18/02/2014 Stormont Today


18/02/2014

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


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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme.

:00:24.:00:29.

The Health Minister hopes new legislation on tobacco retailers

:00:30.:00:36.

will stop young people smoking. Northern Ireland has the highest

:00:37.:00:40.

smoking prevalence in the UK and every year around 2300 people in

:00:41.:00:44.

Northern Ireland die from smoking-related illnesses.

:00:45.:00:47.

The Justice Minister's still under fire for changing the criteria for

:00:48.:00:51.

the Chief Constable's job. What the Minister now accept that he

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made an error of judgement in the way he handled the whole issue of

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changing the criteria for the appointment of the chieftains to?

:01:01.:01:02.

And the political commentator Alex Kane joins me in the studio.

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A bill to create a register of tobacco retailers

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A bill to create a register of selling cigarettes to under 16s has

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A bill to create a register of are 357,000 smokers in Northern

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Ireland and about 2,300 people die from smoking-related illnesses every

:01:24.:01:33.

year. The main purpose of this bill is to

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make sure that the minimum age of Sail policy for tobacco products is

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more rigourously applied by retailers. This will be achieved by

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introducing tougher measures for noncompliance. It is a well-known

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fact that the majority of smokers take up smoking before they reach

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adult hood. Most smokers will have tried their first cigarette and many

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will have become addicted before they are legally allowed to purchase

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tobacco products. In Northern Ireland, more than 357,000 adults

:02:02.:02:08.

are smokers. This represents 25 per cent of the population. Northern

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Ireland has the highest smoking prevalence in the UK and every year

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around 2300 people in Northern Ireland die from smoking-related

:02:18.:02:21.

illnesses. Members will be aware that on the 3rd of February, the

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assembly approved a legislative motion. The amendment concerns the

:02:30.:02:34.

retail packaging of tobacco products, more commonly referred to

:02:35.:02:39.

as standardised packaging. The effect is to provide the Secretary

:02:40.:02:43.

of State with the powers on a UK wide basis. These revelations may

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impose requirements in relation to the appearance of and markings on

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tobacco products as well as the internal packaging in any wrappers.

:02:54.:02:59.

Another important amendment was in relation to who can still -- apply

:03:00.:03:04.

as a tobacco retailer. This was a significant issue and was discussed

:03:05.:03:08.

at length by the committee. We took the view that given the

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responsibility involved in selling tobacco, somebody who has a serious

:03:13.:03:17.

conviction should be prevented from registering as a tobacco retailer.

:03:18.:03:22.

After consideration, the department proposed an amendment which is

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contained in clause four. A allowed to register as a tobacco

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retailer for a period of five years from the date of the conviction. To

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those who are not here today, and I wonder why they are not, for those

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who say this is the nanny state or this is unacceptable, it is very

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clear that society has had a sea change in its view on smoking. Thank

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you, Mr Speaker. Can I just point out to the member, and I support his

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views on smoking, I am supportive of all the measures against tobacco,

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but most of the people saying it is the nanny state have been his party

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colleagues. By their absence, I think they are realising the tide is

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inexorable. They have always made it very clear that they pose not on

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health issues but on employment issues. They are defending their

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constituents jobs. Where riders agree was that perhaps

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by a fine of ?1000 per the retailer could profit, even by losing his

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licence. It is important that there was an increased fine for stopping

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an officer from gaining access to evidence that would perhaps allow

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conviction. I am pleased, following lobbying by the committee, the

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Minister has agreed to increase that to ?5,000. Listening to the debate

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this morning, it is one of the best reasons why this assembly should

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only ever grant accelerated passage in exceptional circumstances because

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when you look at the work the committee, the engagement they had

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with the department, and to be fair to the Department, they were

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receptive on how to improve a piece of legislation, he talked about the

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amendment he was particularly strong on, and this is a better

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amendment he was particularly strong today? Which is almost a novelty in

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Northern Ireland. It is a good sign. It is one of the few occasions

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when they have taken a bill quite literally from start to finish

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without great acrimonious. Actually, for most of the time, they had a

