17/09/2012 Stormont Today


17/09/2012

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


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coming up, the slurry tank tragedy that claimed the lives of three

:00:30.:00:35.

members of the Spencer family dominated MLAs thought up the start

:00:35.:00:40.

of proceedings. As we visited the home, the sense of shock of the

:00:40.:00:44.

entire community was palpable. Enterprise Minister acknowledges

:00:44.:00:48.

the difficulties faced by those losing their jobs at F G Wilson.

:00:49.:00:53.

And which MLA was named and shamed after not turning up on time in the

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chamber? MLAs from all parties united to pay

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tribute to the three members of the Spencer family from Hillsborough

:01:05.:01:10.

who died at the weekend after being overcome by fumes in a slurry tank.

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Edwin Poots knew the dead man well. I had known them for over 30 years.

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They went to the same church as myself and they used to help out in

:01:23.:01:29.

the youth club. I used to take Mr Craig to that youth club. As a

:01:29.:01:33.

family, they have been well known throughout the Community. Graham

:01:33.:01:38.

came home to work on their successful farm. Nevin Spence

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helped out on the farm when he was not playing rugby for Ulster. He

:01:43.:01:48.

had come to be very well known for his skill on the rugby field. But I

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think whilst Ulster will replace a centre, maybe not as good as Nevin

:01:53.:02:01.

Spence, they will never replace him in the home, or the brother of the

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-- the brother or the Sun, or the husband or the father. As we

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visited their home yesterday, the sense of shock in the entire

:02:16.:02:20.

community was palpable. Can I start by also extending my sympathy and

:02:20.:02:26.

that of Sinn Fein to the family. The tragic events of Saturday

:02:26.:02:30.

evening have shot not just the farming community but also the

:02:30.:02:36.

sporting community. -- have that shocked. But wider in the community,

:02:36.:02:39.

people are just shocked. Our thoughts are with the family and

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one can only imagine the impact that this tragic loss of life is

:02:44.:02:48.

happening -- is having. Farm safety is an issue that we take very

:02:48.:02:52.

seriously and we need to take the opportunity to raise awareness.

:02:52.:02:57.

Earlier this year, myself and Mr Foster watched a far as safety

:02:57.:03:00.

partnership to attempt to highlight the dangers and pick up on some of

:03:00.:03:04.

the facts we are aware of. Farming is one of the most dangerous

:03:04.:03:08.

occupations. Tributes to the three members of the Spencer family whose

:03:08.:03:14.

death at the weekend struck a chord with MLAs at Stormont. Job losses

:03:14.:03:18.

at the engineering firm up F G Wilson dominated the Enterprise

:03:19.:03:23.

Minister's time in the chamber. Most of the 160 jobs will go in

:03:23.:03:29.

lauren. Caterpillar have made it clear that their decision was not a

:03:29.:03:32.

reflection on the scales, productivity or flexibility of the

:03:32.:03:35.

workforce. I am encouraged that for the employees affected, the company

:03:35.:03:40.

is striving to reduce some of the impact by offering an enhanced

:03:40.:03:43.

voluntary redundancy package and will help to redeploy displaced

:03:43.:03:47.

workers by providing training or on new skill sets of partnering with

:03:47.:03:54.

potential employers to host job fairs. For its part, Invest

:03:54.:03:57.

Northern Ireland has been in discussion with senior executives

:03:57.:04:01.

to develop a joint approach to assisting the employees as far as

:04:01.:04:05.

possible. In addition, I am able to announce a positive and welcome

:04:05.:04:10.

development today. Members will be aware that Invest Northern Ireland

:04:10.:04:16.

has not been in a position to invest -- fully support new

:04:16.:04:19.

businesses due to a legal challenge launched following the original

:04:19.:04:23.

procurement exercise. As a consequence, a further 10 per

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contra -- tender competition was held and the outcome of this has

:04:26.:04:31.

