18/01/2016 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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One week into the job and the new First Minister


had her first formal outing answering questions on behalf


Arlene Foster used the appearance to seek to clarify her position over


the forthcoming Easter Rising commemorations in Dublin.


Whilst I will not be attending the official commemorations are any


other commemorations in relation to what happened in Dublin in Easter


1916, I will of course reflect on everything else that took place that


year. Meanwhile Mervyn Storey received


a warm welcome from a constituency colleague on his first day


in the chamber as Finance Minister. I am sure he will bring that


well-known North Antrim quality of financial prudence to the post,


except when it comes to considering projects from North Antrim itself!


And joining me with his perspective on today's proceedings


is our political correspondent, Stephen Walker.


After all the hoopla of last week, it was down to business in the top


The new First Minister was facing her first Question Time


in office, though she's plenty of experience at the dispatch box


from her previous Executive roles, of course.


Mrs Foster was asked to clarify her comments on attending


a commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising, but firstly


there was a question about funding for victims' groups.


The funding for 2015/16 in the current budget year has been


increased with over provided to support the victims


sector. provided to support the victims


victims. I have fought to protect victims issues and budgets and I


will continue to do that within this department. I believe it is


something we will be proactive in certainly in the coming year and


years to come. Funding for victims and survivors will continue to be a


priority for the new executive office if I am returned as First


Minister. Could I ask how disappointed she is that the fresh


start deal failed to deliver a comments of framework on legacy


issues for survivors in Northern Ireland? I think many of us,


probably all of us were disappointed that we were not able to have an


agreement in relation to the legacy issues. Great work has been carried


out. We were close to having a conference of agreement and that is


why it is important to continue to engage with our own government and


the Government of the Republic of Ireland and with the victims sector


as well. But we must be honest and open about the chances of doing that


at a particular time and I have been asked if I think this will be sorted


before our next election and I must be honest and I think it is not


going to happen before the next election because there is an


election in the Republic abound and we have an election in May and I


don't think -- the Republic of Ireland, and we have an election in


May and I don't think we will be able to deal with the issues. Will


there be tangible benefits for victims? I share his concern that


there are some engaged in trying to write a particular narrative about


what happened here and across the island over the past 30 or 40 years.


Some are trying to rewrite what happened in 1916, so we shouldn't be


surprised. But I will resist any attempts to rewrite what happened in


the past. With the First Minister clarify her position? Which she


agreed to attend commemorations for -- or events surrounding the


commemoration of the Easter Rising in Dublin or elsewhere? I thanked


him for his kind comments in relation to my appointment to this


office. I wish him well in his retirement from office. He served


their constituents of north Belfast for a long time and I wish him well


in retirement. In terms of the issues surrounding Easter 1916, I


was asked a very specific question by a journalist as to whether I


would attend the commemorations in Dublin for that event and I


indicated that I would not and that is still my position. I have since


indicated on a wider perspective that I am very aware that the events


that happened in Dublin in Easter 1916 were part of a wider context of


what was going on in these islands at that time, and further afield,


and I am more than content, in fact I am looking forward to attending


lectures, symposiums, discussions in and around the year of 1916 and the


context of what was going on. Whilst I won't be attending official


commemorations or any other commemorations in relation to what


happened in Dublin in Easter 1916, I will reflect on everything else that


took place that year. And I think it's now pretty clear


what the First Minister will and will not do


in connection with 1916? Yes, it is very clear and it was


very clear from what we heard in the Assembly today. She is happy to take


part in a conference or symposium but she will not take part in an


official commemoration for the 1916 Easter Rising. She made that clear


in the interview with the impartial reporter and the interview with you


last week. She understands the importance of the Easter Rising, the


importance to many people, but she will not take part officially in any


commemoration. And staying with the past,


not surprisingly the issue of victims and the legacy


of the past cropped up Yes, this whole legacy of the


troubles -- Troubles haunts our politics. Arlene Foster was


disappointed there was not an agreement about the legacy in the


fresh start... And we are looking to the end of March and then you have


the Assembly elections in May so there's very little time so there is


a general consensus that it will be very difficult to make progress in


the weeks are left. Quite an important day.


