16/04/2013 Stormont Today


16/04/2013

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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Local an welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme. MLAs pay

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tribute to the victims of the Boston bombings.

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And the agricultural committee grills officials about their

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handling of the snow crisis. We will hear from the chair of the committee

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and the journalist Steven McCaffery will be here with his analysis of

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the events on the hill. Today's proceedings at Stormont

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began with the Assembly members paying respects to the victims of

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yesterday's bomb attacks in Boston. Three people were killed, including

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an eight-year-old boy and at least 140 were injured in the blasts at

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the finish line of the city's marathon. The Assembly tributes were

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led by the SDLP's Alex Attwood behalf of the intped icon vase

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sympathy and condolences to the Boston mayor, the Governor of

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Massachusetts, to the people of Boston, to the marathon participants

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and their families, I think Mr Speaker, there has been a particular

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relationship not just between Ireland and Boston, but between

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Derry and Boston, between Belfast and Boston, and with the people of

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Northern Ireland, and the people of Boston. And, all of us who have been

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to Boston will know that the city is at once American, European and

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Irish. I think many of us Mr Speaker, will have heard the

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interview with the Boston journalist who is very well-known to

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politicians and the people of Ireland, and of the north, and his

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interview, where he told the story, of the young boy, greeting his

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father, as he passed the marathon finishing spot, returning to his

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mother, and sister, only then to be caught up in the bombing, with the

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young child losing his life. I think that Kevin captured the awfulness

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and the loss, what happened on the streets of Boston yesterday.

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Mr Speaker, when I was a little younger I had the great opportunity

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to run the Boston Marathon on two occasion, and there is nothing like

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it. To come down that finishing stretch, with the sense of some

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achievement, fun, and for many people, having contribute

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contributed to chartable cause, and all of that is in sharp and chilling

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contrast to the images of what we saw in Boston yesterday. But I think

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we should also remember, Mr Speaker, that the scenes and means of terror

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in Boston yesterday, had previously been visited upon us in our own

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experience, bombs in a crowded street, in refuse bin, leading to

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the death of a child. I think we should, in remembering the people of

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Boston today, also remember that there will be others who the pain

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and poignancy of what happened yesterday, is very relevant to their

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own lives. Thank you Mr Speakerer, may I on

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behalf of my party extend our sincere sympathy to the people of

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Boston, and indeed the people of the United States, on this tragedy,

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which unfolded yesterday. I know that in term terms, listening to the

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journalist this morning, and it was a poignant story he told in relation

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to the 8-year-old boy, and his sister, injured mother injured, and

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the father had just -- father had just run the marathon. Always as Mr

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At wood says many times terror has struck our streets and similarly,

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innocent people have paid the price. Alex Attwood. Terrorism is wrong,

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from no matter what quarter it comes from and cannot be condoned, in any

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circumstances, or in any situation. There is no doubt the people that

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carried out this particular evil, were terrorist, you cannot describe

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them as anything else, their intention was to Serb tries and they

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have succeeded. -- John Terry rice. I heard the

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reports on Radio Ulster as I was driving up, and it started off by

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actually playing the bombs going off. And that terror, will be

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revisited on people who live in Northern Ireland.

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I almost froze as I was driving up the road. Because I immediately

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thought of Omagh. On 15th August 1998, when my town was visited by

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evil people. And that fear came back in to me, that we could be seeing

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this revisited on us again. On the 15th June 1988, in Lisburn, six

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soldiers were murdered, at a similar event by terrorists.

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No excuse can be made for this type of activity. I listened to the story

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of the father crossing the line, and his eight-year-old son running into

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his arms. I am not a father, but if I were and I could hold my

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eight-year-old son and share that moment with him, it would be a

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moment you would never forget. But then, some evil people decide

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they were going to detonate a bomb. And how can any human being do that

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to another? My thoughts will be with the pupil of Boston over the coming

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days. -- people. But my thoughts will be with those who have lost

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relatives in similar circumstance, and particular willy the families of

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the soldiers who were murdered on the -- particularly the families of

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the soldiers who were murdered. Who needlessly lost their lives in a

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similar situation. Terrorists copy each other. . In the first instance

