16/01/2017 Stormont Today


16/01/2017

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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called a fresh Assembly election - on the day the Secretary of State

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just eight months after the last one.

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It was a day of huge significance for the devolution

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project - because if talks anticipated to take place

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after the new 90 seat chamber is elected fail, Stormont could find

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itself stored away in political mothballs for quite some time.

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So, coming up tonight...MLAs find out how long they've got

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to prove their worth to the electorate...

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I propose that a draft order in Council be brought forward shortly

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that set an election date of Thursday second March stop.

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The suspended DUP MLA Jonathan Bell makes accusations about senior party

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This party has suspended me for telling the truth when I gave the

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First Minister, Deputy First Minister and the German body or the

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information, people are sitting beside them and sitting behind them

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of much more serious offences. So 300 days after we last went

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to the polls, we'll get the chance Following the refusal of Sinn Fein

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to nominate someone to the post of Deputy First Minister

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following the resignation of Martin McGuinness seven days ago,

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the Secretary of State has called I propose that a draft order in

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Council be brought forward shortly to set down election date of

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Thursday the 2nd of March. And to dissolve the assembly from the 26th

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of January, meaning that its last sitting day would be the 25th. No

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one should underestimate the challenge faced to the political

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institutions here in Northern Ireland, and what is at stake. While

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it is inevitable that debate during an election period will be intense,

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I would strongly encourage the political parties to conduct this

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election with a view to the future of Northern Ireland and

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re-establishing a partnership government at the earliest

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opportunity after that poll. This is essential to the operation of

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devolved government, and this means that all must remain open to

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dialogue. The government continues to span thermally -- I stand firmly

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behind the government and its successors, and our responsibilities

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to safeguard stability here in Northern Ireland. We will continue

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to do all that we can to find a way forward to secure the continuation

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of devolved government. James Brokenshire speaking

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at Stormont Castle earlier this evening.

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So how did we get to that point? Sinn Fein repeatedly said

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it wouldn't nominate and today, when given the opportunity,

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the party formally I am nominating Arlene Foster to be

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the First Minister. It's her rightful position. That alone

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because the DUP says it but because 202,000 people in the country said

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it. And we as a DUP, Democratic Unionist Party, we will decide who

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the leader of our party is. Not someone else sitting in this

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chamber. We don't dictate to others who should be their leader, and no

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one is going to dictate to us today who the leader of our party, which

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transpires to be the leader of the union is here in Northern Ireland.

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Mr Speaker, I very readily and with some degree of pleasure nominate

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Arlene Foster to be the First Minister. Sinn Fein will only be

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part of institutions which work and deliver for all in our community.

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There can be no return to the staters go. If something is broken,

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you stop and you fix it. That is the Sinn Fein approach. Today, Sinn Fein

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will not renominate for the position of Deputy First Minister. Sinn Fein

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has honoured all agreements, we have striven to make these institutions

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work. Martin McGuinness has acted at all times with integrity, with

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dignity, and with respect to stop he has taken personal and political

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risks to build a process of reconciliation. If we are to return

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to this chamber, then there must be real, meaningful change. There must

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be respect and equality for all sections of society. These

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institutions must operate to the highest standards, with no place for

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arrogance or malpractice. It is now over to the people to have their

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say. Michelle O'Neill confirming that

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Sinn Fein would not nominate anyone to the position of

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Deputy First Minister. And let's hear from

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the commentator, Alex Kane. We now have a date for

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an election - March 2nd... Yesterday, and I think it is strange

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because all the way through I didn't think it would come to this. No

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Grimmy you didn't you were wrong! You don't have deep rub it in. I

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think we would be ruthlessly good at keeping our problem is tight and

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internal, solving the problem of Northern Ireland. But she didn't,

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she wrapped it up all the way through. I'd thought Sinn Fein

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wouldn't call her bluff but they did and we are now in an election we

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don't need. Monday and Tuesday -

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and RHI is likely to be It hasn't gone away, and it was 40

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days a old. DUP broke that story, a very senior DUP story told me that

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it wasn't going to be interesting. 40 days later it is still debated,

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and in the next few days more worryingly it will be there all the

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way to the election for the DUP. You didn't think it

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would come to this. You weren't alone in that. They

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assumed that at the end of the Labour parties would come together

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and hammer out a deal and get over the obstacle and move onto the next

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issue. Arlene Foster's already

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said it's going to be A lots of people frankly agree with

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her. I think the interesting thing about this election campaign, we

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didn't see it coming, but it came from eight background where Sinn

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Fein were saying they were getting on very well, David Gordon being

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appointed, various articles saying they had been doing well, Sinn Fein

