15/04/2013 Stormont Today


15/04/2013

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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Transcript


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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today.

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Coming up on the programme: More trouble at the Executive table

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as the DUP and Sinn Fein clash openly. Our Political Correspondent

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Martina Purdy is here with her analysis. MLAs elect a new Deputy

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Speaker, the Sinn Fein veteran Mitchel McLaughlin, but not without

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crossing swords. And Members agree on doing more to combat suicide

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rates as one Alliance MLA recounts his own experience of losing a

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loved one. My son in-law had fallen victim to this horrible thing plus.

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He was a big, strong family man with everything to live for and now

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our family, and the whole community, are faced with something we simply

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There was plenty happening inside the chamber today and we'll be

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looking at that throughout the programme. However the big

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political story of the day is a developing war of words between the

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two main parties in the Executive, the DUP and Sinn Fein. Our

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Political Correspondent,Martina Purdy is with me.

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Martina, you've been following these tensions between the two main

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parties through the day, take us through what's been happening.

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Sinn Fein were to and Andy Mayer at the weekend and the DUP were

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keeping an eye on proceedings. Martin McGuinness questioned the

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commitment of Unionists to making the executive works saying in

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fighting was as destabilising as the dissident threat. Gerry Kelly

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said he did not have confidence in the chief constable and there was

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call for the release of Marion Price from prison. This morning the

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DUP picked up the paper to find a straw poll of 50 Sinn Fein

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delegates which said that violence was justified while Britain ruled

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in Northern Ireland. The DUP asked about Gerry Kelly withdraw his

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remarks and both -- are two men appeared at a news conference to

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say Sinn Fein were carrying out mixed signals. We will hold them

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accountable because that is our job and that is why we went into

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government. If they are recoiling relation to their working

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relationship with us. They need to wake up and smell the coffee and

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start making decisions as ever frustrating the government. Deeming

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the Social Welfare Reform Bill? That is not the only thing they are

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messing about with. What else are they waiting about with? We will

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wait and see. That was the response but what has Sinn Fein been saying?

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John O'Dowd came down to speak to us and he was quite indignant that

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the DUP eight -- DUP should question Sinn Fein's commitment to

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police and police. He said the DUP had in some cases failed to face

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down loyalist violence over flags etc and he said that Sinn Fein was

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not messing around with issues and it was trying to get the right

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decisions on issues like social welfare reform. He questioned the

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Belfast Telegraph poll and said that was 50 delegates out of 2000

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and he said the results were dubious and open to question. He

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also said that Sinn Fein was not in the executive because DUP had

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ordained it was allowed to be in the executive, he said it was in

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there because it had been voted in by the people. And this spilled

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over into today's election of a new Deputy Speaker? In order for

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Mitchel McLaughlin to take that pose the had to be a cross-

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community vote. The first minister said he wanted clarification or

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from -- clarification from Mitchel McLaughlin that he was committed

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toppled in the role of law. Thank you very much.

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Well, as Martina mentioned there, the deteriorating relations between

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the two main parties did indeed spill over into the election of the

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deputy speaker. Despite a perhaps unexpected rival candidate for the

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role, Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin was elected with the

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backing of the DUP, but not before the main unionist party demanded he

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reassert Sinn Fein's commitment to the peace process.

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Let us proceed to the election of the Deputy Speaker. Do you have any

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proposals for the office of Deputy Speaker, a rise in your place?

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propose Mitchel McLaughlin be elected as deputy speaker. Is there

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a second? I second that. Mitchel McLoughlin, do you accept this

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nomination? With some relief I do accept it! Are they are further

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proposals? Could I propose the name of Basil McCrea? Do we have a

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second? Thank you, Mr Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me and a

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great honour to propose my friend Mitchel McLaughlin as the Deputy

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Speaker. I would like to place on record our thanks to Francie Molloy

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who has left this assembly for another place, for the contribution

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that he made. I think the North West has a very proud record over

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supporting speakers and providing speakers for this assembly, not

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least your own contribution over the course of a number of years,

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which has been rightly applauded by society and by everybody in this

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house. Mitchel McLaughlin, I believe will continue in that vein.

