16/06/2014 Stormont Today


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

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The SDLP backs Sinn Fein in its attempts to to stop Gerry Kelly


The Finance Minister addresses comments from


an HBO executive that Belfast isn't the most cosmopolitan of cities.


And joining me in the studio with his thoughts is


Did I break the law technically? Yes I did. That's why I accepted the


informed warrant. The Finance Minister addresses


comments from an HBO executive that Belfast isn't


the most cosmopolitan of cities. Given the World Cup at the minute,


when it comes to filming locations, we are not Hollywood, we are


Northern Ireland. Well speak for yourself.


And joining me in the studio with his thoughts is


Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly was facing a five-day suspension from Stormont,


A Stormont committee voted for the penalty after he was reprimanded by


Mr Kelly had jumped on a police Land Rover


Unionists said the informed warning from police


wasn't enough, demanding he be charged with obstructing justice.


But Mr Kelly's party and the SDLP have decided


the suspension isn't appropriate and are using a petition of concern


to vote down the decision by the Assembly's Standard's Committee.


Here's the Speaker to explain there'll be a vote tomorrow.


It was presented in relation to this motion. Order! Order! Order,


members. The vote therefore will be in a cross-party basis and we will


respond tomorrow. It will be the first member of, the first business.


The motion relates only to the committee report and recommendations


following complaints about an incident that took place in north


Belfast on 21st June, 2013. So to explain just what all this


means I'm joined by Alex, first of all,


remind us how Gerry Kelly got into this situation, as he technically


did break the law last year. Well, let's see what members made


of it all today when He said he had to get on the vehicle


and they said to stop that. I think they were concerned about the


gathering around of the vehicle. I think Gerry Kelly got his informed


caution, the driver got one, the young men banging on the window got


one. I have no idea why the Assembly is even discussing this. I think


unionists were concerned that this warning didn't even amount to a


caution, so how surprised are you that the petition of concern has


been tabled? I think you have to be concerned any party deciding what


does and doesn't constitute justice. The process was carried through but


the petition of concern kills off the debate. It is one of those


things I don't understand. When you know a debate is not going anywhere,


when it can't even be carried, the only consequence of continuing with


it is that the two sides will do what they always do, the finger


pointing and the name calling and we'll end up worse off tomorrow


morning than we were today. So the 30-strong petition force as cross


community vote, which means the majority of people have to agree to


punish Mr Kelly? The petition of concern has only one purpose - to


kill a debate or protect someone. Alex, thank you.


Well, let's see what members made of it all today when


It's very clear that unionists believe Gerry Kelly should be


punished for his actions, while nationalists are leaning


It follows that in committing the offence of impeding a constable in


the execution of his duty Mr Kelly failed to uphold the law as required


by the members' code of conduct. It states that members should promote


and support the other principles by leadership and example in order to


establish and maintain the trust and confidence of the people of Northern


Ireland, and to ensure the integrity of the Assembly and its members in


conducting business. The committee acknowledges that Mr Kelly did seek


to demonstrate positive leadership on the evening in question. His


intention had been to defuse a tense situation and he used his influence


to direct the crowd and facilitate the passage of the police. However,


he failed to show leadership when he obstructed the police vehicle. No


matter what was happening that night I don't think there is any excuse


for being on the bonnet of the PSNI Land Rover. You wouldn't catch me on


the bonnet of a Land Rover. LAUGHTER Mr Speaker, while we are


discussing the issue of the conduct of MLAs, I feel it necessary to put


on record my grave disappointment at the level of DUP hypocrisy today.