been advised today. As with all such exercises, there will follow a

:04:31.:04:34.

ten-day period before the contract becomes operational and the

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successful tenderer can begin to deliver the contract. This means

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that after a period of over a year of being unable to provide a full

:04:42.:04:44.

support service to individuals interested in starting their own

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business, we will shortly be in a position to reintroduce a new

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business Start programme. In recent years, we have worked closely with

:04:55.:05:00.

caterpillar management to focus on new business opportunities. The

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company will continue to manufacture high value products in

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Northern Ireland that can be continued to be manufactured on a

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competitive basis locally. We have been successful in attracting

:05:13.:05:17.

various elements of the company's support functions to Northern

:05:17.:05:22.

Ireland thanks to the skills of our workforce. As a result we have 200

:05:22.:05:27.

people employed supporting Caterpillar's IT functions. The

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company have confirmed that as a consequence of the announcement, if

:05:31.:05:36.

they have a financial liability, they will honour it. The a

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Enterprise Minister on the challenges posed by the job losses

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announced by F G Wilson. Martina Purdy is with me. There has

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been a development this evening. Yes. It was described as a very

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bleak day by the First Minister. Really, it could turn into a brief

:05:56.:06:01.

-- bleak months and bleak years for many families. Tonight, Sinn Fein

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announced that it had met with the employment minister, a delegation

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led by Jennifer McCann from Belfast, trying to find out exactly what

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opportunities and support were available for workers losing their

:06:13.:06:19.

jobs and promising more meetings. Let us talk about education. It has

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been a dramatic day for Education in London that could have major

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repercussions over here. That's right. Michael Gove seems to have

:06:32.:06:36.

blind-sided the education ministers in both Wales and Northern Ireland.

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George O'Dowd said he was not consulted on the fact that Michael

:06:41.:06:46.

Gove was replacing the GCSE year 12 exam with an English Baccalaureate

:06:46.:06:51.

certificate. He says that this is effectively devaluing the GCSE here.

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He said he had some decisions to make. I think we will be looking at

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radical changes in education as a consequence. And is there any

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suggestion as to whether or not there is an inevitability about us

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having to follow the lead given by Michael Gove today? We do not have

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to. We are a devolved administration but when the

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Education Minister says that the GCSE exam has been devalued, it is

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clear were here is setting and it is heading towards a new exam. --

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it is clear where he is heading. There is a divide between England,

:07:25.:07:29.

Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland does not have a GCSE.

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Wales and Northern Ireland were affected. John O'Dowd said he was

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not consulted. It was Michael Gove's right to pursue whatever

:07:38.:07:41.

direction he wants to. It is no secret that the Education Secretary

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does not think highly of GCSEs. He thinks they have been going

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downhill. The announcement today that the new certificate was coming

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in did surprise John O'Dowd. He said he is going to have to look at

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it. Finally, one week on from the announcement on the Maze

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Development Corporation, the Bristol controversy. Effectively,

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it should have been a straightforward announcement. --

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there is still controversy. If we were given scant information about

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to the 10 members were going to be. All we got was a cursory

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declaration of interest. We were not given biographies. I was try to

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figure out if there were women on the board. The only clue I had was

:08:25.:08:34.
:08:35.:08:35.

that there was an unusual spelling of the word's Terry. -- the name

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Terry Scott. I was initially told it could not be given information

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because of data protection. By Friday night, after some research,

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the full disclosure came. Five pages of information from the

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office of the First and Deputy First Minister. The commissioner

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was critical of the way that the situation was handled, and we were

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told this was down to administrative error. I can tell

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you that Jim Allister has tabled a number of questions and he is

:09:00.:09:04.

asking how this process was undertaken and how these people

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came to be appointed. I think the controversy might run and run.

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questions to the officer of the Deputy Minister -- First and Deputy

:09:16.:09:19.

