17/04/2012 Stormont Today


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

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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. And it's been a day of


meditation and confrontation, salmon fishing and even Eminem up


here on the hill - all of human life. Don't say we don't bring you


variety. Plus, are a handful of fishermen endangering salmon stocks


in our rivers? Those same assurances haven't come from them,


so they haven't given us proper assurances they're getting their


licences and anyone salmon fishing won't be prosecuted.


And relax. A Zen master urges MLAs to connect with their spiritual


side as he leads a meditation walk from Parliament buildings. And


keeping me calm throughout the programme, Jim Haughey of the


Ulster Anglers' Federation. Crisis in the level of salmon


stocks is a topic that's come up more and more frequently here at


Stormont of late. If more isn't done to preserve the fish, then we


could face fines from the EU. With me now to explain is Jim Haughey of


the Ulster Anglers' Federation. Jim, you're very welcome to the


programme. Stocks are dangerously low. How concerned is your


organisation about the way this is being handled? We're extremely


disappointed how this has been handled. The Ulster Anglers'


Federation have been lobbying about salmon stocks for many, many years,


decades in fact. During the course of those decades of lobbying we


have had some successes along the way. We - Michael instituted - in


2003. The Ulster Anglers' Federation we bought out our first


net in 2001. We have been at it a long time, but recently we have


become more and more concerned about salmon stocks. Some of our


rivers have protection under European legislation, and some of


those stocks have reduced very significantly. One particular river,


the River Donny Gall, the stock has fallen greatly. It gets protection


under European legislation. There was immediate action to take the


nets off after the fin stock reduced, but Decal did not, and we


lobbied them for quite awhile to take the same action. Decal chose


not to. We couldn't believe it, but they didn't do it. Eventually we


had to lodge an objection with the Environment Director, and that


forced the issue. We're going to talk about the salmon nets. There


are six currently. Four have licences, provided they don't fish


this year. How receptive is the Minister to your concerns, do you


think? We asked for a meeting with the


Minister in the autumn on the issue, and he is too busy to see us, and


we were not able to get an audience with the Minister. Since then we


have been lobbying at a distance. There was a very significant


lobbying exercise by the anglers at Stormont, a lot of letters written


to Decal, an open debate at Stormonts a very significant


lobbying exercise. That coincided with our objection at Brussels


coming to fruition, so the situation is now that Decal can't


issue licences or - if salmon netsmen are going to net because


they'd be in breach of the Habitats Directive. We'll hear the Culture


Minister answer issues on this in a moment, but first, agriculture and


the ongoing plans to relocate the department's headquarters from


Dundonald. My department has continued to consult with staff in


relation to the relocation of headquarters. A subcommittee of


departmental and staff representatives has been set up


specifically to consult on all issues relating to the relocation.


The first meeting related to that took place in January of this year.


Staff and the department have been kept informed with regular monthly


updates in the magazine. It's my intention that all staff in Dard


will continue to be kept informed of progress and are completely


engaged throughout the whole programme. The previous Minister


gave a commitment to engage with him following the process. I too


stand over that commitment and reaffirm that position. Today the


reengagement has been meaningful. I intend to ensure that continues.


Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank the Minister and I


am familiar with the argument made by the department the new


headquarters would help ensure wealth across our economy but


surely taking the �26 million and adding it to existing schemes to


tackle rural poverty could do this in a better way without creating


staff uncertainty for those currently working in Dundonald


House which is in east Belfast. The member is being very parochial.


I absolutely stand over the need to bring high value public sector jobs


in our rural economy. I think the benefits speak for themselves in


terms of stimulating the rural economy, in terms of the potential


job creation, the increased local spend, and as I said, I will


continue to consult with staff, and I have received some positive


feedback from staff in terms of the mood, but I think it's important


they're kept informed as we move along the entire process.


Never one to miss a trick, Barry MacElduff can turn any issue into a


constituency issue, but all politics is local as they say.


I ask the Minister if it's her intention to invest further funds


into rural broadband provision rather than handing the money back?


Can money be invested in rural broadband? The Minister will know


of my interest for securing rural broadband for counties in my


constituency. I know he campaigns very strongly for those rural areas.


He's a strong advocate for the rural community.


LAUGHTER But yes, it is my contention to


invest in rural broad band. It has been a priority of mine over a year.