Hear, hear. When Ruth Paterson, a councillor... Order! We are straying


away from the report. Let us deal with what's in the report and


nothing more and nothing less. Mr Speaker, it is about inconsistency


in relation to today's debate. When Ruth Paterson, a councillor from the


DUP was charged... Order! Once again, the member will know this


will be a very difficult debate. Help me to manage this debate. I say


to all members of the House, really the member is straying into a


different issue and a different incident. We really must come back


to the report. I'm trying to help the member. I rise to oppose the


motion. When you look and listen to the demeanor and attitude of the


members opposite, had this is a farce, a charade, a pantomime. If


you look at the laughs on and their faces and the guff airstrikes ws and


the inter-- and the guffaws. I would suggest he is a bit confused, since


he is more used to the back of a Land Rover than the front. It is


uncome bent on every single one of us to ensure that tensions are


calmed and that the heat is taken out of this summer. Just for the


record, because I know there've been a number of heckles, I am the member


from the SDLP is on the committee of standards and privileges. I did


leave the meeting. It wasn't because I was spineless. If I was spineless,


I wouldn't be talking right now. It showed that the police were trying


to deal with this in a proportionate way, unlike the DUP and the unionist


members of the Standards and Privileges Committee. So did I break


the law technically? Yes, I did. That's why I send the informed


warrant. But let me say this to all members here, especially members,


some of which are sitting across the way, who have to deal with these


difficult situations. You need the flexibility to make decisions on the


spot which you think will help the situation. That's exactly what I was


doing. No, I won't give way. That's what I was doing on the day. I


listened to your heckling earlier. I wish you would shut up. Order!


Order! The SDLP's Alban Maginness provided


Sinn Fein with the signature it needed to complete


its petition and stop Mr Kelly's Why are you riding to Gerry Kelly's


rescue? We are not riding to his rescue, we are simply ensuring that


there is fairness and due process in relation to the incident of 21st


June of last year. It is very important to get things into the


context where Gerry Kelly helped to defuse a very difficult situation


involving the aftermath of the tour of the north and I think that the


committee in its majority determination did not treat him


fairly. But he did himself admit that he technically broke the law.


He sits on the Policing Board. Surely he should be held to a higher


standard? Well, the first point is he send an informed warning. That


the prescribed by law. In other words he admitted that he


technically broke the law, and accepted responsibility for that.


That remains on his record for the next year. That's how the law deals


with it and that's how the PPS proposed to deal with it and did


deal wit. The second point is he was trying to defuse a very difficult


situation. He should have been given credit for that. That was not


credited to him by the committee. The committee sought to have him


excluded for five days. That, we believed, was excessive. Anna Lo,


incidentally, proposed in the committee he should be given the


opportunity to possible to the Assembly in relation to this


incident and that was voted down. Why don't you suggest that he


apologise before you signed the petition of concern? Well, we


discussed a number of issues, but the important thing was to meet the


substance of the the report, which was presented to the Assembly. We


thought that was important and to highlight the issue of


proportionality in terms of the actual sanction that was imposed on


Gerry Kelly. But members are required to uphold the law.


Shouldn't there be consequences when they don't? Absolutely. What would


you suggest is the appropriate address? I think in the


circumstances, and I was there, by the way. I was a witness to what


happened. I saw what Gerry Kelly. I myself and others tried to calm the


situation as well. The point I would make is that any penalty imposed on


him would have to be proportionate. A it wasn't and it was excessive.


Would you be applying the same approach if Nelson McCausland... If


there was a situation in which he was trying to defuse a situation in


similar circumstances, where he received an informed warning and


broke the law technically, I would be saying yes in those circumstances


he should be given the benefit of the doubt and in fairness he should


receive a lesser penalty than that proposed by the committee. OK. Thank


you very much. It was good news that was supposed


to be delivered today by Ministers, but the BBC was ahead of


the game when it reported last week that the Open Golf Championships


are returning to Northern Ireland. It didn't stop the Enterprise


Minister heading to the North Coast Arlene Foster did have to give


Question Time a miss though and sent in Simon Hamilton as a substitute.