First Minister were to be answered by Peter Robinson but it fell to

:09:19.:09:20.

the Junior Minister to answer questions about the legal

:09:20.:09:24.

definition of marriage. There are no plans to change the definition

:09:24.:09:32.

of marriage in Northern Ireland. To do so would require the agreement

:09:32.:09:37.

of the Executive. Parties on the Executive are hopelessly divided in

:09:37.:09:42.

terms of a position in relation to that. The DUP is her be clear that

:09:42.:09:46.

the see gay marriage as an oxymoron and they see marriage between a man

:09:46.:09:53.

and the women. -- the do you see is very clear. The Alliance Party is

:09:53.:09:56.

united in their position of support for gay marriage and if you want to

:09:56.:10:01.

hear both sides of the argument, you can ask Mike Nesbitt, because

:10:01.:10:05.

depending on which of the MLAs used the two, one will agree with you

:10:05.:10:14.

and another will not. -- which of the MLAs you speak to. Can I ask

:10:14.:10:19.

him about his own business? Can I ask him whether he believes that

:10:19.:10:23.

the delay in the production of a sexual orientation strategy is

:10:23.:10:26.

successful, and if he can give a commitment to the House that it

:10:26.:10:32.

will definitively be published by the end of this year? I had been

:10:32.:10:38.

clear from the first time I spoke on the topic from this dispatch box

:10:38.:10:48.
:10:48.:10:48.

that we will seek to have the draft orientation strategy, based on the

:10:48.:10:51.

original Timeline. We hope to have that out by the end of this year.

:10:51.:10:54.

One of the commitments in our programme for government is to

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press for the devolution of corporation tax, setting powers,

:10:58.:11:02.

and to reduce its level. Cost is an important issue and this needs to

:11:02.:11:10.

be affordable if it is to work. -- tax setting powers. The working

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group will meet again in London on 18th October with a view to

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resolving the outstanding issues. The United Kingdom government will

:11:17.:11:21.

then decide whether the Executive should be offered the opportunity

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to take responsibility for corporation tax setting. Over the

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summer had the privilege to visit the commission four times and

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clearly the commission's determinations demonstrated that

:11:33.:11:36.

they are discredited, out of touch and part of the problem, not the

:11:36.:11:41.

solution. Does the First Minister agree that the real anger in the

:11:41.:11:47.

Unionist community is as to how the loyal orders are treated and how

:11:47.:11:57.
:11:57.:11:59.

those in the Republican community are treated? I think it is worth

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saying -- it is worth saying that I've heard complaints about the

:12:03.:12:06.

parades commission from all sections of our community and

:12:06.:12:10.

clearly people have been unhappy with decisions that have been taken.

:12:10.:12:14.

At the same time, I think we recognise that there is a need for

:12:14.:12:19.

us to have a mechanism to deal with parades, particularly where there

:12:19.:12:24.

is dispute. We are committed that we are going to lift this issue off

:12:24.:12:27.

the shelf and see if we can get Community agreement. It is

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essential that we get a way forward that has support across the

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Community. The shelf of Shelvey strategies must be pretty heavy

:12:38.:12:43.

these days. -- shelved strategies. Regardless of one's personal view,

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can he make it clear that it is incumbent for every member of a

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democratic society to respect the rule of law? I think it is a bit

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rich coming from someone who walked away from taking decisions on

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matters to be lecturing anybody about decisions that are on a shelf.

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As far as respect for the rule of law, that is something that all of

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us in this House should be upholding, and encourage everyone

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else to do so. It came to an update on the historical abuse inquiry,

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and it was a junior minister, Jonathan Bell, who brought MLAs up

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to date. He said over the summer there has been significant progress

:13:26.:13:36.
:13:36.:13:43.

This will allow those who suffered in institutions as children to

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register to have their experiences hurt by the acknowledgement forum.

:13:49.:13:55.

It will also be as significant moment for victims and survivors.

