16/10/2012 Stormont Today


16/10/2012

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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Coming up, and unacceptable management culture stretching back

:00:30.:00:33.

warden a decade. The Health Minister response to damning

:00:33.:00:38.

reports into the fire service. should be looking at what

:00:38.:00:43.

disciplinary steps might be taken to stop what sparked this reaction

:00:43.:00:50.

from the culture secretary? I am incensed at his remark and I want

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that for the record. I will be joined by the Ulster been its

:00:54.:01:04.
:01:04.:01:06.

The minister responsible for public safety it than puts has published

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Northern Ireland Fire and rescue Service following allegations by a

:01:15.:01:20.

whistle blows off abroad, on a prude bonuses and feel you to deal

:01:20.:01:24.

with staff grievances. He said he believes disciplinary proceedings

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should fall off. There are a have been many instances where the

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management and governance of the Fire and rescue Service has been

:01:31.:01:35.

cordoned the question. The media scout stories about whistle-blowing

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and members of the public have tabled questions on a wide range of

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concerns. The number of reviews and investigations have had to be

:01:44.:01:47.

carried out into the affairs and running of the Fire and rescue

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Service. We are concerned with whistle-blowing. The first report

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concerns allegations of irregularities with members of the

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staff. The report substantiates allegations made was that of the

:02:06.:02:10.

initial issues. It's a big the icy wastes witnesses in the way that

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whistleblowers have been treated. The report recommends the Fire and

:02:15.:02:17.

rescue service reviews its procedures for investigations of

:02:17.:02:23.

any kind on harassment, disciplinary or other procedures.

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It is disappointing that such issues have had to come to light

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through whistle-blowing rather than being picked up through proper

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controls and go on its arrangements. Witnesses identified, but at the

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same time I want to defend the right of staff to the whistle blows,

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but to encourage it were there are genuine concerns, and people should

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not feel they cannot deal with the manager in the Banque -- normal

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weight. The second whistle blown report relates to allegations of

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conflict of interest. These relate to the reconciliation of the

:03:01.:03:07.

service stores and to perform a store manager and one his own

:03:07.:03:11.

company selling professional protection equipment. The internal

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audit investigation found their were witnesses in managing conflict

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of interest and has made three recommendations and start again

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these recommendations must be implemented. There was a review of

:03:31.:03:35.

a firefighter recruitment exercise last year and a number of concerns

:03:35.:03:40.

were waste, some by members of this House who noted from the report

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that proper and appropriate governance should be adopted for

:03:44.:03:50.

the trip -- recruitment campaign. I have deep concerns that this

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process was introduced later and without the endorsement of the Fire

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and rescue Service Board which the report acknowledged should park

:03:57.:04:00.

been part of the governance arrangements appear outset. One of

:04:00.:04:05.

the issues raised was that the process was biased towards

:04:05.:04:09.

relatives of senior managers within the service. Based on the review of

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the document available, no direct evidence of nepotism could be found,

:04:15.:04:19.

but there was evidence of clear separation of personal interests

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from decision making. Can I ask what changes the Department has

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made to its arrangements since the issue has come to light? Does the

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Minister believe that department had too much of a hands-off

:04:35.:04:39.

approach in scrutinising the fire service? To department has been

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closely Lord in supervision of the fire service for some time no at

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that has led to significant changes. The separation of the role of chief

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fire officer from the accounting officer, chief Executive aspect of

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that goal, it's something that we would say it's temporary, but none

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the less necessary, so that we can bring a new broom in to its over

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lot of the issues which were called to will, within the poorer service.

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He's a fundamental weaknesses in any organisation. Be the basic

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management procedures that should be in a voluntary group, never mind

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an ordination this size, so, has any disciplinary action been taken

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against any of the senior management team for this atrocious

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management they had looked over? That is recommended under the Pope

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to look at discipline and I can hear what the member says, and

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perhaps it does reflect on this issue that, too often, people are

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moved sideways, and discipline does not take place. There is also a

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recommendation that we should be looking at the human resources side

:06:02.:06:08.

of up to see what disciplinary steps might be taken. The average

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Language Act has not gone away, and Jim Allister took the opportunity

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to challenge Karen McKinnon over funding for Sandy Row boxing club.