I will continue to do that. I have announced �5 million under this


current phase will be invested, and we're going to work with a


programme on that. But it has to be about targeting the areas that are


under two megabite lanes because they're the areas most effected.Ue


there is no point putting the money into broadband if we can't be sure


it's targeted to rural areas. Angling and salmon stocks falls


within the agriculture department's remit. So here is the Agriculture


Minister. Discussions between the department and the netsmen provides


them with an opportunity to confirm their readiness to conserve salmon


as I called for earlier in January of this year to date - the six


netsmen have provided the department - satisfactorily not to


fish for salmon and have been issued their licences. Discussions


have been ongoing with the two remaining netsmen for the 2012


season. I thank the Minister for Her answer, but could she indicate


to us what will happen if no great such agreement is made? They start


fishing, and we potentially reach EU fines - what action can she make


in such situations and will she ensure us we can't get the


situation where people are granted licences which could potentially


lead to infraction proceedings? Well, the four netsmen who have


received their licences have given assurances to the department and it


was on the basis of those assurances that the licences were


awarded. Those same assurances haven't came from the two remains


netsmen, so they haven't given us proper ashuciouss they're not


getting their licences. Anyone found fishing for salmon will be


prosecuted. The department will make sure we'll do everything we


can to address and honour the EU Habitats Directive. It's very, very


important. That's why we brought this proposal forward in January.


So Titanic has been and gone. Now bring on the Ulf Ryberg covenants,


the next centenary on the horizon. We'll jointly bring forward a


programme based on the principles of an education focus for


reflection, inclusivety, tolerance, respect, responsibility and


interdependence, work on developing this programme has begun, but


organisations supported by my department have already been


planned, a diverse range of activities. The core theme of the


covenant was the preservation of our cherished position of equal


citizenship in the United Kingdom, something the Minister is in office


to destroy, so rather than peddle the fiction that nonetheless this


Minister will supposedly celebrate the covenant, could I ask her for


aassurance that she and her party will not sully this centenary by


imposing herself in some false spectacle of support? Um, well, on


that, Jim, Alastair, I believe in the Irish Proclamation which


charges the children of all of the nation equally, and I recently


attended the event in Dublin, didn't impose himself, didn't sit


on anybody's knee, didn't become a nuisance. I attended the event in


Dublin where Peter Robinson delivered a lecture which referred


to the Ulster covenant. I did so willingly and did so in a


respectful way. Other members of this House were at that event. If


anybody has been silly and imposed themselves, it has been yourself.


It's the largest lake in these islands and Sinn Fein wants to have


Lough Neagh - currently owned by the Earl of Shaftesbury - returned


to public ownership. A motion calling on the Agriculture and


Culture Ministers to convene a working group to consider the


proposal, was passed in the Chamber this morning.


The reality of the situation is you cannot drag a post down into Lough


Neagh without actually paying a fee for it. If a council wants to


develop, if anyone wants to develop anything around Lough Neagh, you


have to pay a fee to the Shaftsbury chaff. If the Dard or any other


person or development want to extract the sound from the Lough


Neagh, again, you have to pay for that. I understand the arguments


he's put forward. I think they're exploring in a working group, and I


don't think anybody would have a difficulty with this, looking at a


working group with better management. You would have to


discuss those issues within that context. There does have to be an


issue raised about if we pursued the line that the member wants us


to go down in purchasing Lough Neagh that comes at a cost. Given


there was no money paid for the loch by the Shaftsbury or their


predecessors in 1641, perhaps they may be magnanimous enough to give


it back to the Irish. I am concerned hidden behind this motion


is the taking away of property rights as stealth towards a united


Ireland and is driven by Marxist and Communist philosophies. If you


add both those together - now, they're just hints at the back, but


they're very much, I feel, driving what is here, and Mrs Kelly hinted


at it already in what she said that there could be something hidden


behind this. I don't feel that this is purely about better management


of the loch although that is what we'd all like to see today. If it


can be done in a voluntary way, I'd be happy enough to do so. I mean, I


know that Mr Malloy spends his every working hour trying to run


Northern Ireland into a united Northern Ireland but I don't think,


to be fair to him that by bringing Lough Neagh into public ownership


we'll actually take a united Northern Ireland one step further


because you're bringing in the public ownership of an integral


part of the United Kingdom and a Northern Ireland Executive which is


born of the four devolved administrations within the United


Kingdom, so it's certainly not the rocky road to a united Ireland or a


rocky river to a loch to a united Ireland. The motion was passed.


There is going to be a working group examining its future. What do


you think of bringing it into public ownership? Our priority is


the fish stocks on Lough Neagh. We have been quite worried about the


fish stocks recently. There seems to be a large element of illegal


fishing going on at the moment. We have been lobbying Decal about that


and the results are under way at the moment of the fish stocks. Fish


stocks are our main point of interest, and it's hard to see how


public ownership of the loch can affect that as the fishing rights


in the loch are owned by the Lough Neagh Fishing Rights Cooperative.