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I think he is someone with vast experience of the workings of this

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house and he will make his own unique contribution towards

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supporting the work of the chair. think everyone knows that it is

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essential for the working operation of the institutions that there is

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appropriate cross-community balance in positions like this. This

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position was held by a Sinn Fein member and therefore I think it

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would be assumed that automatically there would be a Sinn Fein member

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to replace them. However, I think it would be irresponsible of us if

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we were not to provide the likely candidate the opportunity to

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indicate his position on some key issues. It would not have been a

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matter that I would have raised had it not been for certain responses

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to a Belfast Telegraph poll to the activists, the members who were

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present at the Sinn Fein conference because that puts some doubt for a

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large section of the Sinn Fein membership as to where they stood

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on the role of dissidents and their activity, on its support for the

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police. I know from having been a finance minister when a major

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McLaughlan was the chairman of the committee what I believe his

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responses would be to these matters but I think it is important that he

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shows that he is in support of the position that the Deputy First

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Minister has taken on those issues which is contrary to some of the

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positions that have been adopted by the active membership of his party.

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This house likes to publicly portray itself as a beacon of

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inclusive at it. Some of us, of course, have come to experience

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that this inclusiveness is only for those who were are inside the

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executive tent and therefore, this position of Deputy Speaker and the

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filling of it is an opportunity for this House to disprove that

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perception and to prove, in fact, that it does genuinely believe in

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it inclusiveness by appointing a Deputy Speaker from outside the

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party's that are represented in the executive and daring, of course,

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lies the nomination of Mr Basil McCrea. I am disappointed that the

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First Minister has taken the opportunity to respond to a rather

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dubious poll. The most important poll that was taken over the

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weekend, and there were 206 polls taken over the weekend, was on

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party membership that were going into the voting hall and voting for

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the leadership of marked him a Canice -- Martin McGuinness and

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Gerry Adams. That leadership has been very clear whether his party

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stands in relation to the use of violence. Basil McCrea has amply

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shown that during his time in this assembly that he will represent

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everyone in this assembly as Deputy Speaker without fear of a favour.

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That is the calibre of individual we want to be electing to this

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office. The concerns that the First Minister and the minister for

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enterprise, trading and investment raised, the concerns about the Sinn

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Fein conference at the weekend, they have no such concern with

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Basil McCrea. Will they support a candidate who will stand up for the

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independence of this chamber against the executive? I do think

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that this house should recognise that there are people who are not

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part of the executive, that the one to make a contribution, that will

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attempt to chair the debates as others have done, in a fair and

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impartial way. Those of you that have sat with me on committees and

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there have been many, from all different parties, will accept that

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I am fair and impartial in the way that I chair such debates. I put

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this question directly to members opposite, you have concerns and you

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have the opportunity to vote for somebody other than the candidate

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you have concerns about. We will watch and we will listen to what

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you have to say but the decision is yours. I am honoured to be

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nominated for this position today. I am somewhat disappointed that the

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First Minister took the particular line that he did because I have

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been a member of this desert -- assembly from when it was

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established. I was part of the negotiation and brought it about

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and also brought about the new beginning and the establishment of

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a new justice system. In all of that, I see it as part of my

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personal legacy and a stand 100% beside it and it is one of the

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proudest experiences of my life and I have demonstrated to any fair-

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minded person that I can discharge -- discharge my duties and do it

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fearlessly. The experience of standing up to dissidents, standing

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on to those who challenge the rule of law has been at my home has been

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petrol-bombed and attacked with in the last fought back. That doesn't

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determine. Every, that the Deputy First Minister has made, from the

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earliest days of this peace process right through to this weekend,

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:12:09.:12:41.

where he addressed our party committee consent. I offer the

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member my congratulations and look forward to working with them in the

