17/06/2013 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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Today with a difference. The most powerful man in the world comes to


Belfast and delivers a very clear message. Those who choose the path


of peace, I promise you the United States will support you every step


of the way. We will always be a wind at your back. The Agriculture


Minister is accused of turning her face away from fisheries. 50% of the


votes were tied up because they could not afford to leave a harbour


buildings that ironically people 's minds were focused on matters


political. Resident Obama made an early morning visit -- President


Obama made an early morning visit to Belfast.


We will have a flavour of what he said in a moment. First we are


joined by our medical reporter. How do you sum up the importance of what


was said today? It was one of those red letter days. It was a remarkable


day to see President Obama and Michelle Obama at the Waterfront


Hall. Also remarkable to see the G8 leaders gathering in Fermanagh. The


speech as the Waterfront Hall will be a speech that will be remembered


for a long time. The real trick is whether the soundbites turn into


action. Quite a few young people got to meet the President. That was the


whole focus of the speech. The majority of people there were young


students. That was the theme of President Obama's speech. It was a


classic political speech divided up into three areas. There was the


past, the present, and the future. When it came to the future he was


focusing on the students who were listening. It was an opportunity to


listen and an opportunity to shake the hand of the President. The focus


shifted to Fermanagh. There was a surprise twists to the tour. There


was something and scheduled. On this occasion David Cameron and President


Obama hadn't and scheduled stop at an integrated school. This is a


little trick of presidential visits. The Prime Minister travelled for 30


minutes in the limousine of President Obama. That was


interesting in itself. That is right and there are a number of key areas


on the G8 agenda. Jade, tax. -- trade.


We will hear more from you later in the programme. Here are some of the


highlights of what the President had to say in his speech at the


Waterfront Hall this morning will stop thank you. Please be seated.


Hello, Belfast. Hello, Northern Ireland. As our daughters pointed


out, I cause a big fuss whenever I go. Traffic and barricades and


police officers - it is all a big production. I am grateful to


everyone for accommodating us. We visited this island two years ago.


We were honoured to join tens of thousands of people in Dublin. We


went to a village where it turned out my great-great-grandfather was


born. We wanted to come here. Place of remarkable beauty history. Part


of items -- are part of Ireland which many people share an affinity


with. Perseverance, faith, the belief that we make our own


destiny. An unshakeable gene that if we work hard something better lies


around the bend. Our host disease are bound by blood and belief. --


hour this disease. Our futures are linked. That is why I have come to


Belfast today. To talk about the we can build together. Life is changing


throughout the North. There was a time people could not have imagined


Northern Ireland hosting a gathering of world leaders. Belfast is a


different city. Factories are rebuilt. Former industrial sites are


reborn. Families crowd into pubs. Students loans in cafes are each


other what is the crack. -- aspirin each other what is the crack.


It has been 15 years since the Good Friday Agreement. The people of this


island faltered in overwhelming numbers to CB and the scars of


finance and mistrust -- to say beyond the sky is of violence and


mistrust. Four years few conflicts in the world seems more intractable


than the one in northern Ireland. As someone who knows how politics can


encourage division, I admire the Northern Ireland executive for


making power-sharing work. That is not easy to do. It requires


compromise. It requires and saw a some pain from your own site. --


absorbing some pain. I commend their effort. Issues like segregated


schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity, symbols of history


that are a source of pride for some and a source of pain for others,


these are not tangential to peace, they are essential to it. Remember


what President Clinton said in Belfast. He said that a bomb was the


opening attack on peace. Whenever peace is attacked you must decide


how to respond, whether with Waverley, -- whether with bravery,


or whether you succumb to the worst instincts. Peace is harder than war.


It's constant fragility is part of its beauty. To those who choose the


path of peace I promise you the United States will support you every


step of the way. We will always be a wind at your back. As I said two


years ago I am convinced that this little island, its best days are yet


ahead. Good luck and God bless all the people of Northern Ireland.


was President Obama speaking this morning. I am now joined by Patrick


Corrigan and Professor Jon Kirton. Welcome to the programme. Patrick


Corrigan, you have not been entirely uncritical about the G8 in the


run-up to the summit. What did you make of what President Obama had to


say? It was a great speech. It was President Obama doing what he does


test, which is good great speeches. He addressed the issues in a broad


brush way. We would have liked tend to have been more specific. Dealing


with the past, putting in a bill of rights. But indeed he invited the


young people not to wait for the politicians. That is a message we


are happy to endorse. Professor Jon Kirton, here you are as a Canadian,


watching an American resident address an audience in Belfast.


thought it was up powerful speech. He was speaking from the heart, from


the soul, from first-hand experience. Until recently it would


have been illegal to cast a ballot. Even in the 1960s, 1970s. President


Obama recently said that no where is America more divided than on a


Sunday morning. He is saying that we are all in this together. He is


saying that what has been achieved in Northern Ireland is a message for


the United States. We were listening to what the President had to say.