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can I on behalf of Sinn Fein, send our couldn't lentses to the family

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-- condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones yesterday

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in Boston. Alex Attwood, when he was speaking alluded to the great

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connection between Derry and Boston, and many people will remember Derry

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and Boston vents, the recent initiatives between the people of

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our city and Boston, indeed many, many former mayor, etch some who

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severed in this House have visited Boston on behalf of the city, and I

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know the current mayor this morning has been in contact with his counter

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part in Boston, to send condolences on behalf of the people of Derry and

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Ireland. This wasn't just an attack on the people of Boston, this was an

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attack on the international community. This was the Boston

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Marathon, one of those prestigious, if not the most prestigious marathon

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race round the world, attracting participants from a whole range of

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country, including from here in Northern Ireland, and elsewhere, in

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these islands. Mr Hussy is right when he remined us that not only --

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minded us, that not only in the generality of the great swathe of

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terrorism, to which Northern Ireland was subjected, but within that we

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have had specific incidents, like the Lisburn attack, where again,

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advantage was taken by wicked terrorists, of the gathering of

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people, on a fun occasion, to wreak havoc and leave a trail of death,

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and destruction. I like all colleagues here, would

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have been appalled and shocked, when we learned of the event, in Boston.

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I too, like other colleagues listened to that very moving

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interview, this morning, on Radio Ulster. Sort of brings it home, as

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both as individuals or as parents, the pain and agony that random acts

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of terror can visit. People from my own constituency, and from probably

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neighbouring Newry and Armagh that were over reign raiding money nor

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the southern area hospice, those type of event events that go to to

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raise money, to bring out the very best, in human nature, to help and

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support others, that it should end in such horror, I think it is truly

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shocking and it has appalled each and every one of us, I do hope that

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those responsible are brought to justice speedily. That was John

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McCallister -- John McCallister. Thank you for joining us, it was

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obvious watching that report, that last night's attack on Boston did

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strike a chord with members here. Yes, absolutely. It was the most

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emotional striking element of today's proceedings by far, and

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there was genuine concern and genuine emotion in the room, it was

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clear that the account of events in Boston given by the journalist Kevin

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Cullen, somebody who is familiar to people in this area, it has a

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powerful effect and then it caused people to reflect on some of the

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similar scenes we have seen, and it struck the Assembly member, they

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weren't just going through the emotion, there was genuine upset

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there for the disturbing images we have seen. It is not the first time

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we have been sitting in this studio talking about another rather

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truncated day in the chamber. It would have been a busy day with the

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Welfare Bill due to be discussed, but it was withdrawn, as we know,

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remind us of what is happening with that, and why it has not been

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debated. . Well, not only is it going to have a huge impact on the

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lives of a lot of people, more so than much of what is discussed in

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the Assembly, it is something that has become a hugely divisive issue

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twine the DUP and Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein have made it clear they are

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prepared to use petition of concern, even on a multiple basis to block

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the element they are most exercised about. The reason it was held, it

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has to be fully explained, it may be it is feeding into the discussion

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the BBC has reported, of the two parties brokering an agreement

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political editor has been reporting this big clear the air meeting

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between the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, where

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everything was on the table, the Welfare Bill, and other matters, to

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try to get them back on track again? Well, I mean, dependling on who you

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speak to, on the face of it the arguments we saw at the start of

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this week were visceral, there seemed to be genuine discord between

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the party, some of their political opponent claim there is a sham fight

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about this, but regardless of that, from a public point of view, there

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was a big bust up and there was an attempt to draw a line under that

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and move forward. But that will be measured on delivery and what comes

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out of it. Now, there are a number of factor, once being the

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politicians faced the choice of them setting the agenda in terms of

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breaking the deadlock or vents taking over outside. With the G8

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coming they might be the ones to change thing, but what can they

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deliver? We have had the Welfare Bill, a mennion of -- just a mention

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of the Special Advisers Bill. What is happening with that? It is only

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two stage stages away, so it was surprising it wasn't put forward.

