17/06/2014 Stormont Today


17/06/2014

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


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The chamber gets to vote on whether Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly

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The question is the motion standing being agreed. As many as are of the

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opinion, say "aye". To the contrary, "no".

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Temperatures rise in the chamber as the Culture Minister takes

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We're condemning young people for a life going through the criminal

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justice system because you are belligerent, you aren't for budging

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and you won't acknowledge the situation.

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And I'm joined by our political reporter

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Stephen Walker to cast his expert eye over the day's proceedings.

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The first item of business today - should Gerry Kelly get a five-day

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suspension after he broke the law by jumping on a Land Rover last year as

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The police gave the Sinn Fein member an informed warning over

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Not good enough, said unionists parties who insisted

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But with Sinn Fein and the SDLP united, the move to suspend

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Gerry Kelly - as recommended by the Assembly's Standards and

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A petition of concern, signed by Sinn Fein and some members

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of the SDLP, was lodged against the motion meaning it had to have

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Order. Member's order. The first item of the day is that we vote on

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the... Order, members. On the complaints against Mr Jerry Kelly.

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The vote will be on a cross community basis. The question is

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that the motion stand in the name of the chairperson of the committee. As

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many as are of the opinion, say "aye". To the contrary, "no". Clear

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the lobbies. The question will be put in three minutes. Ayes to the

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right, noes to the left. 93 members voted, at of which 53 voted yes, 47

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Unionists voted, of which 49 voted yes, 100%. Seven others voted, of

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which seven voted yes, 100%. The motion is negative. The voters

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negative. Let us move on. Order! Order!

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The Speaker firmly called the House to order after the vote.

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And I'm joined now in the studio by my colleague Stephen Walker who was

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No surprise what happened today. No great surprise. We had the big

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debate yesterday and it got quite stormy at times on a number of

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occasions. The Speaker had to intervene and warned people about

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their language and behaviour. Yesterday was quite stormy. Today

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was the practical end of business, the vote, and it went 56 for the

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motion and 37 against the motion so no great surprises and, obviously,

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we had this petition of concern which meant we knew which way the

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vote was going to go. That is yet another user that petition, which is

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still quite a controversial device. It is. What is interesting about

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this latest vote today is the fact that Sinn Fein and the SDLP have

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criticised the use of the petition of concern in the past. They

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criticise the DUP and Unionists of using it but here we have an example

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of Sinn Fein and the SDLP using it because they felt that Gerry Kelly

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have been given a proper hearing. It throws into focus the whole system

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of a petition of concern, which is there to ensure there is cross

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community support. I think people when they look at it and ask whether

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it is being used properly, how many times it has been used, the big

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question will be whether parties are abusing it. Away from the chamber,

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there is the controversial issues about the parading of flags. What

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are you hearing? We know very little in terms of what is happening about

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the talks. All we know is that Peter Robinson said he hoped the talks

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would begin before the end of the month. He said there would be at

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least two batches of three days. We don't know when that is supposed to

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happen. It's possible that it could happen next week. But clearly, as we

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move towards the 12th, it's going to be parading. Unionists have made it

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quite clear that they won't be discussing the past until Lady

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Hallet's review is complete. Parading is going to be a key issue

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in the coming weeks. It is because we're less than a month away from

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the 12th of July, the whole issue hasn't been resolved and there is

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big pressure to try and get it resolved. Thank you very much.

