to his wife, his family and his colleagues on his


tragic and untimely death, the lives of his family have been changed


utterly and for ever and I believe that those responsible for the


planting of the under vehicle device 11 days ago there are very heavy


responsibility for the death of Adrian Ismay.


So, today was the final sitting of this Assembly -


would you believe it was plenary number three


That's what the Speaker informed Members as he opened


And there was a rather light-hearted mood in the chamber as several


of the longer-standing Members spoke for the final time.


Mitchel McLaughlin began by thanking everyone for their contribution...


I wish to thank all of you who are not coming back, all the best


forward over the future holds and I hope those of you seeking


re-elections enjoy the campaign as well is have a successful one and to


all of those who are not coming back and I am one of them, we should keep


in touch. I think we are the owners of the corporate memory of this


institution and it was a pleasure to know each and every one of you,


thank you very much. APPLAUSE. It gives me great pleasure


to speak on the half of the Ulster Unionist Party and most importantly


I would like to start out by paying tribute on the half of the party and


indeed the Ulster Unionist MLA group to Leslie Cree, Sam Gardner, Michael


McGimpsey, Michael Copeland and Neil Somerville who will not be standing


in the upcoming election, all of them have made a considerable impact


in their constituencies and Northern Ireland. It would be remiss of me


not to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of Danny Kinahan and


Tom Elliott MP who left the UUP group for Westminster last year.


Those who cause are bloody and deceitful past will not be allowed


to raise their part in it. However much they try, they will not be


allowed to do it. Battles must still be fought, for me the arena will


change. The venue will be different. But that campaign must and will be


waged until won. I am not standing for election with my colleagues, Mr


Speaker, but I am standing on the same ground, with them, and beside


them. And together, we will take this country forward to be a much


better place. Thank you. Mr Speaker, in the last century when I was first


elected, to this assembly, people used to ask me, what did I do? And I


said I was a fire man, a political firemen, I put out political fires


and that is what we did for the first five years, we put out a


political fires and I have now become redundant or semi-redundant


in relation to that and I only do that on a part-time basis, because


the political fires are much less than they have been in the past. As


the only ever MLA from an ethnic minority background I was glad to be


in a position to set up the all-party group on ethnic minorities


and human trafficking. As well as lobbying with the voluntary sector


extensively for a racial equality strategy which was finally published


last year. I hope that MLAs will continue to monitor progress on


these issues and to speak out against racism. I will be watching


you. I am proud of what I achieved. I am proud of what I tried to


achieve. And for those that follow me, now, and in the future, I will


give them a famous quotation from Winston Churchill. Success is not


final, failure is not fatal, what matters is to have the courage to go


on. Mr Speaker, I will go on, I will leave this place with my head high,


with my colours flying, with my dignity intact and with all


conviction about what is good for Northern Ireland. I wish you Mr


Speaker and all our colleagues good luck for our bright future and a


healthy retirement and for my final few words, I appeal to our first and


Deputy First Minister and their new executive to keep Northern Ireland


stepping forward and faster, to create a better future in peace and


prosperity for everyone, particularly our senior citizens. I


have never raised my voice in this house until now when I say loud and


clear, Hans off our bus passes! Hands of aggro our bus passes!


Kieran McCarthy speaking up in defence of the over 60s bus pass.


It was in fact quite an emotional day for quite a lot of people.