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Can I ask the Minister if he can confirm that there is no intention

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to consider or treat those victims of abuse which occurred outside the

:14:08.:14:15.

terms of the inquiry has in any way second class. There is absolutely

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no intention, nor would I allow that to happen. For 21 years of my

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life, every working day I worked with the victims of child sexual

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abuse in social services. Sadly, of the hundreds of those children that

:14:34.:14:42.

I Delworth, and adults, there is a protocol, criminal investigation

:14:42.:14:49.

and criminal compensation continues. The reason the inquiry was

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established was specifically because there were many people who

:14:54.:15:00.

could not go home to a mum or dad or step mum or whoever they carer

:15:01.:15:07.

was, when abuse occurred, they could not go back x side of the

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environment where the abuse occurred. For people in residential

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and state care, they had nobody to go to and that is the specific

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reason why the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is

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dealing directly with those people. Meantime, a new railway halt at

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Ballykelly and the work on the line between Coleraine and Londonderry

:15:27.:15:30.

topped the agenda for questions to the Regional Development Minister,

:15:30.:15:40.
:15:40.:15:41.

Danny Kennedy. My Department has not received any approaches for a

:15:41.:15:46.

new rail link to the headquarters at Ballykelly. If such an option is

:15:46.:15:50.

to be considered, a business case would be required to test the

:15:51.:15:55.

commercial viability and funding would need to be found. There is no

:15:55.:16:00.

funding in my department in the current budget for a station at the

:16:00.:16:08.

Ballykelly side. I believe the minister is aware in my interests

:16:08.:16:14.

in the upgrade of the Coleraine to Londonderry line as a whole. It was

:16:14.:16:23.

welcome news for the relocation of the headquarters to Ballykelly. It

:16:23.:16:28.

would benefit the workforce and the wider local economy give some

:16:28.:16:35.

funding could be found. grateful for his interest in this

:16:35.:16:43.

particular issue. I have clearly outlined that both myself and my

:16:43.:16:47.

department were and sited in terms of the announcement made by the

:16:47.:16:54.

minister, announcing the relocation of the Department of Agriculture

:16:54.:16:59.

and Rural Development. We have not had any conversations or

:16:59.:17:06.

correspondence on the issue. If such a request is made, we will

:17:06.:17:15.

seek to co-operate. The next question is number two, and the

:17:15.:17:20.

number is not in her place. If they're not here in the chamber,

:17:20.:17:26.

they will be named in the chamber. Let us move on. Question number

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three, please. Can I say in respect of questioned two, I had lots of

:17:36.:17:40.

questions ready! It was really good! The Regional Development

:17:40.:17:43.

Minister, Danny Kennedy, in jocular form after that rap on the knuckles

:17:43.:17:46.

for the missing MLA, Dolores Kelly. Later this afternoon MLAs debated a

:17:46.:17:49.

motion tabled by the DUP's Gregory Campbell, seeking an apology from

:17:49.:17:57.

the Irish government for its alleged role in the Troubles.

:17:57.:18:06.

we are doing is saying to Mr Kenney, to the Irish Republic's government,

:18:06.:18:12.

you acted as a midwife at the birth of the monster that we had to deal

:18:12.:18:18.

with for 30 years. It took 30 years to defeat and his song that monster,

:18:18.:18:23.

but eventually that was accomplished. What we want now is

:18:23.:18:28.

to try and bring closure to people who suffered for those 30 years,

:18:28.:18:32.

what we want is for you to acknowledge and it said that there

:18:32.:18:36.

was a part that was played by the government in that emerging force,

:18:36.:18:43.

and to apologise for it. We were then closed the book and move on.