You headed off to Fermanagh to take part in a protest. How did that go?


I have been very busy protesting over the last few days. We had a


message for President Obama will stop we had a message for President


Putin. We had an estate international activists. -- Amnesty


is what you study and you follow the G8 at its various meetings. What


about the real business that those eight leaders are doing at the


moment? What have you made of that? They are off to a good start. They


have got a lot of achievements in the bag. Today began with the


announcement of the formal launch of negotiations for free trade and the


big agreements between the EU and the United States. -- deeper


agreements. That will lead to prosperity for everybody in the


United Kingdom, Europe, United States and beyond. Might advance has


already come on tax fairness. There has been some on transparency. I


have no doubt we will seize on terrorism. The question is, I guess,


the prospect of tolerance in a future serial, where Christians


would be prosecuted. -- a future Syria, where Christians would be


prosecuted. You are concerned about that as well?


Putin has already armed Assad. Now it looks like the US could do


something similar. That is able to pay for more petrol on the flames in


Syria. -- that it petrol. Professor Jon Kirton and Patrick


Corrigan, thank you. The Agriculture Minister, Michelle O'Neill, had a


busy day today. She joined her Executive colleague, Arlene Foster,


to welcome the President and the First Lady when they touched down at


Belfast International Airport this morning. After the drama of that, it


was very much business as usual for the Minister when she responded to a


call for an aid package for fishermen whose earnings have been


reduced due to bad weather and EU catch regulations. The DUP's Paul


Frew, who also chairs the Agriculture Committee, proposed the


motion. It is significant that the fishermen


have been asking for meetings and assistance from the Minister. It


seems, from this side of the House, that the Minister has turned her


face away from fisheries. Our fishing industry has been in


decline for many years, and despite the efforts of our fishing ministry


and the Department, fisher men do feel let down. Our local fishing


communities, both out at sea and on the processing units on land, have


never injured such a lengthy struggle in order to survive. I hope


that the Minister will double, redouble her efforts to make sure


the decline is halted. 50% of the boats were tied up last


week because they could not afford to leave the harbour. I spoke to one


man who fished 524-hour days only to generate just over �500 from his


catch. From that he needs to pay himself, as well as his men, as well


as the mortgage on his trawler. Some boats can't leave the harbour


because they can't afford the fuel. I know the Minister earlier welcomed


the president of the United States to the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. I


listened to his speech and I was struck by 13 worded sentence that he


came out with. Those words were these. Hope is infectious. Is it too


much to ask that today in debate, the Minister in fact the fishing


fleet with hope? As I said last week, I don't believe


an eight passage for bad weather is justified at this time. -- and aid


passage. I'm happy to keep it under review.


I don't agree with her with regards to 20% of the profit making parade


lost. They are 50% down on their income. What is the difference


between your predecessor Minister implementing a financial aid package


in 2009 compared to now? The Hajj package in 2008 was in response to


particular circumstances at the time. The decision was based on


that. I have to be careful. I am in charge of public money. I am


accountable to the public accounts committee. What I am saying is that


while I acknowledge the difficulties that are there, I have taken


measures to address the industry, but that is as far as I can go at


this time. Based on my assessment, there is time for the industry to


make up a lot of the ground they have lost as a result of the


weather. The Agriculture Minister, Michelle


O'Neill, and the motion passed unopposed. Another motion carried


today was one brought forward by the Health Committee. It called for an


inquiry into services for women suffering from endometriosis. The


chair of the committee, Sue Ramsey, said the condition causes extreme


suffering to those affected but can take up to nine years to be


diagnosed. It behaves like cancer. Although the


tissue is not malignant, it is caused by the growth of normal --


abnormal tissues. Typically, it occurs outside the ovaries. It can


spread in the pelvis and bladder. Women who suffer from this


condition, from which they initially believe it to be period pain, women


can suffer chronic pelvic pain, pain with your rating and pain associated


with bowel movement. -- you relating. The disease not only


causes extreme pain, but if untreated it can lead to reduced


fertility, and indeed infertility. There is also a strong link with


depression. We need a hospital dedicated to women's needs which


goes much wider than maternity issues. Conditions such as this can


have a devastating impact on women's lives, on our sisters, our


daughters, our nieces and our friends.