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very serious debate about it. There was not any of the dissension in the

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DUP ranks which we have seen about cigarette packaging but it was

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referred to very clearly. There was nice little interplay between Jim

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Wells and John McCallister. East Antrim and North Antrim are both DUP

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held constituencies and fewer people smoking fewer cigarettes so fewer

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production means unemployment. The cycle is going to last for the next

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two years. No Assembly Member wanting to defend their seat wants

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to go to that electorate and say the consequence of what we have done may

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result in thousands of people being let off. You don't oversimplify it

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but it is not wrong to say that fundamentally, in a sense, the

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debate can be distilled down to jobs versus health. That is exactly what

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it is and that is not unique to Northern Ireland. We should not

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forget that. It is 25% of adults smoking in Northern Ireland but when

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I was born in the 1950s, it would have been 70% so it has gone down.

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Ynyr Llwyd and has gone down. It is going to continue to go down because

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you can't bombard people with the reality of smoking and expect them

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to compete -- continue to smoke. You had Edwin Poots playing the health

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card very clearly in the chamber today but you have got Sammy Paulo

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in Westminster and here and Ian Paisley Junior in Westminster saying

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this is about jobs and what is best for constituents. They don't want to

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encourage people to smoke but if they do, they want to make sure they

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come from their constituency. Every sitting member will have to make

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that argument in defence of their own constituency. I am surprised

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that Edwin Poots has not made a stronger case

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that Edwin Poots has not made a Health Service. It is also a cost in

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terms of long-term health. I am surprised he is not offering that. A

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quick point on John McCallister that accelerated passage should only be

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used in exceptional circumstances. He thinks it is better legislation.

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It is always better legislation. It usually comes with terrorism or

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economic stuff when you push them through very quickly but some of the

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nuances are lost and it is only three or four years later you

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realise you should have taken your time.

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Alex Kane, thank you for now. The Justice Minister, David Ford, told

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the Assembly he did nothing wrong in his handling of the appointment

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criteria for the post of PSNI Chief Constable. Mr Ford was asked if he

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had made an error of judgement during Question Time today. The

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Justice Minister was also asked about changes to legal aid and the

:09:15.:09:17.

financial implications of the Richard Haass proposals.

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Leaving aside the proposals that came out of the Richard Haass

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process, does the Minister accept the status quo is not tenable and if

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so what pressures and what ideas does he have to deal with the

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pressures? I am thinking of coroners courts, Article two compliance under

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the European Convention of human rights. What additional resources

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does he envisaged for putting this right? I appreciate the question. I

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am not sure I agree with the premise that the Richard Haass process

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failed given that some of us has been spending several hours a week

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this year trying to make the process tie together. What is absolutely

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clear is that if we do not have the historical investigations unit they

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will need to be significant work done by the Department of Justice

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which is already underway in preparatory form to deal with issues

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around the fact that some have been found to be not Article two

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compliant. There are funny mental issues that will have to be

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addressed to deal with some of those points. It is clear that anything we

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do in that area will require some very considerable investment,

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whether it is done under the Richard Haass process or something separate.

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On the basis of the information currently available, there

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On the basis of the information invited stakeholders to submit their

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views on the proposals and work on sorties might be aware of any

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additional data on the subject to submit any additional evidence

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regarding the impact. I acknowledge these reforms may require

:11:04.:11:06.

practitioners to consider more efficient models and adapt for the

:11:07.:11:10.

future. However, the nature of legal aid reform is such that there is

:11:11.:11:14.

such a long lead-in time allowing firms to adjust their practices. How

:11:15.:11:19.

can the Minister seriously suggest, and I agree with him that there

:11:20.:11:23.

needs to be reductions in legal aid, but how can he seriously suggest

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that there will be no impact upon the profession? This certainly are a

:11:29.:11:35.

small number of solicitors firms which gained significant income from

:11:36.:11:38.

criminal defence work but they are the people who have the most

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opportunity to adjust their business models to make sure they take into

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account the changes. The simple reality is, even if you exclude the