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future. Martina Purdy is still with me. Shortly after he was elected,

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Mitchell McLauchlan was then elected principal Deputy Speaker. The best

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explain that. -- you best. There's not much a distension other than

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:13:15.:13:18.

that it is a fancy title. Adding it as a matter of seniority. -- I think

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it is. The speaker would look at that person has number two. That is

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why the SDLP and the Unionists were sniffy. Suppose the big thing is

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that he would succeed as speaker. Is that the plan? If a deal was done --

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a deal was done some years ago. He would be next in line. Why do think

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Sinn Fein selected Mitchel McLaughlin? He has been around a

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long time. He has done his time in terms of the party. He helped

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negotiate the Good Friday agreement. He helped bring about the new

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policing standards. He is a safe pair of hands and experienced. He

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has been loyal to the party that he has shown through his various briefs

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that he is capable of handling conflict issues. He knows how the

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system works and you seem to be fair-minded. He is well thought of

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across the assembly. He is reaching the end of his political career at

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67 and this is a nice way to enter it. Just briefly, John McAllister,

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trying to get his friend and ally elected, what should we make of

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that? There is no such thing as bad publicity. The independence do not

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get an opportunity to become much. It is a way of saying that they are

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still here. -- independent is. It is a way of telling the other parties

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that they are inclusive, but the independence do not get a share of

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the spoils. We heard some of the unionist questioning, whether the

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DUP were that concerned about whether Mitchel McLaughlin was

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committed to nonviolence. If you were so concerned, they could have

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put Basil McCrea in the post. It was a bit of fun, really. Now, thank

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you. Around 300 people in here in Northern Ireland take their own

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lives. The figure has doubled in the last 30 years. The rise in the

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suicide rate has prompted MLAs to discuss the topic many times.

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Today, emotion called upon the executive to our ties suicide

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prevention. It was a rational story which had a major impact on the

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chamber. -- personal story. I have prepared my contribution to this

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debate. I'm prepared my contribution some time ago but things changed

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dramatically last Tuesday. Last Tuesday morning, I was in this

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chamber taking part in the business of the day when I was asked to take

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a phone call from home. A hysterical voice at the other end of the phone

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told me to come home immediately. My 39-year-old son in law had been

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found dead in our garage. I've raced home, to my daughter's home, to be

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confronted with ambulance, police and other personnel, and my

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distraught daughter and family members, to be told of the

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circumstances of the tragedy. My son-in-law had fallen victim to this

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horrible illness. He was a big, strong family man. He had everything

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to live for. He had a good home and a wonderful, hard-working wife, and

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a fantastic daughter, a good job. He was the principal of the local

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Primary School. And now our families and the whole community are faced

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with something that we cannot understand. The question is, why?

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Why, why? It has been asked in Northern Ireland 300 times. We're

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not the first family to ensure this shocking experience. 300 people in

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Northern Ireland have lost their lives in such unexplained

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circumstances. This is through 300 and beings, all good people, far too

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many, and we must continue to strive for answers. -- this is 300 human

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beings. I welcome the Minister's commitment and his department 's

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fight against suicide. Much work continues to protect this strategy

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and the continued effort of the public health agency, particularly

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the recent TV advertisement -- TV at on looking after your mental health.

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But unfortunately, we continue to lose people to this illness. In

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conclusion, I refer to my own experience last week. I'm make an

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appeal to John Dowd, the Minister of education. And indeed to other

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departments. My son-in-law was a teacher, and so was my daughter.

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They do sterling work, and just maybe they are being asked to

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overstretch themselves. Anyone in this chamber that has family members

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who are teachers will know what I speaking about. They do not finish

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at 3pm. They come home with cases and work all hours of the night.