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providing government and suddenly they go from campaigning from RHI,

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no personal issue, no equality, Unionists just don't want to open

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any doors for republicans, they don't want to respect us... Again

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that came from nowhere, and that very moment it became clear that all

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the stuff we had heard about how good this relationship was was at

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best a lie, and once you get to do that storage, you are in a terrible

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mess. It is an interesting situation, and you have been here

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for much of the day and have been talking to various people in both

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parties. Talking to people thrive at Lee within the DUP and Sinn Fein I

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think what is striking is that they don't seem to be hearing what the

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other side is saying, they don't seem to be taking on board at all

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any of the concerns of any of the other parties, is that what you are

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getting as well? That is what I'm getting, and there are now two

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battles being fought. I think it is before the election mode was

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started, put up barriers, and Sinn Fein decided there was no gesture of

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goodwill. Barriers began to go up quietly, and now it has got to the

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stage where they aren't listening to each other, not listening to anyone

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else not the public, and they have stopped listening. We'll have to

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listen to the voters on March two. Alex, thank you, and we'll hear

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more from you later. It was supposed to be the chance

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for the Economy Minister to show how he would stop the huge financial

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losses of the Renewable Instead, as news of the Secretary

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of State's decision to call an election broke,

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the debate changed rapidly. And that led to more

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extraordinary allegations from the suspended DUP MLA,

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Jonathan Bell, who continued his Simon Hamilton outlined his plans

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to the Assembly, but before they could be voted on,

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the Ulster Unionist leader, Mike Nesbitt, called for the debate

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to be suspended for a week... The proposal today are the first

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steps towards reducing the burden on the Northern Ireland budget of an

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estimated ?490 million. I'm determined to take steps which will

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effectively reduce the overspend in future years to zero. This is not

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the occasion or the place to rehearse or gone to a conclusion on

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the wise or wherefores of what went wrong. That, Mr Deputy Speaker, will

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be the work of the PAC and an independent enquiry. My priority

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immediately is to bear down on the costs of the scheme for the 2017,

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2018 financial year. Costs for that year are projected to be around ?50

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million. Mr Speaker, while the original policy intentions of the

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scheme may have been laudable, it has been blighted by significant

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failings in its design, oversight and control. There have been many

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allegations of potential abuse which cast a shadow over legitimate uses

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of renewable heat installations, and I do recognise that some legitimate

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users will see a substantial reduction in their payments but that

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reflects the fact that the scheme was much more generous than was

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originally intended for stop earlier today we saw the DUP sadly trying to

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defend the indefensible, they went low. As the woman said when they go

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low, we go high. I want to go high today by referring to the disrespect

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which was shown to the public, the lack of respect to the public purse,

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the dereliction of duty, and the shameful way in which this entire

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debacle has been handled. The part here who designed this disastrous

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scheme are we are led to believe helped design a good litigation but

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it looks bad for everybody else and leaves us with a choice between the

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?85,000 per day lead indefinitely, if this case falls and we don't have

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another opportunity to fix it, versus the potential cost of legal

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challenges as well as all the cost of the very belated investigations,

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and this scenario, I think you will understand, people are a bit

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reluctant to just this view of those who designed the flawed scheme,

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designing the fix. Why delay? Very simple. It it as no cost to the

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public purse will stop the 85,000 a day that we are burning off because

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of the overspend continues even if these regulations are agreed today

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or next week, until at least the 1st of April. That's over ?6 billion.

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That ?6 million. There will be no cost to the public present wait for

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a week. Doing nothing is not an option. To delay for one week is a

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reasonable request and I do believe will give us time for some of that

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extra scrutiny that the previous speaker has mentioned. I would like

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it in the record that I spoke for the first time in the fashion that I

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did because journalists were able to conclusively prove to me that they

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had contacted the press offices of the delicate Unionist party a day

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after day after day and were being fed back misinformation that

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Jonathan Bell was unavailable. Mr Speaker, I also want a very major

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concern bed into the record of this house that instruction went out from

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DUP special advisers John Robinson, currently special adviser to the

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economy minister, and Andrew Crawford, the current special

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adviser to Michelle Michael Butler Michelle McLean. ... Under no

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adviser to Michelle Michael Butler circumstances allow Jonathan Bell to

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be called. This is a quote. These matter need to be deeply

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investigated. Can I just asked Mr Bell... We are moving outside of the

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scope of the RHI. When we're talking about an adjournment for a week,

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these matters can be investigated in this week alongside the very first

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piece of information given to me in a ministerial office. By the DUP

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party officer appointed special adviser to the terms that you will

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not be allowed to reduce the tariff is the bag on the scheme because