The Minister gave notice to the business committee last week that it


might not be possible for her to return from official business


outside Belfast in time for questions and the very good news, in


terms of the Open would allow members to understand why that


situation has arisen. The Minister of finance and personnel will


therefore respond to questions on her behalf today. Since the


abolition of air passenger duty, we've seen no additional


destinations and, indeed, we've heard recently of the suspension of


the only direct flight from the North to the United States. And I


wonder if I could ask the Minister if the removal of air passenger duty


has not been as successful as was first anticipated. I think it was


successful, primarily in achieving its number one target, in terms of


the long haul air passenger duty, and the Assembly subsequently


reduced air passenger duty the long haul flights down to zero. It was


successful and its primary purpose, to save the New York to Belfast


route. I share the Minister's disappointment that that service is


now going to move from a 12 month, year-round service, to a ten month


service, which will affect me to mid-March of next year. --


mid-January two mid-March. If there is a silver lining to the


disappointing news, what I hope it does is make the route more


profitable and, therefore, sustainable. I welcome the fact that


united airlines have confirmed that the route is secure, albeit that it


is going to be reduced to ten months. There is an interesting


point of discussion following from this, into the ongoing work that my


department and the Minister of enterprise and investment's


department is doing in respect of our conductivity study, which is


going to look at many things, including the impact that air


passenger duty has on attracting roots and keeping roots in place. It


is interesting to note that whilst we have ?0 in terms of air passenger


duty for long haul flights, it hasn't been enough to keep it in


place for 12 months. What is the Minister's view of the recent


comment by an HBO executive who said it wasn't the most cosmopolitan city


to spend half a year in Belfast. I'm tempted to, given the World Cup is


on that there is an old saying in this part of the world, that we are


not Brazil but Northern Ireland, but when it comes to filming locations,


we're not Hollywood, we're Northern Ireland. I understand that the


comments were made about being away for six months. I'm sure that


anybody, no matter who you are, being away from your home and your


family for six months is a difficult thing to do. I have to say, though,


that the relationship between HBO and the Northern Ireland Executive


has been incredibly productive. Seasons five and seasons six have


already been secured for Northern Ireland, so it seems we are doing


something right in respect of HBO. The golfer featured during questions


to the regional development list as well but first, it was traffic


calming measures and the issue of speed limits that took his


attention. But the Minister confirmed that his


department has no plans to implement the mad policy of traffic calming in


town centres by opposing blanket 20 mph speed restrictions as have been


suggested by some members of the Green Party and other fringe


parties? The issue of the implementation of 20 mph schemes is


being carefully looked out. We are bringing forward pilot schemes to


better inform our view on that and I think that's a sensible approach,


rather than a widespread change, implementing, perhaps, changes that


we blame our communities are not quite prepared for. Can the Minister


state what level of income the new super councils would hope to earn


from having responsibility for such car parks and will they be in charge


of arrangements, and local car parking charges? Over 303 and


charged car parks will, as is envisaged, transferred to the


councils, with an estimated value of some ?46 million. That is what


they're worth, not what they earn. Let's be clear on that. Work is


ongoing to determine a final list of car parks that will transfer, but I


think in the region of ?8 million per year is generated. Will the


Minister give a commitment to this House today that he will consider,


given that he has time, putting investment to an even greater amount


to the A26 and the railway line going to Portrush, and, of course,


investment in the stations from Belfast to Portrush and from Larne


to Portrush, to make sure the infrastructure is in place? I'm


grateful to the Member for his question and it is tremendous news


and I'm sure the whole house rejoices in the fact that it is now


indicated that the Open will be held in Royal Portrush in 2019. We had


the huge success of the Irish Open in 2012 and we are due to have a


return visit of the Irish Open in Portrush even before 2019 and,


indeed, to Royal County Down and the surrounding area in 2015. So I think


it is very important indeed that overall infrastructure and transport


infrastructure is improved. I'm very happy and proud to say, as an Ulster


Unionist minister, that we will bring forward the scheme that will


see the upgrading of the A26 with monies and with the good intent that


my colleague indicated from his party. I look forward with


confidence to getting more money to perhaps improve that network of


roads further. And, of course, the member will no that the


Coleraine-Londonderry line was saved and effectively rescued by this


minister and by this political party, so we're very conscious of


the role that we have. Getting to and around the north


coast remained the focus for Benny in the chamber today as a motion was


brought calling on the roads minister to invest in the area.


Dual carriageway the whole way to Coleraine on a phased basis, the


A37 roadster Coleraine, and the bypass would alleviate congestion


and road problems. It is vital but I point out that the A37 is the rout


used by emergency ambulances transferring patients to hospital.