We don't know whether this includes nationalisation of the current


rights owned by the Lough Neagh Fishing Rights Cooperative. At the


moment it's going to be examined, and there are many questions


that'll have to be addressed. not clear the type of ownership


that's coming, but we'll see what's happening in the months ahead.


Thank you. MLAs were urged to enter a new zone


today and connect with their spiritual side. The Vietnamese


master of Mindfulness led a meditation walk from Parliament


buildings down the Prince of Wales Avenue. Earlier, the 85-year-old


Buddist, told a packed Senate chamber of the importance of


focusing on the present and not dwelling on the past. Sounds


familiar! The SDLP's Conall The way you came to encounter those


men who played an important part in our history, in the United States,


why youen countered them because Vietnam was descending into war and


how you felt it was your duty to advocate in the United States, at


that time in the mid-1960s, against a war, to let democracy and


dialogue ring. To let peaceful interaction come through. But


enough of the history, what I would really like to do is ask you all in


joining me in welcoming him and asking thoim share with us some


reflections and some thoughts that will hopefully inspire us and guide


us. I would like to share some of our experiences with you today. We


need to speak to help us take care of our body, our feelings and our


perceptions, emotions so that we can respond with clarity and


compassion and lovingness. When we breathe in mindfully, when we focus


our attention on our in breathe and out breathe -- in Brett and out


Brett we can release the past and ab our future and come in touch


with our body again and become freer in one in breath and out


breath made in mindfulness. When I bring my mind back to my body by


breathing in mindfully, suddenly I find a new possibilities arise and


I think I feel that I have more freedom. There are many ways to


respond to the same challenge. Today your visit, you visit a very


transformed society, as well as one without doubt that is still


transforming. It was not that long ago that when political opponents


that here in this Chamber now sit around the table, talking and


engaging with one another, could not enter into the one room


together. Yet, all of the major political parties now are involved


in a very powerful power-sharing executive. So, I know that it has


been a difficult journey and road for some. Perhaps, you know, some


of us would call it different things and describe it very


differently to each other, but for many of us it has involved


mindfulness. MLAs have been calling for greater support for what's


known as "kinship carers". These are people who take care of


children or young people into their homes when they can no longer be


looked after by their parents and are often relatives or family


friends. It won support from across the chamber. Here's the motion's


proposer Michelle McIlveen. It's very obvious that so many kinship


carers have respond out of instincts to a child in their own


family who has become vulnerable and who needs the adults around


them to act out of love and protection. It's imperative in this


debate, and in all our discussions, that the best interests of the


child are central. Any decision that is are made must fully reflect


and take this into account and on every occasion the individual


child's wellbeing is paramount for all those concerned. As with so


many things, care provision cannot be one-size-fits-all. It's also


important that I put on-the-record that each child requires an


individual care decision and that we have available a variety of


packages of care that can be tailored to a child's needs. This


means that there can be no hierarchy of care. Care must be


developed to ensure each child does indeed matter. While I support the


many kinship kaifrers who responded to the needs of children in their


families, it's important to say that the decisions made in relation


to care for children ensure their safety and put the interests of the


children first. The issue around kinship care can be confusing. Not


all children living in kinship care arrangements will be looked after


children. It's in the appropriate they would be. Many families will


make their own arrangements for children in times of crisis. In


many of our constituents we find families where, because of death,


illness, physical or mental or another family crisis or tragedy,


such as a parent in prison, it has meant children have gone to live


with a close family relative. This may be for a short period of time,


for some, and for others it will become their permanent arrangement.


It's important that the role of families in coming together to


support and protect children within them is valued and supported. The


state should not undermine this, but, at the same time, ensure that


families are not left to cope alone or become so over burdened that


children are then put at risk. politicians are often accused of


being out of touch. Surely not our Culture Minister with her well


documented love of music. Caral Ni Chuilin often tweets about the


tunes she's listening to. Today she admitted that rap music might not


be on her playlist. I confess I had to think who Eminem was. I'm


showing my age. I was thinking it was M & M's I was thinking


chocolate or peanut. I know who he is. The minister siemed seemed to


sympathise with those who were upsthaet acts such as Eminem won't


be able to appear at some North Down music events. That's because


local councillors have blocked any act that's not fit for mainstream


broadcast. Joining me to discuss the issue is the MLA for North Down,


Steven Agnew. You share her concerns? I don't think it's for


councillors to decide what particularly young people should


listen to. I see it as a form of censorship.' restriction of freedom


of expression. If we look back, people protested against The


Beatles and protested against Elvis Presley. With respect, they didn't


have explicit lyrics that weren't fit for broadcast. There were


attempts to ban Elvis from the waist down? That was as big an


issue then as Eminem. I'm not a big fan. It's not the role role of


councils to decide. It's great North Down has been successful in


bringing big acts to Bangor. I would applaud the council offices


who put in that hard work. We are putting that hard work in danger.