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Timothy Johnston, special adviser to the then First Minister, and John

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Robinson, the current at that time director of communications to the

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DUP, and now the special adviser to the economy minister, had such

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extensive interest in the poultry industry, Minister, this is not

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being allowed on the agenda. I have the information to murder Mr

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Speaker, I have kept the records in many, many formats will stop this

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party has suspended me for telling the truth while I gave the First

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Minister and the deputy leader and the chairman of the partly all the

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information. People that are sitting behind and beside them of much more

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serious offences. In response, the DUP dismissed

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Mr Bell's allegations The party said Timothy Johnston has

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no interests whatsoever in the poultry industry and does not

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benefit or have any family members who applied to,

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or benefit from, RHI. It also said John Robinson has

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no personal interest His family home farm has chicken

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houses which are not Andrew Crawford told the BBC last

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month that his brother is the director of a company

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which successfully applied to the RHI scheme, but he said

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he 'never sought to keep the RHI scheme open at the original

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higher tariff against The ability of the Executive

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to mitigate against the Bedroom Tax before any dissolution was batted

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back and forth between the Finance and Communities Ministers

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over the last week. Mairtin O'Muilleior argued that no

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fresh legislation was needed. Paul Givan disagreed,

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and earlier today brought his Members are able to see from the

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draft set of regulations that the general provisions in the budget act

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would not give my department the powers necessary to make decisions

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in the different scenarios set out in the regulations. So, Mr Speaker,

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that nails everything that the finance minister has been doing what

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he is engaged in a Twitter battle the public can see who the twit is

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as he has went along, making it up, on social media in respect to how

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this is being issued. In two and a half years, Sinn Fein cost the

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public purse ?174 million in penalties from the Treasury. Money

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that was lost in public services into a half years, and what do we do

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whenever these issues were raised? We worked through them, despite the

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reckless activities Sinn Fein, that cost ?171 million.

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I am clearly stating we support the regulation be for us. No one needs

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to explain to me the impact this will have. I have liaisons dealt

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with many constituents who have highlighted their concerns and fears

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so whilst the rest of us have no fear of going through the

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electorate, the DUP in Sinn Fein will continue to politic with some

:16:37.:16:42.

of the most vulnerable in society. Had Sinn Fein not stood firm to

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ensure the most vulnerable were protected and to ensure they were

:16:47.:16:54.

protected properly, irrespective of legislation from Westminster, then

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we collectively we been in a much different position. We stood by our

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convictions and to the best of our ability we got a deal to protect

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those most vulnerable. In relation to fines, the people and claimants

:17:10.:17:15.

we all talk about, not 1p came out of their pockets. Yes it came out of

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the block grant but why? Because people were waxing lyrical about the

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need to ensure our blog rant was protected and they failed to look

:17:30.:17:33.

over and other shoulder. -- block grant. The ministers stated that

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there was very little to nothing he could do to bring forward the

:17:41.:17:48.

mitigation meant -- measures to protect the most vulnerable. He

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stated categorically that was the truth. Why do I believe he did it?

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Because he wanted to put pressure on his partners in government and

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prevent them calling an election. The deadline was the 20th of

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February and we knew this needed done since we were elected last May

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so there was every opportunity for due process and scrutiny to take

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place but it seems that everything MS please has to be subject to a

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last-minute rush, back of the envelope calculations and perhaps we

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would not be sitting you today is that culture were to end.

:18:27.:18:30.

Another contentious issue on the order paper

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today was the position of Robin Newton as Speaker.

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He was the subject of a lot of criticism before Christmas

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when he called on Arlene Foster to make a statement

:18:37.:18:39.

as First Minster, when the Deputy First Minister had

:18:40.:18:41.

The motion was brought by Sinn Fein, but for the second time today things

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So we come to date to debate confidence in the speaker, which is

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a normal motion given the circumstances we found ourselves

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then before Christmas and the behaviour that led to the first

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Minister making a statement when she had not the authority to do so. We

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find ourselves hamstrung by a petition of concern. The DUP have

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deployed petitions of concern over 80 times in this Assembly. ET to

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pose as a party on their own. The irony is petitions were built into

:19:23.:19:27.

the Good Friday Agreement to protect the rights of minorities and protect

:19:28.:19:33.

citizens from being trampled by larger parties. The DUP as the

:19:34.:19:37.

largest party had used it 82 times without support from other MLAs. On

:19:38.:19:41.

a number of occasions they have used it to protect their own members from

:19:42.:19:47.

censure with them this Assembly. They do so again on this occasion.

:19:48.:19:52.

