17/09/2012 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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coming up, the slurry tank tragedy that claimed the lives of three


members of the Spencer family dominated MLAs thought up the start


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


entire community was palpable. Enterprise Minister acknowledges


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


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


chamber? MLAs from all parties united to pay


tribute to the three members of the Spencer family from Hillsborough


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


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


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


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


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


came home to work on their successful farm. Nevin Spence


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


evening have shot not just the farming community but also the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


at the engineering firm up F G Wilson dominated the Enterprise


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


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


reflection on the scales, productivity or flexibility of the


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


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


voluntary redundancy package and will help to redeploy displaced


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


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


Northern Ireland has been in discussion with senior executives


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


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


development today. Members will be aware that Invest Northern Ireland


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


businesses due to a legal challenge launched following the original


procurement exercise. As a consequence, a further 10 per


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


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


ten-day period before the contract becomes operational and the


successful tenderer can begin to deliver the contract. This means


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


support service to individuals interested in starting their own


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


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


caterpillar management to focus on new business opportunities. The


company will continue to manufacture high value products in


Northern Ireland that can be continued to be manufactured on a


competitive basis locally. We have been successful in attracting


various elements of the company's support functions to Northern


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


people employed supporting Caterpillar's IT functions. The


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


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


Enterprise Minister on the challenges posed by the job losses


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


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


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


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


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


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


opportunities and support were available for workers losing their


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to. We are a devolved administration but when the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


downhill. The announcement today that the new certificate was coming


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


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


Development Corporation, the Bristol controversy. Effectively,


it should have been a straightforward announcement. --


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the full disclosure came. Five pages of information from the


office of the First and Deputy First Minister. The commissioner


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


told this was down to administrative error. I can tell


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


asking how this process was undertaken and how these people


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


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


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


the Junior Minister to answer questions about the legal


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the delay in the production of a sexual orientation strategy is


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


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


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


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


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


One of the commitments in our programme for government is to


press for the devolution of corporation tax, setting powers,


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


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


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


resolving the outstanding issues. The United Kingdom government will


then decide whether the Executive should be offered the opportunity


to take responsibility for corporation tax setting. Over the


summer had the privilege to visit the commission four times and


clearly the commission's determinations demonstrated that


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


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


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


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


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


parades commission from all sections of our community and


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


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


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


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


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


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


Community. The shelf of Shelvey strategies must be pretty heavy


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


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


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


rich coming from someone who walked away from taking decisions on


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


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


us in this House should be upholding, and encourage everyone


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


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


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


This will allow those who suffered in institutions as children to


register to have their experiences hurt by the acknowledgement forum.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and criminal compensation continues. The reason the inquiry was


established was specifically because there were many people who


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


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


environment where the abuse occurred. For people in residential


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


reason why the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is


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


Ballykelly and the work on the line between Coleraine and Londonderry


topped the agenda for questions to the Regional Development Minister,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


would benefit the workforce and the wider local economy give some


funding could be found. grateful for his interest in this


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


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


minister, announcing the relocation of the Department of Agriculture


and Rural Development. We have not had any conversations or


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


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


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


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


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


questions ready! It was really good! The Regional Development


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


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


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


the Irish government for its alleged role in the Troubles.


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


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


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


but eventually that was accomplished. What we want now is


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


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


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


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


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


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


who created the conditions of conflict that eventually erupted. I


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


rights by the old Stormont government, in which the Unionists


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


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


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


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


elections than they were involved in for which there is complete


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


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


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


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


been numerous opportunities for various Provisional IRA


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


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


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


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


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


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


something that his government played no part in? His predecessor


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to finance the Provisional IRA. as individuals, not as


representatives of the government. There is conflicting evidence about


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


inquiries and inquests and wishing to get nowhere in other than


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


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


"Serious weaknesses" in management of Northern Ireland Housing


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


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


Executive management to appear before the Public Accounts


Committee to defend the organisation. The company's Chief


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


inspection report. Over 280 identified breaches of standing


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


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


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


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


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


organisation but my focus is principally about taking this


forward, addressing the shortcomings, and making this right.


Higher offer a number of observations about clearing of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


We have realised that solving this problem is not just about


initiatives. It is about being vigilant moving forward and there


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


making sure that it has remained vigilant. How many disciplinary


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


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


been interviewed and assess through the disciplinary process. Eight


people have received formal disciplinary penalties. How serious


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


that if it happens again there would be automatic dismissal.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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