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Officials much -- officials must look for signs of targets, results,

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inspections and so one, as King too much. There is a fine line between

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success and disaster. -- asking too much. We all want to see success,

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but at what price? We need to look after all our providers and prevent

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people from going over the edge. There is so much more to be said on

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the issue, and I thank the members that have so many -- that have

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already spoken. Cross agency work and fulfilment of the comfort

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report, economic factors... Until we get on top of this issue, we will

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have more sadness and grief, more tears. We need action now. Thank you

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very much. Kieren McCarthy with his very personal experience of losing

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his son-in-law to suicide last week. The culture minister revealed today

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that she has commissioned new research into sectarianism in local

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football. She said she had taken extra steps after becoming concerned

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about the ongoing presence of sectarianism around the local game.

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Later, the minister condemned those who carried a mock coffin of

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Margaret Thatcher outside Cliftonville's around head of the

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title clinching victory over Linfield on Saturday. First of all,

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I would like to congratulate Cliftonville the book club on

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winning the Irish league. Our commiserations to Linfield. The

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Irish Football Association sees local -- oversees local soccer and

:20:17.:20:20.

is in charge of dealing with sectarianism where it arises. The

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company -- the organisation already runs a successful campaign seeking

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to promote an inclusive culture throughout the game and challenge

:20:31.:20:36.

prejudice, and sectarianism within the sport. I'd endorse this

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campaign, which is consistent with the ends of my department and my

:20:39.:20:43.

strategy for sport, seeking to promote good relations and

:20:43.:20:47.

integration between communities. I'm concerned that despite the good work

:20:47.:20:54.

of the Irish were Bob Association, the remain in the concerns that

:20:54.:21:04.
:21:04.:21:07.

sectarianism remains to be a problem in soccer. As a member for North

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Belfast, can I congratulate Cliftonville on winning the Irish

:21:10.:21:17.

league? It is a pity about the result. Will the Minister join with

:21:17.:21:19.

me in condemning those Cliftonville supporters who carried a Coffin

:21:19.:21:25.

draped in a black flag with a witches hat on it up the

:21:25.:21:29.

Cliftonville Road, singing offensive songs about Baroness Thatcher, using

:21:29.:21:36.

gratuitous language and mocking her passing before the game? Such

:21:36.:21:42.

behaviour is unacceptable. It should not be tolerated. Will the Minister

:21:42.:21:46.

join me in condemning it. Does she agree that Cliftonville is the

:21:46.:21:51.

bookclub should distance themselves from such behaviour? -- Cliftonville

:21:51.:21:54.

football club. I condemn any sectarian incident but I have not

:21:54.:22:01.

seen the footage that my colleague refers to. I asked people who were

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there and they said it was not Cliftonville fans who were involved

:22:03.:22:08.

in that activity. I do not think, at that activity occurred in the

:22:08.:22:13.

ground, that we would be having a different conversation. Cliftonville

:22:13.:22:17.

the bookclub need to be given the flight ability to make remarks about

:22:17.:22:23.

this. In terms of people celebrating Margaret Thatcher's passing,

:22:23.:22:26.

regardless of how they feel about that, and have my own feelings, and

:22:26.:22:30.

regardless of her legacy in this island, which was not good, and the

:22:30.:22:35.

fact that she was a divisive character in our own country, do not

:22:35.:22:39.

think it is befitting that someone who brought nothing but misery, the

:22:39.:22:43.

milli Asian and degradation to this country should behave in a way that

:22:43.:22:46.

is undignified. This should not follow in her footsteps. I would

:22:47.:22:50.

encourage no want to be involved in that activity. The culture minister.

:22:50.:22:54.

Horse meat was back on the menu at Stormont Today with the Agriculture

:22:54.:22:59.