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The listen is one aspect refers to the Civil Service commissioner, now

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taking a role but it seems that will have to be rubber-stamped by the

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Secretary of State. We will hear more from you later. There is

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concern in rural communities according to one MLA about the

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possibility of local primary schools closing their doors. It follows the

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publication of plans in March outlining scores of schools at risk

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of closure. Today, the Education Minister was asked for more details.

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From the outset of this area planning process, I have said this

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is not a budget driven process. I could continue with the budget I

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have and keep all the schools open we have. Across the board, but I do

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not believe it would be a proper use of resources.

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It wouldn't be beneficial to the education of our young people

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either. So when it comes to a decision round any school, and in

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this instance you refer to rural school, through the development

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proposal and before I make any decision, all the criteria will be

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taken into account, and the educational wellbeing of the child

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will be first and foremost. We have taken into consideration what

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alternative school will the pupils The information which was published

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within the area plans a lot of the concerns arise from the fact as to

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how the media published the information and that they published

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lists of schools particularly in rural communities under the

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criteria of 105. I'm on record, I put it on record again, this is not

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a numbers game. It's not an economic equation. It is an

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education equation I'm involving myself in. There is rural

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communities out there that require and will continue to have very

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small schools within their vicinity because they are required and what

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is right for that community. I have listened carefully to the Minister.

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I know he is awash with reports and all sorts of things. Could he tell

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the House how does he measure the likely impact the closure of a

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rural school will have on a community? If we knew that we might

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better understand the other issues that he is discussed with us today?

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I measure through the development proposal process, which is a

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statutory process in which involves two stages. Firstly, pre-

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consultation process. With the managing authority of the school

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will engage with the Board of Governors of the school to discuss

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the future of the school and other interested parties. If the managing

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authority decides the best way forward is to publish a development

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proposal for closure it moves into a two month consultation process

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where I take written and verbal recipations. There are two measures

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I need to take into account. Those young people who through no fault

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of their own were allowed to attend unsustainable schools throughout

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their education career because no- one had the courage to make the

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decision to close it. The South Down MLA, Jim Wells, has

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described the low number of visually impaired people in full-

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time employment as a "disgrace." During Employment and Learning

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Questions, Mr Wells pressed the Minister, Stephen Farry, on what he

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can do to mitigate the difficulties Through the additional support fund

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my department provides �3.5 million each year to further education

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colleges for support and assistance to students with learning

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difficulties or disabilities. Students with learning difficulty

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or disability are assessed to determine the level of support they

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require. For visually impaired impaired students there may be

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technical aids, learning material in alternative format and personal

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support. We provided funding for an information hub for learners to

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improve access about college provision, services and the support

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available. The department provides funding for the development of

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online guides for disabled students. These guides were developed by

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disabled GO, the UK's leading provider of disabled access

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information. They provide information on campus lay out,

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signage. They help people to access college premises and make the best

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use of facilities. Visually impaired are offered orientation

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visits tie Lou them become familiar of the lay out of the buildings,

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assistance is there to ensure safety between going between

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classes. They can make use of a budding engagement. Especially in

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the event of an emergency. Will he accept from me that those who pass

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through further education in Northern Ireland, who are visually

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impaired, the outcomes, in terms of employment are extremely bleak?

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Indeed, the RNIB in a recent survey showed that 25% of blind and

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visually impaired adults in Northern Ireland are in full-time

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paid employment. That is a dreadful indictment of the system that

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allows so many capable people to end up with no form of paid

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employment? I thank him for his question and highlighting that

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issue. The first thing to say, anyone who comes through, whether

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it is the further education system or the higher education system with

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a qualification is a peer and of equal standing to anyone else with

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the same level of attainment. We still have issues and barriers

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within the wider employer network in this regard, but I do believe

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that there are many employers who now recognise that either blind or

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visually impaired people have a lot to offer to their workforce. My

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department has the disability employment service and have

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programmes there to assist people with a range of disabilities in the

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workplace. I think it's important that we continue to highlight that

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those are available. More than 20,000 sheep were lost in

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the recent snow storms and it may be next month before all the dead

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animals are found and counted. The news emerged as the Stormont

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Agriculture Committee quizzed departmental officials on their

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handling of the crisis. The so-called 'spring blizzard'

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last month was one of the worst on record and has left farmers,

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particularly those with livestock on hills, counting huge costs.