He may find this amusing but they do it again. The DUP have yet to learn

:19:53.:19:58.

that that is public outcry not just regarding the scheme, the speaker's

:19:59.:20:04.

handling of some of these issues but the DUP refusal to recognise the

:20:05.:20:09.

damage they are doing to public confidence in these institutions

:20:10.:20:13.

which they continued to do when they deploy that petition of concern. The

:20:14.:20:16.

use of petitions to protect their own members is a corruption of what

:20:17.:20:21.

petition of concerns were intended to do. I will finish what I am

:20:22.:20:29.

saying. It is a corruption of these institutions and something that the

:20:30.:20:33.

DUP would do well to look to. We are now to have a debate in this

:20:34.:20:37.

institution and relation to confidence in the speaker with the

:20:38.:20:43.

outcome already decided. The outcome has been frustrated regardless of

:20:44.:20:49.

every other MLA, expressing their lack of confidence, that outcome

:20:50.:20:53.

will be overturned by the use of a petition of concern, used in a

:20:54.:20:59.

corrupt fashion to protect their own by the DUP. On those grounds, I will

:21:00.:21:04.

not agree with this motion. I do not believe there is any purpose in

:21:05.:21:09.

keeping people year for debate in which the outcome is predetermined.

:21:10.:21:12.

The corruption of this institution in the eyes of the public has to

:21:13.:21:18.

stop. We should get a different the DUP return tear on the other side

:21:19.:21:20.

the election. Conor Murphy. We did have some regular

:21:21.:21:22.

business today and amongst it was Question Time for the Finance

:21:23.:21:26.

Minister. It's likely to be the last time

:21:27.:21:28.

for quite some time that Mairtin O Muilleoir faces

:21:29.:21:30.

the Assembly, and it was no surprise that the ongoing problems

:21:31.:21:33.

at Stormont dominated exchanges. The minister is good at running

:21:34.:21:43.

around and telling other ministers what they should be doing but I

:21:44.:21:48.

would put it to you, your number one duty is to produce a budget. We are

:21:49.:21:52.

facing a situation where there will be no budget. This will have a

:21:53.:21:58.

profound impact for example on the Department of Health. I am asking

:21:59.:22:03.

you what other contingencies in place to prevent a detrimental

:22:04.:22:07.

impact on public services? It is a great pity that my colleagues and

:22:08.:22:12.

the other side of the chamber did not consider this before Christmas

:22:13.:22:17.

when they became subsumed in covering up RHI and refuse to allow

:22:18.:22:20.

the public the investigation they were entitled to. It is a pity the

:22:21.:22:28.

DUP did not consider the institutions given their attacks on

:22:29.:22:31.

the Irish language and Irish identity. It is a great pity that

:22:32.:22:39.

before Christmas when I met the DUP ministers and discuss their budget,

:22:40.:22:45.

what happened? It was not my party who had a former minister on his

:22:46.:22:50.

knees in a TV studio praying to tell the truth. It was the DUP who became

:22:51.:22:58.

consumed with RHI and discussions since then have not resigned. So the

:22:59.:23:04.

blame for where we are this day and the fact that credibility is drained

:23:05.:23:08.

from these institutions does not lie with any other party in this

:23:09.:23:20.

Assembly but my colleagues opposite. Could the minister give an

:23:21.:23:24.

assessment on what he thinks the economic impact will be to Northern

:23:25.:23:28.

Ireland on the antics and catastrophic mess the DUP, Sinn Fein

:23:29.:23:33.

government have done -- provided during this last mandate? There must

:23:34.:23:46.

be an election coming and I hope and trust that all those who have spoken

:23:47.:23:50.

today do very well in that election. When we go to the doors, the people

:23:51.:23:58.

will ask one pertinent question, they will seed did you stand for

:23:59.:24:04.

equality? Did you stand against the disrespect shown to our ethnic

:24:05.:24:10.

minorities and the LG BT community and to the disrespect shown to the

:24:11.:24:14.

Irish language community? Did you stand up for tolerance, and mutual

:24:15.:24:21.

respect? When that question is asked, I am convinced that we will

:24:22.:24:30.

be able to answer positively to the public and the public will respond

:24:31.:24:32.

So, three hours before the election was officially called it seemed

:24:33.:24:37.

there was talk of little else in the chamber -

:24:38.:24:40.

and Emma Little Pengelly continued on the attack

:24:41.:24:42.

as the Health Minister, Michelle O'Neill, rose

:24:43.:24:43.