We may not be able to get future acts when they see a council that


is trying to meddle in the acts who can and cannot perform at Ward Park.


Councils are objecting to the anti- social behaviour that comes with


concerts like. This one councillor suggesting there were complaints,


50 over the last year's concert? need to address the issues of anti-


social behaviour. We recently had an Orange March in North Down there


was anti-social behaviour in and around that. Any major event that


draws people into the town we need to work with police and other


organisations to ensure that the minimum impact on residents. That


is key, ultimately, you know residents have to be happy with any


event that does take place. By in large, the people of Bangor have


supported the concerts held in Ward Park. It's good the council have a


policy on such concerts. The attempts by CllrS to say what is


appropriate and what is not that is overstepping the remit of the


council. Does it have the last word on it or will it be reversed? The


minister talked about going to the Arts Council? I will meet with


council officers involved in this. I would appeal to the councillors


to change their tune on this issue. And, equally, you know, if the Arts


Council have a role I will seek a meeting with them as well. We will


have to wait and see what happens. Thank you very much. That Zen


master we heard from earlier visited Stormont just as the new


Ulster Unionist leader seeks inner peace for his party. Mike Nesbitt


has been busy soothing nerves. Jim Nicholson has accused colleagues of


briefing against him and trying to ease him out of his job as MEP. I


caught up with our political editor who had all the details.


Nicholson made it clear, on the Sunday Politics that he wanted to


run again in Europe. What happened over the course of the weekend was


that one of the Sunday papers, the Sunday Life said they may want to


replace him with Tom Elliot or Joanne Dobson. In the Newsletter


today and in conversations with the BBC Mr Nicholson made it clear he


is unhappy, as he sees it, about "faceless gutless people", as he


calls them. He will take them on in public and take them out. Senior


Ulster Unionist sources reacting to that saying they are happy that Mr


Nicholson's experience he wants to run again. The two named members of


the Parliament say they would support him and don't intend to


stand against him. Everyone seems to to -- have kissed and made up?


Now, a case of MLAs behaving badly. We had a debate on Accident &


Emergency services in the chamber last month. The Health Minister


referred to comments by Alliance's Kieran McCarthy about, "a village


idiot". He ruled they were out of order. The minister has indicated


that he was prepared to come and apologise to the member. However,


the member, Mr McCarthy, was unwilling to attend to receive and


accept the apology. Order, order. Standing orders are clear. The


speaker's ruling is final. Speaker thinks the matter should


end there. Alliance wasn't happy. They thought, given that the


original insult had been delivered in public, in the chamber, any


apology also should have been delivered in public, in the chamber.


This is what Mr McCarthy's colleague had to say. The speaker


said to Mr McCarthy that the minister would make his apology to


Mr McCarthy in the Speaker's office. Mr McCarthy indicated that was


unacceptable. The insult was made in the Assembly and any apology by


the Minister should be made in the same place. Lord More owe unveiled


legislation of his own? There has been criticism about them not


bringing forward legislation. We see small sessions were we are


debating motions not processing laws. Lord More owe will bring


forward a law dealing with human trafficking. He says his Bill if


implemented will bring in European directives that should make things


safer for the victims of what he refers to as, "a modern form of


slavery". They say if you want to get ahead, get a had. MLAs were


sporting their finest Easter bonnets today. We sent a hatless


Gareth Gordon along to find out why. It was easy. When I suggested it


they were willing to get on board and support Action for Brain Injury


Week. One of the events we are haig is to wear your hat, a fundraising


day. We are urging schools, organisations and colleges to wear


their hat. Wear colourful hat to work or schooled and donate �1 to


Headway. It suits you? It's like Panama hat. The man from Del Monte


says yes. It's sometimes good for a Minister to say, yes. You were


claiming that Steven Agnew had joined the DUP? He was in a red


beret. One last word from you about anglers concerns that are putting


jobs before other considerations? The current proposal from


government is to prioritise job creation. From past IDB exercises


claims about job creation often don't materialise in the event.


Also, the interpretations of whether one job, a claim for


creation of one job is going to give prioritisation over absolutely


everything else. There are issues surrounding this. There is an issue


giving prior tidesation -- prioritisation may be illegal.


There are other European directives that have to be observed. We are


concerned about it. We may be in for another long battle between the


anglers' and the minister. Thank you very much. That is it from


Stormont today. If you can't get enough of politics join us at the


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills 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.