So what was the general verdict on Mrs Foster's first


It was a good performance, sure-footed. Arlene Foster is no


stranger to the Assembly or the dispatch box. She was economy


minister, Finance Minister, she stood in for Peter Robinson before.


I think she would have predicted the questions and been well briefed and


people generally regard it as a good debut.


And news of an interesting example of the First


and Deputy First Ministers working together?


They went to the king span stadium, about Ireland's bid to host the


Rugby World Cup. We saw Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness working


together. Really they both understand the importance of key


sporting events and they want to bring the Rugby World Cup to


Northern Ireland cos they know there will be an enormous economic and


social spin off, and political. She looked happy to get her picture with


Brian O'Driscoll. Yes. There was quite a buzz about the players but


clearly both the Deputy First Minister and First Minister wants to


win this bid. We don't know whether Martin McGuinness converted the


penalty. We don't know if he got it over the bar. Maybe we will find out


eventually. Jobs, how many are being created


and where, dominated questions to the Enterprise, Trade


and Investment Minister, I think the first thing we want to


do is to ensure we get the jobs to Northern Ireland. That must be our


priority. We will always target and showcase particular areas for the


unique skills that might be there because of the cluster of areas that


are there, and working with councils. We have asked them to look


at their unique selling points for articular areas. We have asked


Invest Northern Ireland to look at Northern Ireland as a whole. During


2011-2012 to 2014-15, there were 27,150 jobs. During the same period,


businesses created 20,451 jobs. During the same period with Invest


Northern Ireland support, businesses created 9000 plus jobs. It is Invest


Northern Ireland's wrote to support those companies that bring forward


investment projects based on merit, irrespective of where they were


based. I am alarmed that for every job created west of the river, there


are three comparable ones on the East. Does he accept areas west of


the river merit more focus? Can he say when the subgroup intends to


meet to discuss the issues that present themselves in Fermanagh and


County Tyrone? We have been looking at what we can do. It is important


to note that in terms of working alongside Fermanagh and South Tyrone


in terms of the regional start initiative to produce a business


plan as one of the key early steps to a new business. By November 2015


the western regional contract of RSI had delivered 2251 business plan


approvals. Manufacturing is hugely important to the Northern Ireland


economy. It makes a significant contribution to export levels and


research and development in Northern Ireland, both of which are essential


to wealth creation. According to the latest economic commentary, in


October 2015, manufacturing has continued to post strong growth with


output up 3.2% over the past four quarters. In terms of jobs, the


sector added 1870 jobs over the past year, which brings the total of


manufacturing jobs to more than 80,000, and having taken


manufacturing to more than 80,000 jobs, it is the first time we have


achieved that since 2008. However there have been a number of major


redundancies announced. There was no room for complacency. My department


and Invest Northern Ireland will continue to support investment to


create jobs and promote competitiveness in the manufacturing


sector. Jonathan Bell on the challenge


of securing existing jobs Mervyn Storey has been


in the Finance role for less than a week, but today he brought


to the Assembly floor a bill that Members debated the Consideration


Stage of the Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill which contains


