18/01/2016 Stormont Today


18/01/2016

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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Transcript


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One week into the job and the new First Minister

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had her first formal outing answering questions on behalf

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

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the forthcoming Easter Rising commemorations in Dublin.

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Whilst I will not be attending the official commemorations are any

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other commemorations in relation to what happened in Dublin in Easter

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

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year. Meanwhile Mervyn Storey received

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a warm welcome from a constituency colleague on his first day

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

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

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

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And joining me with his perspective on today's proceedings

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is our political correspondent, Stephen Walker.

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

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The new First Minister was facing her first Question Time

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

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from her previous Executive roles, of course.

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Mrs Foster was asked to clarify her comments on attending

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a commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising, but firstly

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there was a question about funding for victims' groups.

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

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increased with over provided to support the victims

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sector. provided to support the victims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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start deal failed to deliver a comments of framework on legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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going to happen before the next election because there is an

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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agreed to attend commemorations for -- or events surrounding the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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would attend the commemorations in Dublin for that event and I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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commemorations or any other commemorations in relation to what

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

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

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what the First Minister will and will not do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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commemoration. And staying with the past,

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not surprisingly the issue of victims and the legacy

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

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troubles -- Troubles haunts our politics. Arlene Foster was

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disappointed there was not an agreement about the legacy in the

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

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

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

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the weeks are left. Quite an important day.

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

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

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

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

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

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people generally regard it as a good debut.

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And news of an interesting example of the First

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and Deputy First Ministers working together?

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

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

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together. Really they both understand the importance of key

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

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

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

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

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clearly both the Deputy First Minister and First Minister wants to

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

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

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eventually. Jobs, how many are being created

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and where, dominated questions to the Enterprise, Trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

:10:04.:10:09.

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

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

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

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

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

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investment projects based on merit, irrespective of where they were

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

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

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

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meet to discuss the issues that present themselves in Fermanagh and

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

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

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in terms of the regional start initiative to produce a business

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

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the western regional contract of RSI had delivered 2251 business plan

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approvals. Manufacturing is hugely important to the Northern Ireland

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economy. It makes a significant contribution to export levels and

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

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

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October 2015, manufacturing has continued to post strong growth with

:12:37.:12:43.

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

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

:12:58.:13:02.

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

:13:03.:13:11.

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

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

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

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and Invest Northern Ireland will continue to support investment to

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create jobs and promote competitiveness in the manufacturing

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sector. Jonathan Bell on the challenge

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of securing existing jobs Mervyn Storey has been

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

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to the Assembly floor a bill that Members debated the Consideration

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Stage of the Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill which contains

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a proposal to create a Legal Services Oversight

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Commissioner, who would deal with complaints made against members

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

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provides for a new process for lawyers and enhanced oversight of

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the regulation which I believe will age concern was bringing confidence

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for users of legal services and added transparency. Northern Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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complaints which are made to the society could potentially mask a

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

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accurate in association to solicitors who, in terms of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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financial prudence to the role as well. Especially considering his

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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complaints. This has resulted in better awareness of the complaints

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

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evidence received, a number of other stakeholders raised issues regarding

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the figures surrounding solicitors. The Law Centre pointed out that

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

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

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

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

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

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

:17:29.:17:32.

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

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

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

:17:42.:17:45.

ring the necessary clarification and transparency invalidity -- dealing

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

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

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

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

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regard the provisions in Britain. The Prime Minister himself regarded

:18:20.:18:23.

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

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

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

:18:36.:18:40.

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

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

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

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

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committed having a strong service to the public and holding ourselves

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

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And the Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill went

:19:11.:19:12.

The Education Minister reported to the Assembly today on the most

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recent meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council,

:19:17.:19:18.

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

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co-operation in education is increasing.

:19:22.:19:23.

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

:19:24.:19:26.

moving jobs across the border and educational under-achievement.

:19:27.:19:32.

The council welcomed the ongoing cooperation in both due restrictions

:19:33.:19:40.

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

:19:41.:19:46.

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

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also agrees teaching application. It requires teachers to provide a

:19:57.:20:05.

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

:20:06.:20:09.

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

:20:10.:20:21.

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

:20:22.:20:26.

recommendations that have been already put in place in 1998 new

:20:27.:20:30.