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How can volunteers in Sandy Row boxing club get assistance as long

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as the minister insists they will not be funded unless they re

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affiliate with the group that has discriminated against them? Worst

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of all, the member is wrong in what he says. Sandy Row has not been

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refused any funding and secondly, for the record, I asked to meet

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Sandy Row, and that was refused. I went to San be able boxing club on

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the basis of receiving allegations within the department, again, it

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was refused. Sandy Row boxing club refused to meet board -- sport and

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I. I ask them again to meet about the alleged allegations and again

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it was reduced. I then went and met and spoke with security

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representatives in the area to see what they do to Dr Sandy Row boxing

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club about the situation and they were told where to go. They went to

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Stormont Road Boxing reception with other boxers and again that was

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refused. For an event around the Olympics and Paralympics, again,

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they refused, so what I would like the member to do and I am offering

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a member this because he seems to be making an issue of this on

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behalf or Sandy Row, why don't you will tell a meeting with myself and

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my officials to work through these allegations around sectarianism,

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which no one in this house will add a tolerate or support, and, if the

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member is serious about getting to the bottom of this issue, he will

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take that invitation series there. Can I ask the Minister to confirm

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that and the like of evidence reported in Hansard that the new

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Irish language strategy can be delivered literate legislation,

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that the proposed Irish Language Act has now been abandoned?

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English-language ACPO has not been abandoned by myself -- Irish

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Language Act. I will repeat that Bono -- or the benefit of members

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with in this chamber. And look forward to the support of members

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in doing so also the strategies under the programme for government

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will need a legislative approach but we will not want to that

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consultation finishes and that it would like to see, at this stage

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that the consultations on both are still open and I eat what encourage

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you remember to use their influence to encourage people to feed into

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those consultations. Sami Khiyami, constituency in Olly money has one

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is it will title championship in weightlifting. You recently that a

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50-but the pipe age bracket category competition, whatever all

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that means! But it means he was very successful. And will the

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Minister insure competitors from all on Ireland engaged in

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weightlifting and other sports will be financially assisted in

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participation through Sports Northern Ireland in the 2014

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Commonwealth Games in Glasgow? thanked the Member for his question.

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I, too, do not know what that means but I know enough to know that I am

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impressed and Sammy is from your ease the juicy, and from Ballymoney,

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and congratulations to him because anybody competing at this level, it

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is no mean feat, and I would write to -- like to congratulate David

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McCallum, recent winner of the strongest man in Ulster. What is

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important is that sport Northern Ireland in conjunction with the

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weightlifting Association do what it were they to do to pass on

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recognition and that poor people like Sammy, and others, who want to

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compete Anne the 2014, and will teams, weightlifting has become

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increasingly popular, and it deserves support, but the member

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will it be that we have to meet the criteria as a governing body to

:10:54.:11:00.

ensure that support for a long-term future. Education minister John

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O'Dowd attended the standards of GCSEs this afternoon puts up he was

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asked how he will insure students from Northern Ireland are not

:11:08.:11:13.

disadvantaged when the exam is abolished in England. He was asked

:11:13.:11:19.

about funding for children with special educational needs. I have

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concern about the number of children who are not getting

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assessed. Is he going to put extra resources to route to the library

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bowled so that we allow more children to be assessed, with

:11:29.:11:39.
:11:39.:11:42.

special needs -- the Library Board. Instead, the member has decided to

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speak about everything other than provision of education and

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educational needs of young people, of the most socially deprived areas,

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and got into a speech about his due of my party which has nothing to do

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with it. But I can assure the Member that I will ensure that

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resources are targeted at children with special needs. I have as part

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of my delivery plan protected special needs from any other

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savings and cuts. I will endeavour to direct more finances towards

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that as well. One of the driving forces behind this idea was to

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ensure that the quality of delivery of service, across the North,

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rather than what we have which is a major difference between what

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services are the seed, from one ball to another. -- are received. I

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can assure you that standards will be maintained and learners will not

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be disadvantaged with any changes. I will work with counterparts

:12:53.:13:03.
:13:03.:13:08.