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Back in the chamber, the Culture Minister faced question

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time today and she was asked about how much funding was made available

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The DUP's Trevor Clarke asked Caral Ni Chuilin to provide more

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Given that there is clear evidence that there is a need and demand for

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more funding to this, unlike looking at question six, what assurances can

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the Minister give that more funding will go towards arts festivals given

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the large amount of people who have become involved in it? Well, the

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member should be corrected. The Irish language is flourishing, which

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I'm sure the member and his friends are happy to know. In relation to

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funding for festivals, ensuring that funding for festivals... Obviously,

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the demand is there. It's up to the groups to lobby their local councils

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because my contribution to local councils for festival funding has

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been matched by the council. If the members aren't doing their jobs

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locally, there's not much I can do. Can the Minister confirm funding for

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Belfast Orangefest was ordered through the community festivals

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fund? As I said, community funding is provided which district councils

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match. Any community group may be eligible to apply. Orange cultural

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groups can and do receive funding from local councils. Belfast city

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council has advised that Belfast Orangefest has not made any

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application to the fund although it is aware of the programme and is

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included in the circular lists. Belfast City Councillor did make an

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award to Orangefest in 2011-12 and the fund was never claimed. This

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money has been well spent so far and deserving of appropriate increases

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and, if she had the ability, would she make a bit fall those

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appropriate increases? I agree with him in terms of festival funding.

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It's very important, particularly in relation to cultural celebration. In

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regard to how we feel about each cultural celebration, it is a very

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important one. I agree that the fund needs to be increased so that people

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celebrating festivals all over can access it and it's something I'm

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happy to look at in the future. But certainly for this summer and a near

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me really, I think the level of funding will remain. -- in the

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immediate period. She will be aware that for almost a full year now,

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certain organisations have wanted to celebrate their cuts in a peaceful

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and respect for manner by returning on their parade from last year's

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12th of July celebrations. -- celebrate their culture. I wonder if

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she would agree with me that it is very damaging to our tourism product

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to send out a message that the celebration of culture in Northern

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Ireland is conditional. I'm not really sure that spending ?1 million

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on a particular avenue is the best way to promote cultural stop I'm

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sure you would and I think that is an indictment on people who are not

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in agreement with you. What we need to do is resolve that issue. I'm

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very disappointed that because we as adults can't get our act together,

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we are condemning young people for a life going through the criminal

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justice system because you are belligerent, you are begrudging and

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you won't acknowledge and recognise equality across-the-board. I don't

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think it has anything at all to do with culture and I only wish you

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asked a question that would actually promote what we have here to offer

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instead of using an example which sections or one side of the

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community off against another. The Culture Minister calling for

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better questions from her colleagues Education very much dominated

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the agenda at Stormont today and the first item to be debated

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was the finding of a report by the education committee into how schools

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in Northern Ireland are inspected. The committee brought

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before the House a series of recommendations as to how the

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entire process of can be improved. Inspection is clearly a good thing.

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However, it is also equally clear that simply and repeatedly

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inspecting our schools will not, of itself, make them any better.

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Imagine if a teacher of a child who is underachieving in their school

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simply tells the child repeatedly that their attainment is inadequate

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or unsatisfactory. That will not, on its own, make the child any smarter

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or make their performance any better. The child needs to be

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helped. The child needs to be properly supported. As it is with

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children, Mr deputy speaker, so it is with schools. Who will fund any

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such independent body? Who will appoint members to such bodies? Who

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hold these people to account? These are questions that need to be

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answered long before we can agree on the government state is going

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forward of any future body. It is surely more logical to research and

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evaluate the range of governance options as we move forward and defer

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any consideration in respect of statutory independence until such

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work is completed. For this reason I cannot support the motion here today

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that calls upon the Minister to implement all the recommendations

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contained in the report. I would address this debate purely from a

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schools perspective. From the outside I would have to say that

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Mayans periods of inspections, both as a teacher and inspector what,

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were positive. -- my experience of inspections. But I have met many

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where it was a different story. We need to learn lessons from this

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report. Lesson one - it is not the inspectors that deliver school

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improvement but the leaders and teachers in our schools and I pay

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credit to them for their dedication, and hard work. As I bring my remarks

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to a close, I once again praised the efforts of the staff of the

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committee for their hard work. I believe they've come up with a

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radical report which suggests reforms which, if implemented, will

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make a real difference to our schools and our pupils. Teachers and

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school principals must no longer see inspections as threats but rather

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opportunities for improvement in the education of our children. This will

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mean a change in mindset which I believe will, and must, come sooner

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rather than later. I would urge assembly support for this report and

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urge the Minister to act upon his recommendations for the sake of

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every single pupil in Northern Ireland. The independence of the

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Inspectorate keeps coming up. I support the recommendation that it

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should be independent of the department. I wish somebody would

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explain to me - and perhaps the Minister will have a go at this - as

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to what is the rationale for the Inspectorate being part of the

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department? It cries out to me that this should be an independent body.