a proposal to create a Legal Services Oversight


Commissioner, who would deal with complaints made against members


of the legal profession. Yell and deputy leader, this bill


provides for a new process for lawyers and enhanced oversight of


the regulation which I believe will age concern was bringing confidence


for users of legal services and added transparency. Northern Ireland


has high surprisingly low level of them plays. I am sure that this and


the legal services review group, which did a ten month study of this


issue, found that it is mainly due to good service provided by


professionals in this area. A number of consultees identified that there


could be a danger that the recorded numbers of complaints, those


complaints which are made to the society could potentially mask a


higher number made to individual practices. This, as noted, is more


accurate in association to solicitors who, in terms of


regulations made by new society, have you set out an individual


complaints handling process to the clients. When looking to work in


this area, I doubt they would of thought that almost a decade would


pass before they would be discussing it here. It has been a long journey


but today's debate has taken us closer to the aim of seeing a better


system in place. I started today by congratulating the Minister on his


appointment and I'm sure it will bring that great quality of


financial prudence to the role as well. Especially considering his


role itself. It's good to me has been to capture information on the


conflict against solicitors, which are made and referred to as the


first cheer. They need to do this -- tier. This neatly presented any


figures published to date. Currently, they only face this from


the Observer and the nature of complaints. There are no powers to


investigate. It is not subject to any statuary over site. This would


require to number of complaints made against barristers. It has been


acknowledged that there has been an ace attract increasing the number of


complaints. This has resulted in better awareness of the complaints


process, rather than a deterioration of standards. Arising from the


evidence received, a number of other stakeholders raised issues regarding


the figures surrounding solicitors. The Law Centre pointed out that


there is no critical evidence and that one of the complaint is due to


lack of satisfaction, or a lack of faith -- some of the complaints. I


am always quick to say that, when a constituent come through the door,


that a complaint is outside the remit. I am glad to say it is


outside the remit of the daily work. Nonetheless, I think it is important


that we do is beat your constituents regarding some of the complaints


they have and how we deal with them in the process. It is good to be


able to say that there is a complaints process to go through and


that I believe, certainly through this process, that this bill will


ring the necessary clarification and transparency invalidity -- dealing


with them. You'll like this is a local bill. It is a local solution.


Regarding local conditions. That is the important thing. It has been


tailor-made to Northern Ireland and I think Professor Bain and his


colleagues, when introduced this, they did not, as it were, this


regard the provisions in Britain. The Prime Minister himself regarded


to the fact that, in 2006, by a legal services review group chaired


by George Bain, the then Minister of Finance and personnel, David Hanson,


an end even some of you may remember, the report has been


considered by being in subsequent. It has been around for quite a long


time. Members referred to the fact that this is not a branch reform but


it will bring significant change to the system and will establish a new


position of legal services over said Commissioner. The Alliance party has


committed having a strong service to the public and holding ourselves


accountable. I think this bill goes a long way to achieving that.


And the Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill went


The Education Minister reported to the Assembly today on the most


recent meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council,


and John O'Dowd was keen to point out that the level of cross border


co-operation in education is increasing.


But the Minister still had to answer some testing questions on teachers


moving jobs across the border and educational under-achievement.


The council welcomed the ongoing cooperation in both due restrictions


on matters to reduce obstacles to teachers. This includes the waving


of faith to teachers, credited by the National teaching Council. It


also agrees teaching application. It requires teachers to provide a


quality. This includes the impact of the structure of the postgraduate


certificate and that a European directive 2005,. DVD double report


was I could not be better to revisit the report on the series of


recommendations that have been already put in place in 1998 new


Morrissey and literacy? It is something we need to draw on. Can I


ask -- numerically and literacy. I am not in favour of carrying out


studies for the sake of it. I think in terms of examining best practice


on both sides of the border, and tackling educational achievement, it


is worth money and worthwhile doing. I have studied numerous reports. I


have studied the most recent report in relation to education and


underachievement, we need to tackle it. We need to tackle it head on


every serious about tackling educational underachievement. The


cost of the review to each department and the jurisdiction is a


?40,000. I think it is ?40,000 spent. Sorry, just to clarify, that


is ?40,000. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I know the First Minister has properly