elsewhere in the UK to ensure that $:/STARTFEED. Thank you for your

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answer. Cot Minister give me his assessment of the current system in

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Northern Ireland, using GCSE as opposed to the proposed

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baccalaureate in mainland UK It's difficult to assess our current

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GCSE's against the proposed changes because the full details have not

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been published of them. I can give him an assessment. I believe our

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system to be robust. I believe it to be a fair challenge of the

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individual learners' abilities and their skill sets. However, the

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changes that have been made in England present us with an

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opportunity to review. That I have set up a review and I await the

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outcome of the report coming back to me before proposing any changes,

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if any, to our current examination system. I am satisfied that we have

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a robust examination system in our possession. I have said publicly

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before that comments elsewhere may have damaged the brand, I certainly

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don't want any of our young people leaving education or going tonne to

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further education believing that the examination they have is not up

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to standard. Anybody who has currently or is sitting GCSE's

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should be proud of their achievements. He is having a review,

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but can he tell us what discussions he had with Michael Gove and

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whether he learnt lessons from that? Have you not heard, Michael

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Gove doesn't want to talk to me. I have learnt the lesson that,

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despite repeated questions to Mr Gove for a meeting, I will always

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get a refusal. However, I have agreed with a meeting to one of his

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junior ministers responsible for examinations. We are waiting for a

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date. I had hoped to do a joint meeting with my Welsh counter nart

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regards that. That may not prove possible. We hope to do that.

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However, I will continue to have correspondence with Michael Gove. I

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will meet with his officials, despite the fact that I believe it

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should be a face-to-face meeting with him. I think the outcome is

:15:13.:15:15.

more important. The Education Minister, John O'Dowd.

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It's been the subject of much debate and today the Finance

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Minister, Sammy Wilson, introduced a fast-track motion calling for the

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elimination of Air Passenger Duty on direct long-haul flights

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departing from airports in Northern Ireland. Having an effective date

:15:30.:15:36.

of 1st January 2013 is our aim. This is clearly challenging, but I

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believe it's possible. Having the proinvestigation vision effective

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from January 2013 can no longer be achieved by normal passage of the

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Bill. To my mind, it would be wholly unacceptable if the key

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measures in the Bill were not operational until a much later date

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which would be the case if we pursued the normal Bill process in

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the Assembly. I'm conscious that accelerated passage should not be

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used lightly or unnecessarily. This is not an attempt to try to shield

:16:08.:16:11.

the Bill from the proper scrutiny it should be undertaken. As Members

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will be recall, at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, we were

:16:17.:16:22.

faced with significant concerns on the viability of the direct link

:16:22.:16:26.

between Belfast International and inch ewark. This was a direct

:16:26.:16:30.

result of the rate of air passenger duty here and in the Republic of

:16:30.:16:33.

Ireland. It was very clear that without urgent action this route

:16:33.:16:37.

would have been lost to Northern Ireland. It was a the Chancellor

:16:37.:16:42.

himself who eventually took the decision to firstly reduce our

:16:42.:16:47.

long-haul APD to the short haul rate and to begin the process of

:16:47.:16:52.

devoluming the necessary powers to us. I would like to again put on

:16:52.:17:02.
:17:02.:17:03.

record my thanks to him for that -- dedevolume vinge. This left a rate

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of duty that was significantly higher than the rate in the

:17:07.:17:11.

Republic of Ireland. A commitment was given in the programme for

:17:11.:17:16.

government that the Executive would act quickly to reduce the duty on

:17:16.:17:20.

these flights to zero. Some in this House, Mr Deputy Speaker, would

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like to devolve all fiscal powers to Northern Ireland. Or? The SDLP's

:17:26.:17:31.

case set up another quaun go to consider the issue, this is not the

:17:31.:17:36.

view of my party. They must consider any proposal of changes to

:17:36.:17:41.

fiscal atomy on a case by case basis and any support offered by

:17:41.:17:45.

the Ulster unionist party is qualified and not to be taken as an

:17:45.:17:50.

opening of the floodgates for the devolution the fiscal powers.