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As far as the renaming is concerned, at least it would put a different

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emphasis on the thing and perhaps draw a line under the past. I think

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there is one flaw that runs throughout the report, which is this

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- the report's authors have concentrated on the adult in the

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classroom, rather than the child. And throughout the report, there are

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references made, understandably, to concerns raised by school

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principals, by teachers and their representatives of how inspections

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are carried out and what impact inspections have, particularly an

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inspection that registers a school is not performing as well as it

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should be. What impact that has on the morale of staff. Nowhere in the

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report does it comment, or is it registered, what the impact of bad

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education is upon the people. And that's what we're all here to

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serve. The second big education story of the day was integrated

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education. The Alliance party brought a motion to the chamber

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calling on the Minister to place it at the heart of education planning.

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Welcome to the programme. Why are you not satisfied that the current

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level of funding? It is not so much the funding, it is the attitude of

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the department. This is a long-term problem. At the moment, all we have

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62 integrated schools out of a total of about 1200 schools. That is after

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40 years. The Department has had an obligation to facilitate the system.

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They have not much of a job. Critics say there is scope within the

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existing system. Why should the integrated sector be promoted above

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the others? The debate arose out of the judgement on the judicial

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review. It has been reemphasised the duty to promote integrated

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education. People think that shared education and shared classrooms and

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so on are really the same thing, a step towards the same goal, but it

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is not really. The purpose of shared education is to share classes, it is

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an economic thing initially. To try and provide the full curriculum. If

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it leads to greater integration, greater sharing, people getting to

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know each other over a period, that is fine, but it really is not a

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substitute for a proper integrated school. It is a school where the

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board is committed to the ethos of integration and where Protestant and

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Catholic children are educated together. The difficulty is that

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this motion failed. There was not much support in the chamber for it.

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Actually, there was a lot of support for integrated education. It was

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said that there was support. But then the motion was opposed because

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they claimed it was divisive. I could not follow that. Even the

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DUP... Although we lost the vote, it was not a full turnout, but three

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parties supported the motion. The minister welcomed the debate but he

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said his role was to plan education for the benefit of all children.

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What more should he be doing? It is his job to facilitate all sectors

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and there was a certain amount of debate today about the position of

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faith schools. We have no problem with faith schools. They operate

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very well in this country and they produce great results. It is a

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question of parental choice. If parents want an integrated system

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and they do declare that in large numbers every time there is a poll,

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Catholic parents the same as Protestant parents, we are not

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trying to force them out of the system. If they want to exercise

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their right to go to a faith school, that is fine. Or a controlled

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school. Thank you very much. It has got sun, sea and sand but ministers

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want to relax -- were not there to relax when they travel to Guernsey

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last week. The summit focused on issues such as air travel and the

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negative effects of air passenger duty. The report prompted many

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questions from a semi-members. This discussion reflected the island

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nature of all the administrations and recognise that interdependence

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on ensuring and promoting the flow of people, goods and services among

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each other and further afield. The council acknowledged that the

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promotion of effective transport links between membered

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administration can be beneficial and to the strengthening of positive and

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practical relationships amongst the people of these islands. In this

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context, we and the other devolved administrations once more drew the

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attention of the United Kingdom government to the negative effects

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of air passenger duty on the economic and social development of

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our regions. Given the support of the other regions within the UK,

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does the First Minister believe that more concessions are possible in

