17/01/2017 Stormont Today


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If yesterday's proceedings amounted to blowing the whistle


on normal play at Stormont, then today was definitely injury time.


With Sinn Fein members largely absent and business lacking any


real sense of urgency, it seemed the parties had at least


one eye on March 2nd. But, despite that, the RHI


controversy did still make its way on to the agenda for the day.


So, tonight, the opposition calls for a public inquiry,


Accountability is a very important principle in public life.


One veteran politician gives his verdict on the last


This is that we the assembly aims, but with a dwindling amount of


interest. And joining me with his thoughts


on a much quieter day in the chamber is the


commentator Chris Donnelly. After postponing the debate


on the Economy Minister's plan to mitigate the projected cost


of the Renewable Heat Incentive for a public inquiry.


today formally called But not all parties


were represented in the chamber. Accountability is a very important


principle in public life. It is the norm around the world except here.


It seems a minister will not take responsibility for a disaster. This


calls for the First Minister to stand aside for the duration of the


enquiry. The format for the enquiry will seek to have cost recovery for


these claims which turned out to be fraudulent. The enquiry should take


no more than six months. That is plausible, with updates at two


monthly intervals. It should be approved by ministers within the


assembly. Sinn Fein have taken the action they have taken because they


want to bring down this assembly. They are getting a part-time the


heartlands, or should I see the former heartlands. Let's be honest,


everyone knows this, everyone watching knows this, if they were


really concerned about these issues, they would have been here yesterday


and here today. The public by a percentage are overwhelmingly


telling me that we have detailed the truth. Having told the truth, he


would be sitting beside me. Everyone is entitled to a public enquiry. I


do not mind which Minister brings it. But it is an ex-minister of Sinn


Fein who is not here this morning. But the actual thing is to do the


right thing. The great thing is to have that enquiry. It is still not


too late to have it. You can call that enquiry today. The ministers


can set that enquiry up. It does not require the consent of your


partners. If we were to do that, you would supported. I wanted the public


enquiry in accordance with the motion in front of the house today.


The motion calls for the ministers to bring forward the plan to lessen


liability to the public purse. Arlene Foster Said I want to make


sure that there is not a potential overspend. I hope the Minister will


continue to stand by that commitment. We are happy for a


public enquiry. I do not want a public enquiry on the nature of


Chilcot or Savile. We want an enquiry but we want it done quickly.


We do not want this having things imposed on us by people who opposed


Arlene Foster. She is far too decent for that and too much liked by the


public. You want to get rid of her because she is good at what she


does. Edwin Poots, speaking up


for his party leader Arlene Foster, and that motion was passed


on an oral vote. More RHI in the chamber today -


and agreement on the way forward Obviously, Sinn Fein were not


present, but all the other parties had committed to some sort of


enquiry. I think we saw Mr rehearsal on what we are going to hear the


theme of the RHI scheme during the election. Also, it seems that there


is a change of tack from the DUP. But, of course, Sinn Fein,


decided not to get involved Part of that, they did wanted to be


the story. I think it was more about a statement that we are demeaning


the legitimacy of the institution and we have called for the


resignation of the First Minister. They recognise that the public would


want to see that the ministers are still interested. We will talk about


later. Thank you. Yesterday, James Brokenshire


was very much at the centre of things on this


side of the Irish Sea. Today, he was back in Westminster,


briefing MPs on the current


state of play here. For our part, we will continue to


stand by our part of the deal fast agreement and do everything we can


to safeguard political stability. -- Belfast agreement. It has not always


been easy with more than a few bumps on the road but with strong


leadership, issues which might have brought the institution Stone have


been resolved through dialogue. Northern Ireland has been able to


present itself to the world in a wave which would've been


unrecognisable a few years ago -- a modern dynamic and outward looking


and Ireland which is a great place to live, work invest in and do


business with. The country has come so far and we cannot allow the games


to be made to be derailed. Yes, we have an election and once that is


over we need to be in a position to continue building a Northern Ireland


that works for everybody. That is the responsibility on all of us and


we all need to raise to that challenge. Does he accept that the


problem remains that calling a public enquiry into the RHI scheme


order photo making it clear that he supports a public enquiry, public


confidence will sink even lower than make restoration of the executive


even more difficult. That is what people are telling me on the street.