:18:43.:18:46.

did not know of any Republican who would not say that there was not

:18:46.:18:51.

fault on all sides. There were many protagonists and there were those

:18:51.:18:56.

who created the conditions of conflict that eventually erupted. I

:18:56.:19:01.

lay there to add 50 years of misrule and denial of democratic

:19:01.:19:06.

rights by the old Stormont government, in which the Unionists

:19:06.:19:12.

had one-party rule for far too long. I make a plea to Unionists, letters

:19:12.:19:17.

get real, and at the start to engage on the truth, the whole of

:19:17.:19:21.

the truth. The role of the old Stormont government cannot be left

:19:21.:19:28.

out of it. The role of the British government. There are many

:19:28.:19:31.

elections than they were involved in for which there is complete

:19:31.:19:39.

denial. Joining me to discuss that motion is Gregory Campbell of the

:19:39.:19:48.

DUP. The argument is that it is partial and partisan. What does

:19:48.:19:52.

seeking to do is to open up the concept of dealing with the past.

:19:52.:19:58.

What we have had is a series of inquiries, inquests, there have

:19:58.:20:02.

been numerous opportunities for various Provisional IRA

:20:02.:20:08.

spokespersons to end up to one they did. Each and everyone has declined.

:20:08.:20:12.

The Deputy First Minister, on the Bloody Sunday inquiry, pleaded the

:20:12.:20:20.

Fifth Amendment. We want to move it on to the government of the Irish

:20:20.:20:25.

Republic, he were at the birth of the Provisionals, and so, when

:20:25.:20:29.

you're a dollars the part that you played and the subsequent movement

:20:29.:20:36.

across the border of IRA activists? How can Enda Kenny apologise for

:20:36.:20:41.

something that his government played no part in? His predecessor

:20:41.:20:46.

government was the one that set aside �100,000, half of which was

:20:47.:20:52.

used to put your arms for the fledgling IRA. If you can get the

:20:53.:20:57.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologising for the famine, of all

:20:58.:21:03.

things, why are unearthed cannot Enda Kenny say this is a much more

:21:03.:21:07.

relevant and recent phenomenon, and I would like to acknowledge the

:21:08.:21:14.

part that we played. Does it not play into the hands of the IRA and

:21:14.:21:18.

the republican family in suggesting that it had the backing an active

:21:19.:21:22.

involvement of a sovereign government? No, I think what it

:21:22.:21:27.

does do is bring us back to the real politics of 1969, which was

:21:27.:21:32.

that the small number of ministers in the Cabinet at the time colluded

:21:32.:21:37.

to finance the Provisional IRA. as individuals, not as

:21:37.:21:42.

representatives of the government. There is conflicting evidence about

:21:42.:21:47.

that. But I think Enda Kenny could make a clean breast of it, by

:21:47.:21:50.

saying, what ever happened, however it happened, our government should

:21:50.:21:55.

not have done the things that they did. And there are things that they

:21:55.:22:03.

did not do that they should have done. It will be a clean breast, we

:22:03.:22:09.

have to acknowledge it, apologise, and move beyond. Does it not

:22:09.:22:16.

overlooked the fact that on the streets of Northern Ireland -- on

:22:16.:22:25.

the streets of the Republic of Ireland, gardai were being killed

:22:25.:22:34.

by members of the IRA? Yes, we have to admit our mistakes as well.

:22:34.:22:39.

now, why all of a sudden the one this apology? We have been working

:22:39.:22:43.

on this for the last few years. We have had repeated attempts at

:22:43.:22:48.

inquiries and inquests and wishing to get nowhere in other than

:22:48.:22:52.

pursuing the police and the army, so let us see what the governor

:22:52.:23:00.

that helped to form the IRA have to say about their role?

:23:00.:23:02.

"Serious weaknesses" in management of Northern Ireland Housing

:23:02.:23:04.

Executive contracts - that's what an Audit Office report revealed

:23:04.:23:08.

earlier this month. Well last week it was the turn of the Housing

:23:08.:23:10.

Executive management to appear before the Public Accounts

:23:10.:23:13.

Committee to defend the organisation. The company's Chief

:23:13.:23:15.