Indeed. For some of them it is the last day at school because they will


not be back. They will go on to other things, including the people


we have seen giving their farewells. Many of them, only half a dozen or


so have been there since 1998 but nevertheless, I think all and all, a


few will not be back, a few of the current sitting members. It is


another issue and we have become used to that because we have this


co-op system and we have seen quite a few new faces. The committees


continue until the end of the week. It is the day of mixed emotions,


some will be relieved to hang up their boots and go into retirement


or semi-retirement, sample go gracefully, some perhaps less


gracefully than they might have wished, I think Gregory Campbell


left on a sour note by way of his last day. He has in effect been


forced out because of the end of double jogging. Overall, the mood


was not self congratulatory but I think there was an air, I thought


the Speaker made some good remarks from the chair, wishing them all


well for the future and of course, that was the first time we had seen


Sinn Fein Speaker in the assembly, a first for Northern Ireland and quite


an event when it occurred. We had Basil McCrea announcing that he is


not in fact standing against in May, one of the more high-profile members


to say goodbye to the assembly, did that come as a bit of a surprise? I


think after the interview he did last week, the writing was on the


wall. I think a lot of people felt discomforted and notwithstanding


that he was out leafleting as late as last Friday, I think it did not


come as a surprise. His career, he and John McAllister, what they


launched, the N121 party, three years ago and I remember sitting


alongside John McAllister, the night he announced he was resigning from


the UUP and both he and Basil McCrea came to see me before then to talk


about them striking out on their own. They did not take my advice. I


think the problem for them both, particularly Basil, was that they


launched to early. But Basil is a bit like, Farrar, great swoosh of


energy, this literary scene in the sky for a few seconds and then the


rocket falls to earth a bump and I think like the rocket, Basil's


career coming to Ashes is no supplies. I wish him well for the


future, he has a lot of talent, I do not think he has a plan they


currently, but I think it was inevitable and I think it was the


appropriate thing to do. It was a case of roads and more


roads during questions to the Regional Development Minister


today - the maintenance of the ones we have, when the one


we particularly want will actually be built, and how quickly


or slowly we travel along our The latest journey time information


my department has this from 2013, relating to journey times for cars,


vans and HGVs. For a wrote stretch between the Ravenhill Road


roundabout and Annadale embankment the average speed... This


information is for the morning peak period, 7:30am to 9:15am. In 2013 it


was the slowest Road in Belfast and I don't imagine that has improved


greatly for drivers. Could the Minister advise when a new


assessment will be given and what further actions might be taken to


facilitate workers inside Belfast and further afield who are trying to


get back to the city centre? Obviously we have been trying to


encourage people to use public transport and have very good


information relating to the park and ride where we have on average 500


vehicles using that per day. There has also been a 12% increase in the


number of passengers using buses. We also want to encourage the safe


usage for cyclists on that route. I would like to thank your officials


and staff for their assistance in consultations during the exhibition


that have gone on throughout, and indeed their resistance was greatly


appreciated to not just ourselves as MLAs but to others and people who


would be affected on that road. Could I ask for what your feedback


has been to date on the exhibitions at the consultation? They were very


well attended with somewhere in the region of 1054 registered attendees


at those events, the feedback from the officials has been that it was


very positive and with the vast majority of people who were


attending they were very supportive of the scheme. However I am aware


that there were those who have individual concerns in relation to


their properties. This is understandable given the impact this


scheme will have on those families really as we move forward through


the scheme, and my department officials will work closely with


those landowners to try to assist them in any way they can do as we


move forward. How much extra has been allocated for road maintenance


within the District Council area of Mid Ulster this year? Including


Cookstown, an official estimated one point formally in pounds was


received for structural maintenance and around 800,000 for routine


maintenance. The final Minister to face question


time in this mandate was also one Lord Morrow hasn't been in charge


of Social Development for long, but he's already had to deal


with his share of reforming Yesterday he revealed


the new guidelines - and today he was asked for more


information by MLAs... Just to focus on the welfare cap


amongst a plethora of figures. What the minister I think is saying is


that there are at least ten families that he is protecting their benefits


at a level above ?40,000 per year, because the average protection is 14


on top of the benefit cap. Is that correct that there are multiple


families of that order still receiving benefits in excess of


?40,000? And is the minister comfortable with that? Does he think


it is a good spend of public money? Sometimes it is not a matter of what


the Minister is comfortable with, it is what the Minister and the


Department and the regulations clearly state must happen and that


is in regulations, and I don't often, indeed have ever had any


control over that, but in relation to the number of families that he


speaks about, I will double-check that for you because I know you will


be interested in in having the exact detail and I will forward it to you.


Are they content they will help protect those most in need? Yes, I


had to assume, and I will be bitterly disappointed and I Suspect


this house has not. They have been doing the work, and they are the


experts and we have... We are led by them. If it transpires later that in


fact they are not confident, then I think questions will have to be


asked. I am assured that they are. In light of recent announcements


emanating from GB, particularly around cuts to ESA and personal


independence payment, has there been any assessment carried out or even


connection made with the departments in GB to establish the consequential


budgetary and indeed policy implications for welfare reform in


Northern Ireland? Deputy Speaker, can I say in response of the member


that the mitigation scheme is designed to provide financial


support to claimants that are in receipt of benefits then when the


welfare reforms orange juice, furthermore the introduction of time


limited means will only be notified of the change a few months before


that benefit is reduced or stopped altogether so effectively the


one-year time limit rule will be applied retrospectively, and anyone


claims benefit after the welfare reforms are introduced will be made


aware of the conditions and apply to that benefit at the time of


application. For employment and support allowance also, claimants


will be aware of the contribution -based element, they will only be


paid for one year if they are in work-related activity. This means


they will be aware of the impact one year in advance and will have time


to prepare for the benefit ceasing. Caral Ni Chuilin's last act


in the chamber as Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister


was to update the House on proposals for an Ulster-Scots Academy


and an Irish Language Academy. It is not for politicians to suggest


what way culture should develop. Our role is to ensure there are


networks, structures and organisations in place to facilitate


its development and ensure that our cultural roots remain accessible to


all within our society. The Ulster Scots academy will be known as the


Ulster Scots Institute and will be an opera -- not-for-profit company.