The basically need clarity. We are having an election here any fog. It


is clear that the issues surrounding the RHI scheme are largely central


to the election being cold. It is critical with regard to establishing


confidence once again with the public in relation to what has taken


place. Could the Secretary of State confirm that post-election, the


framework of a dissolve the assembly, of the is the settled


framework for moving forward and that joint authority with the


Republic Ireland or renegotiation of the agreements in place do not form


part of his plan for moving forward. If he does not give certain


particular, for the draft will orca. I can see that that is absolutely


the approach they take to this. It is about getting through the


election and the re-establishment of the executive and the


re-establishment of devolved government. How I hear all the broad


discussions, that has to be the focus. We need to re-establish the


trust in the institutions we have saw the country can move forward.


The Secretary of State, making it clear he wants to see Stormont


up and running again after the election.


Chris, the big question is, how easy will that be to achieve?


Because it looks as though Sinn Fein wants big changes


before it will agree to rejoining a devolved administration.


I think he is definitely the most prominent Secretary of State to say


a few no. Now we have the collapse of the institutions, it looks as if


Sinn Fein, if not renegotiating previous agreements, are looking for


some clarity in that regard. They may be want these to be


front-loaded. That is clearly something that the DUP will be


looking to resist. It does look like some form of direct rule is on the


cards. Could we be looking


at a prolonged period of direct It is certainly on the case that


National Assembly Irish government are wanting more involvement in the


talks which will have to take place with regard to Brexit. Obviously, in


the past, the British woman has resisted Irish involvement in any


discussions. Meantime, while Sinn Fein MLAs


had absented themselves from the morning's business,


the Infrastructue Minister, Chris Hazzard did put


in an appearance, It


department solves every problem with every rural road, so we have to


prioritise. When it comes to schools, we want to repeal the writ


which has the shortest distance. Schools go above what is above them,


but that, cannot be up around every corner to solve them. We have been


fairly fortunate so far that the weather has been mild, but we have


invested millions of pounds in sorting out the network you be


rejoining the budget of hundreds of millions of pounds if we were to


properly do it. The A5 and A6. Can he assure the construction industry


that the proposed road works and improvements on these will happen.


It is very clear that the funding is in place going forward. As Minister,


I have left clear instructions with regard to the executive power


priority projects, such as the A5 and A6. With the number of


departmental board 's priorities, a recently published my decision to


accept the independent factors report. We will begin to gauge with


the community the number of issues we are having which have arisen from


that. For tourism and commuters, will


there be a time schedule outlined? There are a number of issues making


it difficult to outline a very accurate timescale in relation to


moving forward with the York Street Interchange, not least the funding


difficulties that we faced. I would suggest have been exacerbated by the


Prime Minister Barak statement today, around Brexit, and it is very


clear we are heading for a very hard Brexit, in any rate. The member can


say here, here, till the cows come home, but when farmers lose out on


various grounds for various things the cows will be coming home to an


empty shed because at the end of the day we are able to facilitate...