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devolution of ref new-raising power to a region inevitably brings with

:17:56.:18:00.

it a cost, in this case, as mentioned earlier on, the cost is

:18:00.:18:06.

estimated to be around �5 million. That's against an estimated benefit

:18:06.:18:13.

to the region of �100 million in the space of seven years. With

:18:13.:18:18.

further potential from other routes in the future. What monitoring will

:18:18.:18:24.

there be to make sure that it is indeed the consumer, not the

:18:24.:18:29.

airline companies which derive all the benefit from this?

:18:29.:18:32.

The TUV MLA, Jim Allister. This afternoon, Members debated a

:18:32.:18:36.

DUP motion on the fate of the so- called Disappeared.

:18:36.:18:38.

The motion highlighted the plight of the seven families whose

:18:38.:18:41.

relatives' remains still have not been located and called on anyone

:18:41.:18:46.

with information to co-operate fully with the authorities. We hear

:18:46.:18:52.

much talk of moving on, but how account families of the disappeared

:18:52.:18:56.

move on? If we to move forward in Northern Ireland, it's crucial that

:18:56.:19:02.

everyone, I mean everyone, is honest and open about the past. Mr

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Speaker, I don't believe we need a truth commission. I believe we

:19:07.:19:14.

simply need people to tell the truth. Sadly, it seems to me, that

:19:14.:19:18.

the Members opposite are only interested in hiding the per --

:19:19.:19:22.

highlighted the perceived crimes of our national government. They are

:19:22.:19:26.

not keen to have the spotlight shown on their past or that of

:19:26.:19:32.

their friends. It is time for open, honest and forthright confessions

:19:32.:19:39.

from some key people. Justice demands it, common decency demands

:19:39.:19:44.

it, grieving families demand it and the blood of the 19 murdered people

:19:44.:19:48.

known as the Disappeared demands it. My party has made concrete and

:19:48.:19:52.

specific proposals in terms 7 of an international and independent truth

:19:52.:19:55.

recovery commission. I think that other parties should think that

:19:55.:20:00.

they have better ideas should at least attempt to bring them forward

:20:00.:20:03.

for consideration. For it is part the IRA apologised for the grief it

:20:03.:20:07.

caused. It acknowledged its intention in working closely with

:20:07.:20:11.

the special forensic investigating team has been to rectify this

:20:11.:20:15.

injustice. It has accepted full responsibility for it is actions. I

:20:15.:20:21.

know that that will not cut much ice on the benches opposite, but I

:20:21.:20:25.

lsz know that despite the fact it will not be any great consolation

:20:25.:20:31.

to the families of those involved, but it does address their very,

:20:31.:20:35.

very sincere desire to arrange a Christian burial for their love

:20:35.:20:40.

ones. I say this was sanctions by the IRA Armyy council there is no

:20:40.:20:44.

way that the IRA would have acted without the authority of their army

:20:44.:20:48.

council. The fact it went on for so long is also an indication it had

:20:48.:20:53.

the approval of the army council. The fact that the IRA had human

:20:53.:20:56.

remains from families over the period indicates this was part of

:20:56.:21:01.

the policy of the IRA. Why was tht policy of the IRA? What was to be

:21:01.:21:04.

gained with the retention of human remains? Clearly, for families

:21:04.:21:08.

there was always the hope that their loved one would come home,

:21:08.:21:12.

many mothers and fathers went to their graves waiting for their son

:21:12.:21:17.

to return home and I'm sure the families held a hope in hair their

:21:17.:21:20.

hearts that their mother would come home, even though they knew that

:21:20.:21:26.