had enough questions and is of cross-border arrangements. They


didn't see that the dangers from the north can now apply for teaching


posts in the south but it doesn't say how successful they are. --


teachers. Is there anything to say that teachers are actually getting


these jobs? I do not have those figures at hand. There they are a


will, I am more than happy to share them. There have been buyers in the


past digital from idle jurisdiction travelling. I have worked for a


number of years to try and remove them. It has been frustratingly slow


but we have seen progress in the last number of months. I am more


than happy to investigate the numbers further and if there are


figures are available and those of the number of teachers applying


proposed in the south and the number of teachers who are successful, I am


more than happy to share them. We had around 50 uniformed


guests at Stormont today. MLAs were keen to have their


pictures taken with members of the Northern Ireland Fire


and Rescue Service The firefighters were here


to protest about cuts And the MLAs also backed


the firefighters in the chamber, voting to pass a motion calling


on the Health Minister Sitting here today, we can have very


little comprehension of the scenes of which these brave men and women


are faced with in the course of their duties. Many lives in the


communities ourselves by them. It is difficult to put into words the


emotions they must go through in the course of those duties. They are


very clear in your priorities and that is saving lives. Their message


to me on numerous occasions as being that they have already been working


hard to deliver efficiencies in recent years. These should be


agreed, not forced. Firefighters you responded to a total of nearly


23,000 emergency incidents across Northern Ireland, that is including


traffic collisions, recipes, flooding and we have all witnessed


that. -- rescues. Firefighters are there when the public's lives are


put on your line. We must never compromise public safety. Any


savings should be prioritised while minimising the impact on the


public's safety. This is something that has been outlined for some


considerable time. Any changes have always been said they would be risky


asset to ensure the continued safety of both the public and firefighters.


Risk assessed. Your mac they are very clear on the effect of the cuts


we are having. -- they are very clear on the effect of the country


are having. It has been very difficult in this financial year.


The figures clearly demonstrate that firefighting is a cost effective


service. What we have are some of the bravest and most courageous


people who put their lives on your line for the job they are doing.


That has already been said that it is to save lives and ensure safety


where ever emergency occurs. Even to the bond of sacrificing their own


lives. That is what I call dedication to the people they serve.


They must be regarded as a front-line service. Anyone who


denies this is living in cloud cuckoo land. The services they


provide must be in the highest quality. The services must be


allocated across the country based on professional assessment of risk.


It must opinion deliver new ways of engaging and consulting with the


people it serves on how it does its job. Collaborative approaches to the


provisions of emergency services must be further explored and


developed in order to deliver editors over the public. We must


look to the future and continue to support the rescue service and that


staff and firefighters are happy to work in and confident in.


And Stephen Walker is here for a final word.


We had some speculation this afternoon about the DUP's Jim Wells


and the forthcoming Assembly election.


This is an interesting development. It has been said that he is seeking


nomination for the DUP lead role. He may have stepped down as an MLA


because his wife, Grace, was very ill. There is a lot of talk as to


whether he would run again but he has confirmed today that he will put


his name for work. He has put his name forward and it is being


considered by the party hierarchy. He needs to wait to see what the


party hierarchy are going to say to see if he will be selected for


southbound. Obviously, Jim Wells is a very well-known figure, then there


is controversy surrounding him and Iraqi has made in the past, he is


very well known, well established. He wants to continue his total


career and now his name has been considered by party officers.


South Down is shaping up to be a fascinating electoral


It'll be one of those seats that people are going to watch. It has


many names that people very well. There is also a fascinating battle


on the unionist side. You would also have a battle going on within the


Unionist ranks. A crowded unionist field. And very crowded. It is said


that that may open the door to other candidates. Those who agree with


unionist unity would not like to see so many unionist candidates in that


field. When it comes to the election, southbound will be one of


those constituencies that people will want to watch. Yes, big day for


Mervyn Storey. Mervyn Storey Newly in the job and he wants to make sure


that the people of Northern Ireland are looked after. Visa, he has only


been any job a view days. It'll a special day. He will also face tough


questions. Thank you. That's it for tonight,


but do join me again tomorrow night You can have me any way you want.


Fun girl. Vloggers, at this moment,


are pioneers. a boy he met while playing


online video games... I'm going in.


It is psychological warfare. One Click Away, a series of


documentaries exploring life online, on Tuesday, January 26,


on BBC Three and online. They're making a new panel show


about the use of language. Patrick Kielty's brought


a few intellectual friends over... Thank you, Patrick!


..to discuss the finer points... ..language?


Here, is this script right? You've popped a couple of things


you shouldn't, there.


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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