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very high cost cases, we are still looking at the average cost of a

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Crown Court case in Northern Ireland being double the cost of a Crown

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Court case in England and Wales. That is unsustainable. Will the

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Minister accept that he made an error of judgement in the way he

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handled the whole issue in the change of criteria for the

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appointment of Chief const? No. I carried out my functions entirely in

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accordance with the legislation to leave the Policing Board to carry

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out its functions. I have nothing that I did wrong, I did it precisely

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as I should have done it. Thank you. We'll minister not accept

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it was a mistake that he didn't consult or talk to policing bird

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dashboard and isn't a matter for them to make this decision? I really

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would love to know how I didn't consult with the policing board when

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this matter has been discussed since May of last year. A clearly

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irritated David Ford. The Enterprise Minister has rejected a call from

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the Alliance Party that murals should be removed from the route of

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the Giro Italia. Arlene Foster said that provided they are not of a

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paramilitary nature, the murals should remain to celebrate our

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cultural heritage. The Minister also answered questions on

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firstly, the number of flights in and out of our airports. I do hope

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that we will be able to make some announcement in the near future in

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relation to new routes. Obviously, it is critical and I am on record

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many times as saying if we want to see more tourists coming to Northern

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Ireland, we need to have more direct access. Canada remains very much,

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for me, a key area where I would like to see direct access coming in

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and we continue to make progress in that market. But, of course, we want

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to see more connectivity through Belfast, through the international

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or the city in terms of European destinations, as well, so we will

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continue to work within airports. We believe that, if we are successful

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in being able to bring the Rugby World Cup to both jurisdictions in

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2023, it will make a huge difference in terms of how people view the

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island and also, in terms of our tourism potential. Frankly, as a

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rugby fan, I'm very excited by the prospect as well. In terms of flags

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and emblems, obviously, this has been an issue which has caused some

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people in Northern Ireland a concern in terms of the IRS you. We would

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hope that when they are playing in Northern Ireland, Northern

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Ireland's position in the UK will be respected and, of course, when we

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are playing in the Republic of Ireland, their position will be

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respected because, bid for the Rugby World Cup is absolutely nothing to

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do with flags and emblems, it is do with sport. What would the Minister

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think about the current proposal that perhaps we should refrain from

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displaying election posters, flags and emblems, murals along the route

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for the duration of the Giro d'Italia in order to sell Northern

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Ireland even more effectively? I have no to the ongoing discussion

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around this issue. Let me be clear on it. As regards election posters,

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the dap to leader has already indicated that we will be more than

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happy for them to be taken down right across Northern Ireland

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because we don't need election posters to get the vote out,

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frankly. So that much is very clear, but I have noted the comments of the

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Alliance Party in relation to flags and murals. Let me

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issues in and around murals and flags in working-class areas right

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across Northern Ireland? Does he think it would be better to

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encourage communities to deal with the issues, and I do commend the

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work that has been going on in various communities, and indeed,

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speaking to my colleague for East Belfast, he informs me a very

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effective programme has been happening in east Belfast, for

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example, where they have managed to take away some of the paramilitary

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murals and put up murals to CS Lewis and others in East Belfast, and I

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welcome that because I hope he's not suggesting we get rid of me was

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completely. Murals are actually come if he listens to what he said, he

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said get would have murals, they are part of a cultural expression, right

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across Belfast. And Northern Ireland, and I think it would be sad

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if the visitors Northern Ireland couldn't engage in appreciating the

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rich cultural heritage that we have here in Northern Ireland.

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Paramilitary murals, of course they should never have gone up. But I

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have to say, pronouncements from here won't solve that. Working with

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communities will, and I commend those in this House who do work with

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that. Working with communities will, and I commend those in this House

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who do work with the committees and tried to solve those problems.