What representations did you make to the Deputy first Minister bed rather

:24:44.:24:51.

than resign when he did, he should wait and a lower budget to be put

:24:52.:24:55.

down an order for your department and all the people who need to use

:24:56.:24:59.

health services get their help and support they need when they needed

:25:00.:25:05.

it? Mark McGuinness said the right thing, he was no longer prepared to

:25:06.:25:12.

lead his party and a government who are not interested in equality and

:25:13.:25:15.

mutual respect. Our position is clear. I want to be at my desk to

:25:16.:25:20.

drive forward health care but I will not be in a government where the DUP

:25:21.:25:27.

are not interested in equality. We cannot be in government but the

:25:28.:25:30.

party only clear that certain people in certain sections of society, not

:25:31.:25:39.

good enough. Supplementary. I think sadly we have heard and Minister for

:25:40.:25:43.

health reading of a Sinn Fein election cue card rather than caring

:25:44.:25:47.

about the many thousands of people who will be impacted by the lack of

:25:48.:25:52.

budget. The health department will be starting this financial year

:25:53.:25:54.

without a budget and planning and that will impact on those most in

:25:55.:26:01.

need. The responsibility lies with you is Minister of this department,

:26:02.:26:06.

you cannot duck those responsibilities to ensure there was

:26:07.:26:10.

a budget in place. What contingencies have you put in place

:26:11.:26:14.

to insure public services in health are not impacted detrimentally?

:26:15.:26:20.

There is a crisis of confidence in these institutions. People do not

:26:21.:26:24.

trust the DUP so I absolutely think Mark McGuinness took the right

:26:25.:26:29.

decision and it is now up to the public to have their estate. --

:26:30.:26:33.

Mairtin O Muilleoir McGuinness. Our track record speaks for itself. In

:26:34.:26:38.

terms of putting equality at the core of our department. We would

:26:39.:26:44.

only be in this Executive and returned to these institutions if

:26:45.:26:48.

there is equality embedded in the call of these institutions.

:26:49.:26:50.

Michelle O'Neill - and Alex Kane is here for a final word.

:26:51.:26:52.

As far as Sinn Fein's motion of no confidence in the Speaker,

:26:53.:26:55.

Robin Newton, is concerned - you couldn't have made it up.

:26:56.:27:00.

You couldn't have made it up. I think even they realise that and

:27:01.:27:07.

decided there is no point going through with this. It could not

:27:08.:27:13.

succeed? It could not and it was an abuse of the house. You cannot have

:27:14.:27:18.

a serious debate about complaints against the speaker because we have

:27:19.:27:22.

protected them. It took away the nonsense that the speaker was

:27:23.:27:27.

neutral. It was the DUP concern. Sinn Fein said we're not going to

:27:28.:27:35.

indulge out in this. A couple of days of debate in the chamber ahead

:27:36.:27:40.

of us. But we know now if we come back after the 2nd of March that.

:27:41.:27:45.

But we know now if we come back after the 2nd of March that.

:27:46.:27:48.

There will be wholesale change in terms of the make-up

:27:49.:27:51.

of the chamber no matter what happens - and already we know

:27:52.:27:54.

that Cat Seeley and Catriona Ruane won't be coming back.

:27:55.:27:56.

It is interesting in the case of Cat Seeley because she is one of the

:27:57.:28:00.

younger ones and she is only in there. If then some sort of message.

:28:01.:28:07.

She has a full-time teaching job. She has chosen that auction. She has

:28:08.:28:10.

given up the political career so she will not come back and abandon a

:28:11.:28:17.

teaching career. It is sad to say ago, she was one of the better

:28:18.:28:23.

younger ones. In terms of the five into six, better off. You can maybe

:28:24.:28:31.

bank 40 or 50 as certainties. It will be very chaotic but it will be

:28:32.:28:38.

fascinating to nerds like us. You cannot be sure very much. It will be

:28:39.:28:42.

great for those of us who like to put bet on. We look forward to it.

:28:43.:28:46.

Thank you very much as ever. The Assembly is sitting tomorrow

:28:47.:28:50.

and we'll have a Stormont Today So for now, from everyone

:28:51.:28:52.

in the team - good night! The View holds politicians to

:28:53.:29:03.

account and we ask the questions that our audiences

:29:04.:29:06.

want answers to. We reflect what's happening in the

:29:07.:29:09.

political world but I think we also set the agenda in the interviews

:29:10.:29:13.

that we conduct on the programme. I always assume that an interviewee

:29:14.:29:16.

is telling the truth but the question is,

:29:17.:29:19.

is that necessarily the whole truth? One of the key things about The View

:29:20.:29:23.

is Commentators Corner. A great breadth of knowledge and

:29:24.:29:26.

a context to the political conversation that's

:29:27.:29:29.

just taken place.

:29:30.:29:33.

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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