Right enough. Europe has been good to hear two-year research projects,


at the end of the day, and it is one such project that has suffered at


the hands of Brexit, and cheers at the other side of the house, that of


the situation we have found. warning of


the implications of Brexit. The Justice Minister also


faced her final Question Time of the mandate today


and she was asked about the mistakes made in the


investigation of the murder Earlier this month, it was revealed


that 40-year-old Damien McLaughlin, who is charged in connection


with the murder, has breached his bail conditions


and not been seen by police The DUP MLA Trevor Clarke asked the


Justice Minister about the matter. I would like to begin by expressing


my heartfelt sympathy to the family of David Black, no one should have


to endure what they have done and I have spoken to the family over the


past week in relation to events reported in the media. The


monitoring of bail conditions of the matter for the Belize and while the


PSNI falls on the remit of my department, they have only


operational autonomy. Consequently it would be inappropriate for me to


interfere with that and therefore cannot involve myself in individual


cases or operational cases. I understand the PSNI has issued an


unequivocal apology to the black family, and commissioned a review of


the processes and I agree with their ascension that all sectors should


reflect. This is a failure. This is a hireling embarrassing and


representable act, that this may have involved this man, and I think


to apologise to the family of Mr Black isn't enough, so I am asking


the Minister can I ask again to review a decision? In terms of my


decision, as I said, it's not a decision that operationally rests


with me, it ultimately is with the courts and PSNI, with bail. That


said, I'm appalled by what has happened and I'm not scared to


Sayed, even though it is outside my jurisdiction in this matter. I have


made my feelings clear to the Chief Constable how this has been allowed


to happen, so I can give the member assurance that I do have a focus on


this particular issue, to try and ensure that it won't happen again,


we have in terms of the bail review, something ongoing within my


department since October. It is something that I have asked my


officials in light of this, and I say that reluctantly, because it


should not be in light of this because this should not have


happened, but I have asked my department to expedite it in any way


they can that can give comfort to black family because... The black


family have gone through enough, and this will keep continuing to raise


those issues with him Billy Mack them, and it is devastating and I


think we need to do generally start putting victims Hirst that are


victims first here, too insecure that they are being put first. Does


the Minister agree that this is a shocking indictment of our criminal


justice system about that when someone charged with aiding and


abetting one of the most horrendous murders of recent years was treated


with such kid gloves by the system, or by the courts, through serial


relaxations of his bail removed to tagging restraint, reduced the


number of days he had to sign, allowed him out to attend hotel spa


weekends... And then surprise surprise, he skipped bail, and the


police don't discover it for over a month. Could they be a more shocking


indictment? Can the Minister tell us, have any lessons being learned?


Both by the judiciary, who are not above reproof in this matter and the


police. Have any real lessons being learned? Is she satisfied about


that? Again, I am appalled that this particular case. And have any


lessons being learned that might if they haven't been, Mrs Biggar, then


there's that we should be and I think that's all I can say, without


reiterating. Claire Sugden accepting


the shortcomings of the system. A late addition to the day's


business was an urgent oral question about the future of a GP


practice in Portadown, Bannview Medical Practice has 5,200


patients on its books, but now faces closure, after its


last remaining doctor resigned. The fifth January 2017, a new GP


contract confirms to the health and social care board that they would


take on the band view medical practice from early March 20 17. --


Bannview Medical Practice. Yesterday, officially that


contractor withdrew their intention to take on the practice. What is


your response to the anger of the patients in Portadown, and was the


contract signed as a stalling tactic because of the organised patients


rally? I can say to all patients that they will continue to use


receive safe clinical services and the board will monitor that. We have


in place medical and nursing cover, we have arrangements with other


practices, in terms of out of hours independent prescribers. All work


collectively as part of a team to make sure that patients have access


to first is deeply services which they rightly are entitled to. I


think it is important that we don't scaremonger, it is important that we


are responsible about this. What I will ensure and the board have been


asked to do is to direct every member of the surgery to make sure


that they are fully abreast of the situation,. The macro to say we are


extremely disappointed, is an understatement. It isn't


scaremongering. I am sad that this is left on the DUP. I have supported


you as chair of this committee, we have all decided to take the


politics out of health and I still want to take out at the politics. We


are at the end of the road when it comes to did you beat writers,


especially in Portadown, but not only that, this week my colleague


and I are meeting with a GP practice in west Belfast a Belfast issue now


as well. Actually believe I'd and very much behind taking the politics


out of the situation. The reality is... The reality is for all the


people do have confidence, more transformation is the happen,


companies need to be having the institutions, that health decisions


are being taken by the right reason, and they need to know that the


ministers taking the decisions had a quality, report, and integrity and


respect the -- dins disrespect... The backbenches can chapel they


wish. The reason we are in the situation is because the DUP


arrogance. Pure and simple. Michelle O'Neill single-handedly


facing down her critics The final serious piece of business


today perhaps best reflected the situation Stormont now


finds itself in. The opposition parties brought


a motion recognising The DUP opposed it and Sinn Fein


did not turn up for it. That kind of sums it up in terms of


how Sinn Fein, and the DUP can I have run government. For the last


ten years. Protect the individuals, protect the parties, never mind the


country. This is ten years of failure. Of scandals, of debacle, of


disappointment. I hope the people have had enough. I hope the people


say on the 2nd of March we will look to parties who want to put the


country first, ahead of the party, and ahead of the individuals within


that party. Ultimately, for power-sharing to work it is more


than simply the right institutional design them and we can forge you


make improvements in that regard but other leader has TB trust,


partnership and mutual respect, and most clearly we do not have that.