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Arlene Foster. And cycling was also on the agenda for the Regional

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Development Minister today. Danny Kennedy was asked about election

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posters on the Giro d'Italia route and if bikes could be allowed on

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buses. But first, the Minister was asked about damage to the road

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network caused by the recent bad weather. A number of roads in

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Northern Ireland has suffered damage as a result of recent tidal events

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and storms. I have today placed in the assembly library a comprehensive

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list of those locations where roads have been subject to sea wall

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damage, or undermining as a result of storm damage since the turn of

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the year. During last week's severe weather, short section of road

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between... Collapsed. We are assessing the situation to repair

:17:51.:17:57.

them as soon as possible. We have carried out remedial works as a

:17:58.:18:00.

number of locations. And preparatory work is underway in the advancement

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of works at other locations, however, it could be sometime before

:18:05.:18:09.

the impact is known. And necessary repairs are fermented and the full

:18:10.:18:15.

cost is realised the estimate cost is currently 1.2 million. However,

:18:16.:18:20.

this figure could increase significantly once detailed

:18:21.:18:22.

inspections of sea defences are completed. Given your

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responsibilities for lamp posts and road signs, what is your view on

:18:28.:18:31.

restricting election posters from the various routes of the Giro

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d'Italia? My party colleague Robin Swan, was the first person to

:18:38.:18:43.

advocate that the political parties in the run-up to the European

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elections should available opportunity to promote the area

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positively and therefore, not show the election posters until after the

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event. I agree with those sentiments, and I have other parties

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in that spirit will agree with that suggestion. Would he agree with me

:19:04.:19:08.

at important that we extend the removal of election posters to flags

:19:09.:19:13.

that are turned to rags and other paramilitary paraphernalia? Which

:19:14.:19:19.

are along the route of the Giro d'Italia? We don't like to see the

:19:20.:19:26.

flag of the UK run to a rag, on any lamp post. And again, against that,

:19:27.:19:38.

I appeal that if there are such incidences, and they can be dealt

:19:39.:19:42.

with, appropriately, then it's a case. But there is a significant

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difference between cultural and other murals, that many visitors and

:19:51.:19:56.

tourists will like and expect to see. And illegal memorials and

:19:57.:20:01.

monuments to paramilitary organisations. Recently, we haven't

:20:02.:20:14.

had a proper cycle visibility on buses. I've spoken to the local

:20:15.:20:21.

company and they have have rear vehicle and internal solutions for

:20:22.:20:25.

bicycle transport on buses, and these can be attached to existing

:20:26.:20:31.

stops, so I see no reason why this issue cannot be progress. Can I ask

:20:32.:20:34.

him would he be willing issue cannot be progress. Can I ask

:20:35.:20:46.

it will work? One of the successes that we are constrained by in terms

:20:47.:20:50.

of room, available room for bicycles, to be placed on trains, I

:20:51.:20:58.

know the train company has a political policy at the moment on

:20:59.:21:04.

that. I'm happy to explore opportunities either to the private

:21:05.:21:09.

sector or indeed via the train company as to how it can be improved

:21:10.:21:12.

upon. The Roads Minister, Danny Kennedy. Business wasn't just

:21:13.:21:15.

confined to the chamber today. A group from county Fermanagh met with

:21:16.:21:18.

the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee at Stormont to discuss

:21:19.:21:21.

wind energy. Renewable energy is a growing industry in Northern Ireland

:21:22.:21:24.

and the Fermanagh Trust wants to see more engagement with the local

:21:25.:21:28.

community on the subject. And joining me now is the trust's

:21:29.:21:33.

director, Lauri McCusker. What was the purpose of today's meeting? The

:21:34.:21:39.

purpose was to talk to the politicians and the stakeholders

:21:40.:21:41.

about what communities can have in terms of renewable energy. And not

:21:42.:21:47.

campaigning against it nor campaigning for it? What is your

:21:48.:21:51.

position on it. In terms of wind energy, renewable energy, it is the

:21:52.:21:57.

community's involvement. If they want to be involved, then we are

:21:58.:22:00.

supportive but of communities have an issue, then it needs to be taken

:22:01.:22:04.

on board by the politicians and planners. Very often Trinity 's do

:22:05.:22:09.

have an issue with it for that they feel quite nervous about it and they

:22:10.:22:12.

feel they are not heard by the big companies. Big companies, they say,

:22:13.:22:19.

coming over their heads, to profit from the local environment. That is

:22:20.:22:22.

how some group to see it. Absolutely. One of the key issues is

:22:23.:22:27.

how the communities engage with this process of energy? In Northern

:22:28.:22:31.