The physical and social cost of this condition cannot be underestimated.


It causes women to have abscessed -- absences from work mental health


issues, and relationships can be negatively impacted. Women with this


disease may experience infertility problems conceiving, which in itself


brings on a raft of problems for them and their family.


The caseload in Belfast exceeds that which is necessary to receive


recognition of the treatment for the disease. It is disappointing, I


suppose, that, given that, there is no sign of any planning such a


centre even in the face of such demonstrable need. I noticed in a


recent assembly answer that the Health Minister indicated some 155


admissions in Northern Ireland in 2011-2012 work -- involved


endometriosis. I welcome this debate today.


The Department 30 look at this matter further -- the department


would prefer to look at this matter further. It views the needs of


sufferers is being attended to in primary care provision, so they do


not have a compelling case for integrated service.


The Health Minister, Edwin Poots. Meantime, Mr Poots says he has


written to everyone living in statutory residential homes to tell


them that the proposals to close the homes have been discontinued and a


new process will be put in place. The Minister was also asked about


the possibility of fluoridating the water supply in Northern Ireland


during today's Question Time. We set out a compelling case for


changes. It has been widely accepted in the sector and by the community


they serve. We need to do this in a transparent way. In terms of the


reasons debacle around residential care, could the Minister tell me if


the affected homes have been informed that they will not be asked


to move from their homes? Minister, I have corresponded with


every resident on an individual basis. I have explained that a new


process would be going into place and will be held up by the HSP B.


Can the Minister give an assurance that at the end of the information


station -- in fermentation, that there will be a section of


residential care which will be retained within the National Health


Service provision? What I went -- want is for our


elderly population to receive the best possible care. I would commend


what members to visit the facility that we opened in Downpatrick on


Thursday. You should speak, when you visit there, to the presidents, to


the care providers, that is, people employed by us, and speak to the


relatives. I would invite any member to visit such a facility and say


that my reason for that is wrong. If a proposal to fluoridate the water


is suggested, we will consult. I understand there are opinions. We


welcome the views of all interested parties. We have received


correspondence on it from people who think the Internet is the best


resource for scientific information. People do not recognise all of the


problems that exist in Northern Ireland and that we have some of the


-- worst standards in Europe for dental outcomes.


Edwin Poots. The work of the Housing Executive was under scrutiny in


questions to the Social Development Minister. While maintenance


contracts made headlines last week, today the focus was on energy


efficiency and the social housing development programme.


Given the encouragement that the US president gave this morning for more


integrated housing, can I ask the Minister how much of this housing


was oh -- of a mixed or shared nature?


Housing is allocated on the basis of need. In a particular area where it


will be allocated according to the needy in that area. I would not have


any details as to the precise breakdown of that.


Can the Minister detail whether these properties have ever been


prioritised within previous initiatives to improve their


performance? If not, does the Minister believe this may have been


an oversight? The word slide is inappropriate. It


is a major oversight. -- the works like. We have not had the full


report here. I have made enquiries about one particular a state, and


asked what work has been on that estimate over the years. -- estate.


As far as I can gather, on the information I have, it seems there


was no approach at all over the years to tackle this issue until I


raised it with the executive. Whether it is double glazing


installation or houses without cavity wall insulation, it confirms


that we put this issue right up there as a priority.


Good as it would be to make provision for these houses, can the


Minister say if he has been lobbied directly or indirectly by a party


colleague whose family have an interest in a company that just


happens to provide this external insulation?


The answer to that is in fact no. I was in fact of the view, personally,


and I speak as an amateur in these things, I thought the only thing you


could do with these houses was knock them down. I was convinced of that


until the chair of the housing site took me to look at houses in


Liverpool. When I saw what was done there, I was convinced, because not


only did you see a House that had been transformed in terms of energy


efficiency, but you saw a very attractive House that looked more


modern in style. The Social Development Minister,


Nelson McCausland. Our Political Reporter, Stephen Walker, is with me


again. The issue of speaking rights for the


new political party was raised in the chamber today. What happened?


This made headlines last week. Basil McCrea claimed the new party would


get lost -- less opportunity to speak. He raised the issue with one


of the Deputy speakers. He basically shut down the discussion and said


there would not be a discussion about it. I suspect this is not the


last we have heard of it. It was a quiet day. The G8 discussions


continue tomorrow. It was a quiet day. Proceedings hen -- ended at


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.