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relation to air passenger duty? Certainly, I would not describe it

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as a gang up, but the three devolved administrations all argued the same

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case, in terms of air passenger duty. As members will be aware, the

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Northern Ireland in this nation was successful, the only part of the

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United Kingdom to be successful, in having its own level for long haul

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flights. And we as an executive moved back to zero. That was in

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support of the travel industry, in terms of long haul flights. However,

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we are a peripheral part of the United Kingdom, people, if they want

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to get to the capital of the United Kingdom, have to travel by air or

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sea to get there. That means we are at a disadvantage to many other

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parts of the United Kingdom, in cost terms. The same can be said of

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course of Scotland. We are pressing on that issue. There were changes

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announced by the Chancellor on passenger duty but they were simply

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consolidating three of the types of duty relating to long haul flights

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into one... They do not affect Northern Ireland. However, we

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continue to press on the basis of our economic pact with the

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government. It is one of the issues being considered. But I do warn the

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assembly that if we were to be successful, the European Union would

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require us to have a reduction to take account of that. It is easy

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enough to get to Majorca from here but you cannot get to Dusseldorf,

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Paris, Brussels. Is there any discussion around that? Part of the

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discussion is about identifying whether maybe new routes... And

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whether there is a demand. Indeed, one of the aspects of the work being

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carried out by the minister leading the work stream on this area is

:20:56.:21:01.

getting reliable data as to the movements of the people and of

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goods, so those are the kind of factors and then obviously, there is

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a decision to be taken as to whether there is sufficient clearance tell

:21:11.:21:18.

to warrant an air route or a sea passage. Also to determine whether

:21:19.:21:24.

that is the case. Most of these are commercially driven. The First

:21:25.:21:31.

Minister on the prospects for new air routes from Northern Ireland to

:21:32.:21:34.

the rest of Europe. The agriculture minister also took her turn at the

:21:35.:21:38.

dispatch box for Question Time. She answered questions about the

:21:39.:21:43.

relocation of the headquarters to Ballykelly but there was no escaping

:21:44.:21:47.

questions on the farm payments. The Minister cannot be ignorant of the

:21:48.:21:53.

direct consequences for the farming community if we move immediately to

:21:54.:22:01.

a one region flat rate distribution. Her own departmental figures

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demonstrate that. Apart from the platitudes about seeking an

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agreement, what actual steps has she taken to seek consensus on this

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matter? In relation to the decisions, we have taken in of

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decisions to date, however there are still key decisions to be taken. I

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do not think it is ideal that we go to the words flat rate immediately.

:22:31.:22:36.

I have listened very carefully to the views of everyone concerned. I

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am interested in a balanced approach. We are talking about

:22:41.:22:44.

serious amounts of money, taxpayers' money. It should be

:22:45.:22:48.

distributed fairly. The process is ongoing and IM involved in that

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process. As you will be aware, I remain committed to relocating my

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departmental headquarters to Ballykelly. We have kept staff fully

:23:02.:23:09.

up-to-date with developments. My permanent secretary has recently

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written to all staff in the Department to keep them informed.

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Further updates will be given as required. Could we have an estimate

:23:22.:23:29.

of the number of Steph that are unable or unprepared to move to the

:23:30.:23:39.

north-west question mark staff. The member will be aware, I do not have

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the exact figures, when we did the initial staff survey, we did them in

:23:44.:23:51.

phases. I think it was only natural but the -- that the outcome of the

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staff being based there for 50 years, the majority of the staff

:23:57.:24:00.

live in the surrounding area and would want to stay. That is totally

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acceptable. That is of course what they want. We then looked at the

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wider staff. That was a bigger pool of people. And that was the case

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whenever we came to the staff surveys for the wider civil service.