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The Chair of the Agriculture Committee, Paul Frew, is with me

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now. Thank you for joining us. It was a huge challenge for farmers

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and for the Department. You have got concerns and you expressed them

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today in the committee meeting that departmental officials didn't quite

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measure up to the challenge? believe they react toad late to

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this crisis. I think, as the emergency evolved over that weekend,

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I think the Minister and the department were slow to react. I

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believe they should have had people on the ground. I had called for the

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deployment of TA. She had asked for air support. I believe then when

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she got that air support she let it go too soon. I believe if we had

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retained the air support and the Chinook helicopters, the two of

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them, we have saved thousands upon thousands of livestock. You think

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that. Do you have evidence for that? The officials today suggested

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they did everything they were asked to do. That food was dropped to

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sheep where sheep were seen. Short of dropping individuals in to dig

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sheep out there wasn't anything else that could be done?

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Chinook helicopters can carry tonnes and tonnes of cargo, feed,

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but they can carry personnel. I believe personnel could have been

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dropped in and helped farmers find and locate livestock and it would

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have saved them. I have evidence to suggest there are sheep being

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pulled out even yesterday alive from the snowdrifts. I believe that

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whilst the Minister made the decision to withdraw the air

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support, the likes of the Mountain Rescue team were pulling livestock

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out and they could have helped produced more... Better results

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with regard to this livestock being saved. Are you satisfied the

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Department was not motivated by cost, do you accept that?

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concerned. Thiss with a question that was raised at the last

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committee meeting we had discussions on this. The question

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was put, you know, the cost of the Chinooks. I wouldn't like to think

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there was cost involved in the decision-making process. The full

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cost son the farming community. They said it was for technical

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reasons, not because of cost? asked the question. I fut down on a

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written question to the minister with regard cost and if this was

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part of the decision-making process. I'm not convinced as yet. I don't

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believe the technical advice they would have received would have

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suggested that they did not need the air support. I believe at that

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point it was about speed and the Chinooks would have produced speed.

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You are a lone voice in respect in the committee today. There were

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sheep farmers there. They had an opportunity to criticise the

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department. They choose not to take that opportunity. It sounds like

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they are a lot happier with what was done for them than you are?

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When you are a farmer and you are in dire straits will you accept any

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help. I must stress, the Chinook helicopters were a God send. The

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farming community realised that. They did produce results and get

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feed to the hillsides. The farming community are thankful for the help

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and support that they did receive. I, as Chairman of Agriculture

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Committee must scrutinise this and scrutinise the actions of the

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Minister and the Department. I feel they let the farmers down. Are you

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satisfied that the compensation scheme or hardship scheme put in

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place for farmers will be fair? needs to be fair and drawn down

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quickly. The reports we are hearing, the talks we are having in the

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farming community, we need the money now. We need to get something

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that is balanced, that is fair, it something that can be produced

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within a matter of weeks. We heard today it could be a couple of

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months. That is unacceptable. rather than months? It has to be

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weeks. Thank you very much. A "hugely excellent choice", that's

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how one MLA described the Prime Minister's decision to locate the

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G8 Summit in Fermanagh. But while the world's leaders and

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entourages will be getting a look at the lakeland county, there are

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also concerns about policing, protesters and price - who will be

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footing the bill for the June gathering?

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It all came out in the final debate of the day. The budget of the

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entire security situation is, obviously, another aspect. Who is

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going to meet that budget? I'd like to hear if that is going to be met

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by the United Kingdom Government, how much is come from the Northern

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Ireland Executive and how much of it is coming from the other nations

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that will be involved in the G8 Summit? That is important as well

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to get some perspective on it and how much will be required,

0:23:160:23:20

particularly from our local Executive. I'm led to believe that

0:23:200:23:27

there will be a quite a significant fence going up around the resort

0:23:270:23:33

itself and there are all sorts of rumours in County Fermanagh, as I'm

0:23:330:23:36

sure you, Deputy Speaker and others will appreciate, some of these

0:23:360:23:39

rumours are indicating that the fence will be so high this they may

0:23:390:23:44

have to put out warnings to flights going over it that it may actually

0:23:440:23:50

affect the flights. Anyway... Regrettably, events such as the G8

0:23:500:23:55

Summit also attract all the Mall contents and anarchists from, not

0:23:550:23:59

only within our own society, but indeed from right across the world.