Therefore, improvement in journey times can be viewed as very


beneficial to patient outcomes. I was looking last night at a brochure


from the causeway coastal Alliance about it being one of the world's


greatest road journeys and when you look at the roads from Derry through


Coleraine, Barry Castle, all the way through to Larne, in the summer, in


the peak period, for the world's greatest road journey, we only have


two buses a day from Coleraine to Larne and vice versa. We need a


proper bus service along that route, not only for local people but


also for tourists, as well, and I think it's a case of "build it and


they will come". I'm disappointed that nobody mentioned the ferry


service between McGilligan and Greencastle and perhaps that is


something that needs to be examined. With a long-term view to developing


tourism, going both ways, because international tourism knows nothing


about borders and partition. When I think of the contribution made to


the north-west by the department of regional development, we often


forget that North Coast community transport provides an essential


service. It fills a gap for the many people who inhabit rural areas but,


unfortunately, cannot readily access public transport services because of


reduced mobility. The train service between Derry and Belfast is crucial


and it is a wonderful service for those towns that are part of the


route. However, the nature of the rail service is that they only serve


towns where they stop. We should be looking to bolster this with an


integrated transport system, which means that there is a simple way for


people to travel to stations to catch the train, whether by private


car or, more preferably, public transport. To go by public bus from


Belfast to the Giant's Causeway, our prime tourist attraction, can take


as long as 3.5 hours. That just should not be. And surely,


particularly in the summer season, it is possible to have a better


facility than that. I'm also mindful that the north coast is more than


just a place to visit. Communities live there, businesses operate


amongst that breathtaking scenery, and it's vital that we create


high-quality local and regional transport connections to provide


access to major towns. This ensures that goods and markets and workers


and jobs can link seamlessly. I wish to see local businesses expand their


markets across Great Britain and the Republic of Island and throughout


the EU and beyond. Race relations and the treatment of


ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland has been a huge issue in


recent weeks and today, the Assembly took the opportunity to recognise


Refugees Week and talk about the importance of people from other


communities coming here. Mike Nesbitt brought the motion before


the House. The theme for community relations week this year is building


a united community, while Refugee Week focuses on different pasts,


shared future. It is fitting that community relations week and Refugee


Week coincide in 2014, providing us with a timely reminder that when we


speak of uniting communities we must look beyond our two communities in


our society. And if it is the case, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Deputy


First Minister has signed off on the racial equality strategy, let the


measure of FM and DFM B, when it comes to the publication of that


racy quality strategy, that it deals with all the issues that it needs to


deal with one it comes to the issue of immigration. -- race equality.


What needs to happen in areas where frequent racist incidents occurred


to promote root jewel understanding and challenge sectarian attitudes.


-- mutual understanding. We must encourage reporting, supporting


victims in a way which demonstrates care and sensitivity, and ensure


that perpetrators of hate crimes are brought to justice and face the full


weight of the law. Both weeks are time for us to celebrate the ethnic


and cultural diversity of our community and it is important to


note that Long gone are the days when there could have been perceived


to be two or three communities here. Ireland is changing and in a really


amazing way. Growth in recent years friends challenges and


opportunities. We either show a strong, united voice on this issue


or create a vacuum in which people draw their own conclusions which can


often end up with the most damaging consequences. In recent weeks, we've


seen greater need to understand each other's backgrounds, not only


Catholic and Protestant but those from other ethnic minorities living


in Northern Ireland. The shared future has to be for all the people


of Northern Ireland. Alex Kane has rejoined me. You aren't a football


fan but what about the Gulf? By the time the Open gets here in 2019, do


you think we will lead still talking about flags? -- we will still be


talking about flags? I think we will be. That debate is going to roll on


and on way past 2019. My colleague Mark Devonport was reporting last


week that the talks will start next week and I was reading earlier that


the talks are now going to start next week so it doesn't appear that


anyone is in any hurry to get down to brass tacks. We've had talks


about whether we were going to have talks and whether we would have


talks after that. They're not agreeing on anything. They said it


last week in the hope that it would buy them a bit of time. The very day


after Robinson announced these, they were arguing over it. They need to


agree upfront, sit down the template and the blueprint. If they don't


agree, there is no point even announcing talks. It is hard not to


go past what Peter Robinson said some time ago - that if it takes


three weeks, three months or three years, it will take as long as it


takes stop a lot of people think it is going to be three years.


The optimists think it will be three years. You can't go on like that. It


is absolute nonsense. When he became First Minister and said he could


work with Martin McGuinness, it wasn't on the basis that it might be


ten years before they do anything. He sold it on the basis they could


resolve the big issues. They have done diddly squat. The two of them


may as well go and play Gulf for the next three years because it has been


a complete and utter dereliction of duty. The Queen is coming to Belfast


next week. She's going to be Martin McGuinness, which is getting to be a


bit of a habit. I think she's doing it deliberately, just to annoy the


hell out of him. He can't get out of it now. He has to shake her hand, no


matter how often or where she turns up. More power to her elbow. Let her


enjoy it. I suppose it's a way of normalising these meetings, that


people get bored of the whole thing. Nobody ever gets bored of politics


in Northern Ireland. That's the tragedy and the joy and it keeps me


employed. We'll let you get back to the World Cup that we know you love


so much. Thank you. I will be back again at


the same time tomorrow night. Until then, goodbye.


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.