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I am confident there will be opportunities in terms of transfer

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across the civil service but also there will be enough staff to

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actually staff a new headquarters in Ballykelly. The last time I was in

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Ballykelly, it was for gross insubordination at a checkpoint. But

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that in no way has deterred my endeavours to go back there. Can the

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Minister outlined the progression which will lead to this swanky new

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headquarters and all the 800 jobs she has promised because I do not

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want to be a doubting Thomas but the minister really needs to put flesh

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on the bones and a short as this is for real? Well, I can absolutely

:24:55.:24:59.

assure you it is for real. Mike commit went is for real. I think you

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can see that. You can also see that we are moving very quickly. I think

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that speaks for itself and I have a commitment to make sure that we

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decentralise. Stephen Walker is back for me this evening with a few final

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thoughts. Before we go, that issue, it is not going away. No, it is not.

:25:28.:25:33.

This week we will have more evidence from the Northern Ireland affairs

:25:34.:25:37.

committee, they are meeting tomorrow. We had a lot of evidence

:25:38.:25:44.

from them last week. We had Peter Robinson and David Ford. Today, we

:25:45.:25:47.

have had a development from the chair of the Northern Ireland

:25:48.:25:53.

affairs committee. He has written to Gerry Kelly because he will not

:25:54.:25:57.

appear before the committee. Lawrence Robinson has written to

:25:58.:26:00.

Gerry Kelly to try and encourage him to take part in the proceedings. He

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thinks he should come forward and give evidence and he questions why

:26:04.:26:06.

Sinn Fein are prepared to give evidence to the review and are not

:26:07.:26:12.

prepared to appear before his committee. He also says that other

:26:13.:26:18.

Sinn Fein members in the past have given evidence to the Northern

:26:19.:26:21.

Ireland affairs committee. He is trying to encourage Gerry Kelly to

:26:22.:26:26.

come forward. In the meantime, more evidence at Westminster tomorrow.

:26:27.:26:30.

Yes, tomorrow we will hear evidence from the former Secretary of State,

:26:31.:26:34.

Peter Hain. Also from relatives of those who were killed in the Hyde

:26:35.:26:39.

Park bombing. Essentially, this story is coming full circle because

:26:40.:26:42.

that is where the story started with the bombing at Hyde Park. More

:26:43.:26:47.

evidence from Peter Hain tomorrow and then in the weeks ahead, there

:26:48.:26:50.

will be more evidence from high-profile political figures. We

:26:51.:26:54.

are still expecting that report by the end of this month? We are still

:26:55.:26:58.

expecting the report, the bubbly by the end of the month. Last week in

:26:59.:27:03.

the House of Commons, the Secretary of State said whilst it was expected

:27:04.:27:07.

at the end of June, it seems likely the date might slip. It might be

:27:08.:27:11.

early July. But certainly, we should be getting it in the next three or

:27:12.:27:17.

four weeks. What about the weather? A hot topic today. Yes, the hottest

:27:18.:27:22.

day of the year. Even the shop at Stormont ran out of ice cream is. In

:27:23.:27:27.

the chamber itself, the speaker was urged to relax the dress code. Would

:27:28.:27:36.

you be minded to relax the regulations on the wearing of

:27:37.:27:39.

jackets as the chamber is very warm? Members are feeling the heat. I am

:27:40.:27:47.

extremely happy to allow members to remove their jackets. We were not

:27:48.:27:53.

able to relax as you were not able to relax your dress code. And you

:27:54.:27:57.

missed out on an ice lolly. We had one brought in just for you. You are

:27:58.:28:03.

very kind. That is the closest I will get to a scoop at Stormont.

:28:04.:28:08.

Thank you very much. That is all for today. You can tune in for the

:28:09.:28:15.

sending politics this weekend. In the meantime, good night.

:28:16.:28:31.

..as Antrim take on Donegal in the semi-final

:28:32.:28:31.

The spectacular summer of sport continues on BBC Sport NI...

:28:32.:28:35.

..tie and it's hanging, but this time it's over.

:28:36.:28:39.

..as Antrim take on Donegal in the semi-final

:28:40.:28:42.

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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