Minister taking ten -- taking questions on the latest

:22:59.:23:02.

investigations into collision is. There been no solutions as yet but

:23:02.:23:06.

are there any extra controls? remains the response ability of the

:23:06.:23:11.

businesses and the processors, catering suppliers and retailers to

:23:11.:23:17.

insure the food they sell is what it says on the label. The DNA testing

:23:18.:23:26.

has extended. Never states to notice you -- notify the EU rapid alert

:23:26.:23:31.

system if they discover more than 1% in their products. Numbers are being

:23:31.:23:36.

asked to take one sample per 50 tons of force meat for testing with the

:23:36.:23:46.
:23:46.:23:51.

minimum of 5000. Each DNA test will cost up to 400 euros. A programme of

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preparation establishments have confessed -- have begun. All cold

:23:57.:24:00.

storage, meat processing plants and cutting plants have now been

:24:00.:24:07.

visited. Can the Minister detail whether she believes that the

:24:07.:24:14.

current regulations are in place with regard to the regulation and

:24:14.:24:19.

are as strong as they need to be to allow authorities to bring every

:24:19.:24:29.
:24:29.:24:29.

single person or party involved in the scandal before the courts?

:24:29.:24:34.

is an issue with confidence in the food chain. As I have said

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consistently throughout this crisis, our local industry maintains a high

:24:36.:24:44.

reputation and is not involved in this incident. We're talking about

:24:44.:24:51.

processed food and there is an initiative to be resolved there. --

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and issue to be resolved. By the end of the year, we expect more

:24:57.:25:03.

discussions and regulations on the country of origin labelling. The

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Minister indicated that up until this crisis -- this crisis, the

:25:09.:25:19.
:25:19.:25:24.

practice in recent years was that at most two inspections took place. But

:25:24.:25:33.

there was never any taking or testing of actual product. How far

:25:33.:25:43.

does the Minister accent that that contributed to the ability to cause

:25:43.:25:48.

force meat to appear? I think the issue is very clear. It is either an

:25:48.:25:51.

issue of gross negligence or criminality. No matter what checks

:25:51.:25:57.

and balances you have in place, if there is a criminal element

:25:57.:26:03.

involved, they will try to find a way to put forward the actions that

:26:03.:26:09.

they have been involved in. The Agriculture Minister. MLAs have

:26:09.:26:12.

agreed to a shakeup of Assembly Question Time, in order, they say,

:26:12.:26:17.

to make it more relevant to the public. For the first time,

:26:17.:26:26.

ministers will take a topical questions on which they have not

:26:26.:26:36.
:26:36.:26:37.

been briefed. He is the chair of the procedures committee on why the

:26:37.:26:47.
:26:47.:26:48.

change has been introduced. It may be a short report, but I believe the

:26:48.:26:58.
:26:58.:26:58.

implementation of the Redmond Asians has the potential to transform

:26:58.:27:08.
:27:08.:27:10.

question Time. Most importantly, to increase engagement. The review has

:27:10.:27:20.
:27:20.:27:27.

concluded that while there are already a number of absences for

:27:27.:27:33.

screw -- opportunities for scrutinising ministers, these are

:27:33.:27:43.
:27:43.:27:49.

largely scripted and the timing for tabling requests can result in a

:27:49.:27:52.

loss of topicality. Questions for oral answer are separate. They are

:27:52.:27:58.

taken several working days before they are due to be taken so newly

:27:58.:28:06.

emerging issues that arise between the submission of questions and then

:28:06.:28:08.

being asked in the chamber cannot be covered. Urgent oral questions

:28:08.:28:14.

prevent some opportunity for more current questioning, these are

:28:14.:28:20.

limited to single tablets. -- single topics. The committee has considered

:28:20.:28:30.
:28:30.:28:35.

the potential benefits of introducing this system. These are

:28:35.:28:39.

outlined in the report. Topical questions would present an

:28:39.:28:41.

additional opportunity for ministers to be held to account on more

:28:41.:28:51.
:28:51.:28:52.

immediate issues, while the topic is still current. As a committee, we

:28:52.:28:55.

approached the question of topical questions with an open mind. I'd

:28:55.:29:02.

think anybody had a closed mind English and to this mission. We felt

:29:02.:29:12.
:29:12.:29:13.

that there was something lacking in question Time. We felt too many

:29:13.:29:23.
:29:23.:29:23.

questions were scripted, and too many cancers were scripted as well.

:29:23.:29:32.

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.


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