It will be located at the corn exchange in the Cathedral Quarter of


Belfast. The idea of an Irish language academy was first tabled in


2006. Money should be used to create resources for use across the north


and there should be a specific role for the Irish medium provider. Can


she say how much capital has been allocated for the initiatives over


the next three years? And secondly is there not an elite --


inequalities that the Irish academy will probably be a social economy


type initiative whereby the money is recycled back into the sector


because they will own the building where is because we are locating the


Ulster Scots Institute in the hub, that is paid to a developer who owns


the building. There is over ?1 million of revenue over the next


three years dedicated to the staff. In terms of the... It is probably


less than 150,000 per year. I have encouraged Ulster Scots community to


identify a cultural hub, and encourage them to use the library,


which was unsuitable. The higher and further education sectors have


suffered severe cuts to their budgets, so much so the University


of Ulster had to axe the whole of the languages department. How can


the Minister justify the economic case for the creation of the two


academies? We need to make sure these communities are not further


disadvantaged. There's already been cuts into programmes around the


Irish language, I want to make sure that doesn't become a trend. Their


obligation to set up both academies were set out in agreements going


back over a decade and I believe that is unacceptable that from then


until now we haven't established either in Institute.


And in case you were wondering why the first part of that piece


was signed - that announcement followed a statement


on the initiation of a sign language process, the debate


The final question time of the mandate was given over


to the Assembly Commission, and Members wanted to make sure


the new intake of MLAs will be properly tutored in


Politics is a profession rather than a vocation and continued


professional development is important in political life as it is


in any other profession. It will be important for members newly elected


to the Assembly to be provided with the appropriate induction and also


be provided with ongoing professional development to support


them in their role as a public representative of legislators.


Politics plus is currently developing a new member induction


programme which will be implemented following the election in May, and


will scrutinise the work of the executive. Whilst it has been


designed for new members, returning members are also free to participate


as they require. In relation to the programme, would there be an


emphasis on dealing with legislation and dealing with draft legislation


in particular? Because I think it is a process that needs considerable


skill and knowledge, and I would just ask if that were available. The


induction programme will cover a wide range of areas including


strategic planning, ethical leadership, speech delivery, dealing


with difficult conversations and conflict resolutions. It will


analyse complex information, working with the media, crisis management,


merging reputational risk and the members code of conduct. Members


attending will also receive briefings from employment law


specialist from the Northern Ireland audit office. If members have any


further ideas that commission members can bring to the politics


programme, our doors are open and we would only be too willing before the


end of this mandate to include any information required. Women are


underrepresented in both political and public life, the evidence is


there. We have too few female MLAs, woefully too few women on the bodies


of public boards. Returning to the question in 2015 the Assembly


commission established a woman in politics programme, this programme


was aimed at female elected representatives in order to provide


support for the development of their political careers and particularly


to encourage female councillors to put themselves forward for future


elections and develop links between local and central government. It's


anticipated that the second cohort of this programme will be


commissioned in 2016/ 17. The DUP's Paula Bradley -


and Rick is with me for a final Very interesting day up here today,


we had a lot of congratulation and goodbye in the early stage of


proceedings, then we had the news at lunchtime that the prison officer


injured in a bomb attack earlier this month had died unexpectedly,


and things changed. Yes, it was like coming back to earth with a bump


with that sad news. We don't know if there was any link between the


bombing and what happened today with this party. It was a sad note that


certainly coloured the atmosphere and the tone of the place


thereafter. Looking ahead to people gathering here towards the end of


May, discussing a programme for government and so forth, what are


the big changes? We have spoken about changing faces but there are


lots of things that will never be the same again. I suppose


institutionally one of the obvious changes will be fewer departments


come the end of May. There will be just nine where is currently we have


12, and because of John McAllister's bill which has got itself onto the


statute book, there will be some form of opposition available to


parties. It is not as fully resourced as it might otherwise be.


The bill was rather undone a little bit during the legislative passage,


but nevertheless it is an option parties can choose to exercise. If


those red lines are not met to his satisfaction, the SDLP could


exercise that option. Just briefly, if the last five years of the


mandate was a student essay, what grade would you give it? I was


always reputed to be a very hard marker. On that basis, I would give


them C for effort, a middling 2:2. Thank you very much indeed, always a


pleasure. And that's it for tonight,


and for this mandate. The Assembly is formally dissolved


at midnight on March 29th and by then, of course,


the election campaign The 108 new MLAs are expected


to gather for the first time up here in Parliament Buildings


on Thursday 12th May, and a new Executive -


and perhaps for the first time a formal Opposition -


should be in place by the end It's shaping up to be a hectic


couple of months in local politics, and while Stormont Today won't be


on air for several weeks, Sunday Politics and The View


will be here to guide you through developments


every step of the way. He is expected to be armed,


and is extremely dangerous. No-one's put forward credible


evidence that I acted unlawfully. GUNSHOT


What do you reckon? I don't think you've got any idea


what he's capable of. Easiest way to get away


with killing someone? On Easter week 1916, a band of Irish


rebels seized control of Dublin. For six days they held out against


the might of the British Empire. Three of the rebels who held Dublin


city that week were my uncles


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people - from decision makers to opinion formers - to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.