Executive described examples in the 100 page report as "embarrassing",

:23:15.:23:25.
:23:25.:23:27.

as we'll hear now in our weekly look at committee business.

:23:27.:23:33.

There were the paper structures and other issues. A lot of issues were

:23:33.:23:41.

not being done correctly. The Office of governance and, has made

:23:42.:23:46.

the point that these contracts were wrong, they were not fit for

:23:46.:23:56.

purpose. They were coming from the early phase. They were not the

:23:56.:24:05.

tight, clear contracts so you need to implement. A key element Anki

:24:05.:24:14.

focus was to ensure that we got a change in contracts -- key element.

:24:14.:24:23.

That has taken longer than we would have liked. But I'm glad to say

:24:23.:24:27.

that from August of this year, a new, much tighter contracts are in

:24:27.:24:33.

place. This report depicts what can only be described as a complete

:24:33.:24:39.

breakdown in control other top of the organisation. Indeed, there are

:24:39.:24:45.

serious questions over a number of points. The nature and quality of

:24:45.:24:52.

information going to the board. The handling of internal audit and

:24:52.:24:58.

inspection report. Over 280 identified breaches of standing

:24:58.:25:04.

orders. And a significant issues not being brought to attention of

:25:04.:25:10.

the Board of presented in a way there was not appropriate. So, and

:25:10.:25:16.

my question to you, to the panel, where does the buck stop on this?

:25:16.:25:22.

We accept there have been mistakes made. We are not here to make

:25:22.:25:30.

excuses about that. I am here to account for the actions of the

:25:30.:25:34.

organisation but my focus is principally about taking this

:25:34.:25:39.

forward, addressing the shortcomings, and making this right.

:25:39.:25:43.

Higher offer a number of observations about clearing of

:25:43.:25:47.

internal audit report. It is regrettable, I am bears to be here

:25:47.:25:52.

before this committee, and there are examples in report were order

:25:52.:25:57.

reports were not dealt with in a timely way. Since becoming chief

:25:57.:26:02.

Executive I have made it clear to my colleagues that it is exempt

:26:02.:26:09.

will to challenge an order report, it is not acceptable to use it as a

:26:09.:26:19.
:26:19.:26:19.

means for not progressing report. You have to judge us by our actions.

:26:19.:26:25.

We do have a programme of work in hand but we're not naive about that.

:26:25.:26:28.

We have realised that solving this problem is not just about

:26:28.:26:33.

initiatives. It is about being vigilant moving forward and there

:26:33.:26:36.

except that the Housing Executive has perhaps not put the effort into

:26:36.:26:43.

making sure that it has remained vigilant. How many disciplinary

:26:43.:26:49.

procedures have there been and how many are on going? In the context

:26:49.:26:54.

of, for example, up Red Sky case- study, we had 29 people who have

:26:54.:27:00.

been interviewed and assess through the disciplinary process. Eight

:27:00.:27:05.

people have received formal disciplinary penalties. How serious

:27:05.:27:10.

were they? The most serious is a file written warning, which means

:27:10.:27:14.

that if it happens again there would be automatic dismissal.

:27:14.:27:17.

McPeake, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive, ending our look

:27:17.:27:20.

at committee business. Now, a final word from Martina, who's still with

:27:20.:27:28.

me. This evening's debate about the Irish government role in the

:27:28.:27:34.

Troubles. Sorry, it seemed, is the hardest word. There was a very

:27:34.:27:39.

emotional debate, a very lively debate, and a tone of debate there

:27:39.:27:44.

you have not seen in the Assembly for some time. They tend to try to

:27:44.:27:48.

keep its very measured. So these frictions and tensions over the

:27:48.:27:54.

past 10 to be kept to a minimum. It was interesting to see some of the

:27:54.:28:02.

language being used, quite emotive language. And for DUP will be

:28:02.:28:07.

pleased because it got the motion through. The motion did pass, as

:28:07.:28:15.

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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