Daewoo never come. When I think of the 16 Disappeared and the denial

:21:26.:21:30.

of their families' right to a Christian burial, I always think of

:21:30.:21:39.

a quote, "The foolings, the fools, whilst Ireland holds these graves"

:21:39.:21:45.

this is one of the fathers of the Irish - of Irish repub Blanc

:21:45.:21:49.

cannism significantifying the importance of the place of rest

:21:49.:21:54.

within Irish culture and within Irish republicanism. It's a

:21:54.:21:57.

demonstration of how much comtempt the Provisional IRA demonstrated

:21:57.:22:02.

towards the Irish people that they strayed from the basic dignity of a

:22:02.:22:06.

grave. It's very difficult to comprehend the scale of the

:22:06.:22:11.

heartbreak and the trauma that the families of the "disappeared "have

:22:11.:22:17.

been forced to endure, over for what has been a lifetime. I can pay

:22:17.:22:22.

tribute, as the motion does, to the couragious perseverence of the

:22:22.:22:27.

victims' families to locating the remains of their loved ones. We

:22:27.:22:32.

fully support their campaign. This is a very, very personal issue for

:22:32.:22:36.

the families of the "disappeared" it is part of a wider issue of how

:22:36.:22:40.

we deal with the legacy of our past in Northern Ireland. The approach

:22:40.:22:45.

to date has been regrettably and painfully piecemeal. The Alliance

:22:45.:22:48.

Party has consistently held that the legacy of our recent past is

:22:49.:22:57.

too important and affects too many people to be dealt with in this way.

:22:57.:23:01.

Does Northern Ireland need an Armed Forces Advocate. The Ulster

:23:01.:23:05.

unionist party thinks so. Mike Nesbitt is with me now. Thank you

:23:05.:23:10.

for joining us. What would an Armed Forces Advocate do, precisely?

:23:10.:23:14.

would advocate on behalf of serving and former members of the military.

:23:14.:23:19.

It goes back, Mark, to the armed forces covenant which came out of

:23:19.:23:23.

Westminster. This is, basically, an acknowledgment that, as a nation,

:23:23.:23:28.

we have a moral obligation to our armed forces, nothing to the do

:23:28.:23:31.

with the Troubles, not Northern Ireland-specific. Not about the

:23:31.:23:36.

conflict here. A recognition that our young people serve in Iraq,

:23:36.:23:39.

Afghanistan, and they put themselves in harms way. Some get

:23:39.:23:45.

injured. I wouldn't be the only MLA who has helped them. I have gone to

:23:45.:23:49.

people who have lost their limbs putting themselves in harm's way.

:23:49.:23:54.

It's a question of making sure there is somebody who has an eye on

:23:54.:23:56.

their needs. Scotland has an Armed Forces Advocate. It's actually the

:23:57.:24:01.

Chief Executive of the NHS in Scotland. Wales has an Armed Forces

:24:01.:24:05.

Advocate. That is the Chief Executive of their Community and

:24:05.:24:09.

Local Government Organisations. We don't have one here. That is an

:24:09.:24:12.

equality issue. Are you suggesting that an individual be appointed to

:24:12.:24:16.

hold this post or that somebody with an existing post take on this

:24:16.:24:20.

additional responsibility? That can be argued either way. There are two

:24:20.:24:24.

people currently have posts in Scotland and Wales who have picked

:24:24.:24:27.

up this responsibility. You could have a commissioner. Northern

:24:27.:24:30.

Ireland we have a commissioner for victims and survivors. A

:24:30.:24:33.

commissioner for older people, younger people. We have a

:24:33.:24:36.

commissioner for equality and for human rights. A council for ethnic

:24:36.:24:41.

minorities. This is a glaring miss that we are not looking after our

:24:41.:24:45.

armed forces and veterans. You can understand, given what you have

:24:45.:24:48.

said, people in Northern Ireland saying enough commissioner, we

:24:48.:24:50.

don't need another commissioner and all the cost that is would bring

:24:51.:24:55.

with it? You could do it by saying to somebody with the necessary

:24:55.:24:57.

skills, expertise and experience, would you take that under your

:24:57.:25:02.

wing? It's a question of looking at how policy on education, on housing

:25:02.:25:07.

on health affects people. I mean, as far as I understand it, if you

:25:07.:25:10.

come back, having served in the armed forces in England, you have

:25:10.:25:14.

been living on an army base, you don't have a home much you go to

:25:14.:25:18.

the housing executive. You get no more points you would do if you

:25:18.:25:22.

were coming out of jail. That is not right. You know that this would

:25:22.:25:24.

be controversial given the political landscape in Northern

:25:24.:25:27.