0:23:590:24:03

I suspect that this will be no different when it arrives here in

0:24:030:24:08

the very near future. They see it as a window of opportunity to

0:24:080:24:14

express their worse excesses. We have to look at the despicable

0:24:140:24:21

behaviour of a loud minority who have raised their heads since the

0:24:210:24:26

death of the former Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher. I would like to

0:24:260:24:32

take this opportunity it denounce, unreservedly, those who engage in

0:24:320:24:39

such low-life activity. I trust the Minister will have a similar

0:24:390:24:41

understanding as the Chief Constable view that the British

0:24:410:24:46

government will pick up the bill because it's their gig. That's,

0:24:460:24:50

basically, that. We have paid a loft attention in the Policing

0:24:500:24:54

Board to the question of mutual aid and police officers from Great

0:24:540:25:04
0:25:040:25:35

Britain spending time here they clear message to the world media,

0:25:350:25:42

to the G8 leaders. They can be facilitated in doing so. That is

0:25:420:25:47

many people's big concern about this G. That the message and the

0:25:470:25:57
0:25:570:26:02

legacy that goes around the world will be based upon how the genuine

0:26:020:26:07

campaigners. Not everyone wants to engage in violence. It has been

0:26:070:26:10

assessed that the summit and vairyousz events will attract mass

0:26:100:26:13

protest groups. There are some indications of that planning

0:26:130:26:18

already. Police are planning for major security operations at the

0:26:180:26:22

summit venue, at the airport and other locations. Planning is well

0:26:220:26:27

advance for each of these locations. The final itinerary of the world

0:26:270:26:33

leaders are not fully established much we are not awork of the

0:26:330:26:38

protest arrangements at this stage. Some of the plans do not include

0:26:380:26:41

fences high enough to disrupt the operation of the international

0:26:410:26:45

airport. I would like to reassure members and the wider public it's

0:26:450:26:49

the intention that both of our airports will remain open to the

0:26:490:26:52

travelling public throughout. Effort is being expended to ensure

0:26:520:26:57

that security arrangements cause as little does ruption as possible.

0:26:570:27:05

Steven McCaffery is still with me. Steven, I want to talk to you about

0:27:050:27:07

an incident which happened in the Chamber while the Employment

0:27:070:27:08

Minister, Stephen Farry, was speaking this morning.

0:27:080:27:15

Before we talk about it, let's have a look at what happened.

0:27:150:27:18

regulations are subject to the Assembly procedures which require

0:27:180:27:21

that a debate is arranged to approve the regulation nos later

0:27:210:27:26

than six months after the regulations... -- regulations no

0:27:260:27:36
0:27:360:27:39

later than six months after the regulations... (SHOUTING) Students

0:27:390:27:42

interrupting from the public gallery complaining about the

0:27:420:27:46

changes he wants to implement to the Education Maintenance Allowance.

0:27:460:27:50

Not the first time we have seen interuptions like that in the

0:27:500:27:55

public gallery? By comparison with other events it was fairly tame. We

0:27:550:28:04

don't know how representative these individuals are of student concerns.

0:28:040:28:08

There are high-security at Stormont. There would be little support for

0:28:080:28:12

this prompting a ramping up of that security still further. We arrived

0:28:120:28:15

at the conclusion this is the price we have to pay for having a public

0:28:150:28:18

gallery. If you live in a free society you want members of the

0:28:180:28:23

public to see the debate coming place. If people don't come into

0:28:230:28:26

the public gallery and throw things it's difficult to know what someone

0:28:260:28:31

is going to do. You assume they will sit there quietly. Sometimes

0:28:310:28:34

they don't? It's difficult to fault the people who work here because of

0:28:340:28:39

what happened today. It seems that they did their job efficiently they

0:28:390:28:42

couldn't have foreseen what was going to happen. In the great

0:28:420:28:52
0:28:520:28:53

scheme of things, it's not the most serious thing we have seen here.

0:28:530:28:55

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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