Whatsoever. We have instead dysfunction, characterised by


bickering, political instability, ultimately to the situation to you


today where institutions are seriously imperilled. It is


profoundly sad that it has come to this. But I think we need to be


honest. The reason why we are at this point is because one party,


Sinn Fein, did not like the outcome of the election, and they saw, in


RHI, an opportunity to have a rerun. They haven't been talking... There


haven't been talking about RHI, they've been listing various


nationalist and republican totems in the run into the election, and we


will face them on those issues and we will prevail in the election. We


are here to talk about the failure of the Executive, and all you had to


do is look around. I don't even need to make a speech to illustrate the


failure of this executive. But I will give it a go. It is utterly


surreal what has gone on in this building today. The oxygen has been


dragged out of this place. The public are just bemused and people


keep talking about the anger out on the streets. People aren't angry, Mr


Deputy Speaker, they are utterly furious that we have got to this


point. Strange atmosphere around the base today, and I have noticed it


since we came in as one. You wouldn't know what to make of it, Mr


Debord is big. The debating of Sinn Fein's benches, they have always


bounced around, there's never any one on the DUP benches... We at only


in a vacuum. This is the way the assembly ends. You know, if not with


a bang with a sort of whimpering and innuendo. We slink away. Achieving


what question not having achieving what? Nothing for them. For them,


strategic decision they have decided Stormont is over. The only thing


that will bring them back here is if the continuance of Stormont so


serves their ends because the DUP decides after the election for the


sake of office to fill Sinn Fein's boots with more concessions. Yes,


you can have a Stormont under mandatory coalition if you are


willing to pay that impossible price, and Sinn Fein is testing you.


To see just how desperate you are to hang on to power.


And Chris Donnelly joins me for a final word.


Eamonn McCann talked about


"a whimpering diminuendo of interest".


No-one up here today could have been in any doubt we are heading


No, there's no doubt, and as a matter of interest there was one


political party, Sinn Fein, singularly not present, most of the


Brits in vain representatives clearly hitting the ground. Most of


the selection conventions have taken place, the running registry


campaign. Some of the other parties think that Sinn Fein have caught a


march on them and they won't be long behind in catching up, now. It is


interesting that that that two People


Before Profit candidates will be running in West Belfast.


What do you make of that? with seats going down from 60 to


256, it means that for Sinn Fein to hold onto therefore, people bought


for their profits, and SDLP and it would her to lose out. Both of those


candidates when you consider that there is a large unionist


population, and not enough to have one quota, but enough to be


kingmaker. I think it is likely that there is going to be one People


Before Profit in Jerry Kyle, and one other, whether it will be Alex


outwards, or another People Before Profit, who knows? I would think it


is more likely to be Alex Attwood, there isn't a second candidate who


has a profile in the constituency at the moment. Claire Sugden cleared


today, hoping to be back after the election, independence, East


Londonderry, of course. Maybe a justice minister once again? There


is no doubt that her profile has been raised to to the fact that she


felt though rolled I think it is extremely unlikely that she would


get that role again. Really when you consider it for Sinn Fein to agree


Claire Sugden to take that role, will have been seen retrospectively


almost as a concession to the DUP, and the whole reason we are where we


are because they are calling time on that. Fascinating times.


That is it for this evening, but don't forget to join me


for The View on Thursday night at 10.40 on BBC One.


Until then, from everyone in the team, good night!


That I will faithfully execute the Office...


And will to the best of my ability...


The Constitution of the United States...


With visitors to Northern Ireland on the rise,


City tours, folks, hop on, hop off.


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