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

:20:31.:20:42.

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

:20:43.:20:47.

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

:20:48.:20:53.

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

:20:54.:20:56.

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

:20:57.:21:01.

have studied the most recent report in relation to education and

:21:02.:21:09.

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

:21:10.:21:14.

every serious about tackling educational underachievement. The

:21:15.:21:18.

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

:21:19.:21:22.

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

:21:23.:21:37.

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

:21:38.:21:40.

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

:21:41.:21:43.

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

:21:44.:21:49.

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

:21:50.:21:55.

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

:21:56.:22:03.

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

:22:04.:22:06.

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

:22:07.:22:11.

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

:22:12.:22:19.

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

:22:20.:22:22.

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

:22:23.:22:25.

than happy to investigate the numbers further and if there are

:22:26.:22:30.

figures are available and those of the number of teachers applying

:22:31.:22:33.

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

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

:22:35.:22:37.

guests at Stormont today. MLAs were keen to have their

:22:38.:22:40.

pictures taken with members of the Northern Ireland Fire

:22:41.:22:43.

and Rescue Service The firefighters were here

:22:44.:22:44.

to protest about cuts And the MLAs also backed

:22:45.:22:49.

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

:22:50.:22:54.

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

:22:55.:23:06.

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

:23:07.:23:10.

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

:23:11.:23:18.

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

:23:19.:23:22.

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

:23:23.:23:26.

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

:23:27.:23:31.

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

:23:32.:23:34.

hard to deliver efficiencies in recent years. These should be

:23:35.:23:41.

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

:23:42.:23:46.

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

:23:47.:23:53.

traffic collisions, recipes, flooding and we have all witnessed

:23:54.:24:06.

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

:24:07.:24:11.

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

:24:12.:24:17.

savings should be prioritised while minimising the impact on the

:24:18.:24:24.

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

:24:25.:24:29.

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

:24:30.:24:33.

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

:24:34.:24:42.

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

:24:43.:24:49.

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

:24:50.:24:52.

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

:24:53.:24:59.

The figures clearly demonstrate that firefighting is a cost effective

:25:00.:25:06.

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

:25:07.:25:09.

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

:25:10.:25:13.

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

:25:14.:25:20.

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

:25:21.:25:22.

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

:25:23.:25:28.

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

:25:29.:25:36.

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

:25:37.:25:42.

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

:25:43.:25:46.

allocated across the country based on professional assessment of risk.

:25:47.:25:54.

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

:25:55.:25:58.

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

:25:59.:26:05.

provisions of emergency services must be further explored and

:26:06.:26:08.

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

:26:09.:26:11.

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

:26:12.:26:18.

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

:26:19.:26:20.

And Stephen Walker is here for a final word.

:26:21.:26:23.

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

:26:24.:26:26.

and the forthcoming Assembly election.

:26:27.:26:30.

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

:26:31.:26:42.

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

:26:43.:26:46.

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

:26:47.:26:52.

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

:26:53.:26:55.

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

:26:56.:26:59.

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

:27:00.:27:02.

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

:27:03.:27:07.

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

:27:08.:27:12.

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

:27:13.:27:21.

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

:27:22.:27:25.

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

:27:26.:27:28.

South Down is shaping up to be a fascinating electoral

:27:29.:27:30.

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

:27:31.:27:47.

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

:27:48.:28:00.

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

:28:01.:28:08.

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

:28:09.:28:17.

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

:28:18.:28:20.

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

:28:21.:28:26.

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

:28:27.:28:28.

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

:28:29.:28:41.

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

:28:42.:28:46.

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

:28:47.:28:50.

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

:28:51.:28:54.

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

:28:55.:28:57.

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

:28:58.:28:59.

Fun girl. Vloggers, at this moment,

:29:00.:29:12.

are pioneers. a boy he met while playing

:29:13.:29:15.

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

:29:16.:29:20.

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

:29:21.:29:25.

documentaries exploring life online, on Tuesday, January 26,

:29:26.:29:29.

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

:29:30.:29:35.

about the use of language. Patrick Kielty's brought

:29:36.:29:41.

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

:29:42.:29:47.

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

:29:48.:29:50.

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

:29:51.:29:57.

you shouldn't, there.

:29:58.:30:01.

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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