Ireland. You are trying to bring this in by the back door. You are

:25:27.:25:31.

looking for legislation in Westminster rather than here in

:25:31.:25:35.

Stormont? I'm trying to make it happen. I'm recognising the

:25:35.:25:39.

political realities. There is an opportunity - The political reality

:25:39.:25:43.

being it wouldn't happen if it was down to the Assembly? I don't think

:25:43.:25:45.

you would get cross community support for this within the

:25:46.:25:49.

Assembly. I think that's wrong. Contingency's a shame. It's not

:25:50.:25:53.

about the Troubles. It's about people who serve in our armed

:25:53.:25:55.

forces. In the way that people serve in the armed forces in the

:25:56.:25:58.

Republic of Ireland, in the United States of America. Any country in

:25:58.:26:02.

the world. Making sure they are not disadvantaged. Now, there is a

:26:03.:26:06.

possibility, to get this through Westminster I have been in touch

:26:06.:26:09.

with the Secretary of State's for Northern Ireland, Scotland and

:26:09.:26:13.

Wales and also with the shadow secretaries I met them at the

:26:13.:26:16.

Labour Party Conference. Some of these people were expressing

:26:16.:26:22.

surprise we don't have an Armed Forces Advocate here. And surprised

:26:22.:26:30.

it's deemed to be controversial. Mrs Villiers going to try to get

:26:30.:26:33.

through Westminster? She hasn't declared her hand. I have declared

:26:33.:26:38.

my hand. I think this is the way to do. It I don't think there would be

:26:38.:26:42.

anybody voting on this Bill who exercises their vote who would not

:26:42.:26:45.

support the idea of the advocate. Where would the money come from to

:26:45.:26:51.

pay for it? It wouldn't be free, there would be cost implications?

:26:51.:26:54.

It wouldn't necessarily have to be expensive. It's a person to keep an

:26:54.:27:00.

eye on policy and to advise people like the 108MLAs of the

:27:00.:27:04.

implications. Section 75, which gives rights, in terms of

:27:04.:27:10.

protecting minorities and their equality issues, actually mitigates

:27:10.:27:13.

against members of the armed forces and veterans. What about the local

:27:13.:27:17.

parties here? I don't know if you have spoken to them in great detail.

:27:17.:27:21.

I imagine the DUP would think it's a good idea, I would imagine Sinn

:27:21.:27:29.

Fein would think it's a bad bad idea. What about the other parties?

:27:29.:27:33.

The DUP I would hope would support it. The Alliance I would hope they

:27:33.:27:37.

would support it. Have you discussed it with any of them?

:27:37.:27:44.

haven't. We had a meeting with 18- 20 groups who have something to do

:27:44.:27:49.

with armed forces, Combat Stress and the Royal British Legion. There

:27:49.:27:52.

are so many organisations all doing great work in their own right, but

:27:53.:27:55.

not necessarily well co-ordinated. That is a role the Commissioner

:27:55.:28:00.

could take on. I can't let you escape without asking you if things

:28:00.:28:04.

have settled in the Ulster unionist party after the high drama of two

:28:04.:28:08.

years ago when you sacked your deputy? Took a lot of criticism for

:28:08.:28:12.

it, it has to be said? Some people gave me criticism. A lot of people

:28:12.:28:16.

came in in support. I have stood down the position. It doesn't

:28:16.:28:19.

actually have any great value. stood down the position but sacked

:28:19.:28:23.

the individual? You can't leave the person in post if the post doesn't

:28:23.:28:28.

exist. Yeah. I have been in post for six months. The media say I

:28:28.:28:32.

face crisis after crisis much I don't feel I have faced a crisis.

:28:32.:28:36.

We are in transition. We are doing it well before we go into an

:28:36.:28:39.

election. I think it's the right thing to do. There is pain involved

:28:39.:28:44.

in this. We are getting to where we want to be. Have you kissed and

:28:44.:28:47.

made up? John and I had a great meeting this morning on another

:28:47.:28:54.

issue. It's all behind snu As far as I'm concerned. John has given

:28:54.:28:57.

every indication we are moving forward postively. Thank you very

:28:57.:29:00.

much. That's it from Stormont Today for

:29:00.:29:03.

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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