Ireland, we have a successful track record of credit union movements,

:22:32.:22:35.

development of enterprise centres, and committed playgroups, and other

:22:36.:22:38.

things, but in terms of energy, communities have a limited role but

:22:39.:22:44.

it's been put upon them. Today's event was to explore how community

:22:45.:22:50.

's can engage in energy discussions and builds on something which

:22:51.:22:52.

happened to Mexico in London with the Department of climate change, a

:22:53.:22:56.

document saying committed to route it should have ownership of this

:22:57.:23:00.

process. How can they benefit from some of these developments? Well,

:23:01.:23:02.

process. How can they benefit from generated by communities. In

:23:03.:23:16.

Northern Ireland, we don't have target, so their committees are

:23:17.:23:21.

playing an active role rather than a passive role. We need to turn the

:23:22.:23:27.

discussions on its head, where to develop a lead discussion to get a

:23:28.:23:31.

communities into the heart of it. Would you like to see, for example,

:23:32.:23:36.

big companies who set up wind farms and other renewable energies, where

:23:37.:23:40.

some of their profits are ploughed back into the local community? For

:23:41.:23:46.

there to be a tangible benefit? There are committed benefit from

:23:47.:23:49.

summer wind farms for the many would argue it's not enough but some

:23:50.:23:52.

companies are stepping up to the plate now. If you look at what's

:23:53.:23:58.

coming out of London, the Government there is insisting, following their

:23:59.:24:02.

strategy, committees might be offered a shared in the ownership of

:24:03.:24:06.

these developments that community is. -- communities. What about the

:24:07.:24:15.

damage to the beauty of the local natural environment which can have a

:24:16.:24:22.

big impact in terms of jobs? Communities need to being gauged and

:24:23.:24:28.

have their say in this process -- engaged. 80%. Communities, to many

:24:29.:24:42.

of them, they are hosting this development but don't have a say in

:24:43.:24:45.

it. Interesting to hear your thoughts. Lauri McCusker, thank you.

:24:46.:24:52.

Breakfast, we often hear, is the most important meal of the day and,

:24:53.:24:55.

it seems, that's something all our MLAs can agree on. Today they passed

:24:56.:24:59.

a motion calling for more to be done to make sure all schoolchildren are

:25:00.:25:02.

fed properly before school. But first, the chair of the Health

:25:03.:25:05.

Committee began by passing on her condolences to the families of two

:25:06.:25:09.

young people who died as a result of eating disorders. The awful

:25:10.:25:12.

tragedies particularly in relation to particular eating disorders that

:25:13.:25:17.

have resulted in the untimely deaths of a number of young people, and I

:25:18.:25:22.

do want to take this opportunity to send our

:25:23.:25:35.

a result of this particular illness. Many children prepared the school

:25:36.:25:41.

day both, coming to school adequately prepared. A proper

:25:42.:25:46.

nutritional breakfast is an essential part of this preparation.

:25:47.:25:50.

The primary purpose of the school is to educate. Not to provide catering

:25:51.:25:57.

childminding service. The primary responsibility for ensuring children

:25:58.:26:00.

arrive at school with a good breakfast in their stomachs and

:26:01.:26:03.

ready to learn lies with the parents. It's about food. It's about

:26:04.:26:08.

the quality of food. And it's about getting pupils to enjoy eating good

:26:09.:26:17.

food. And it's about a preference of growing, cooking and eating good

:26:18.:26:22.

food. And, essentially, underpinning all of that, it's about health. We

:26:23.:26:32.

note that Paul diet is detrimental to children's learning. And

:26:33.:26:36.

concentration and behaviour and it can affect participation in school

:26:37.:26:40.

-- poor diet. We know children from low-income households and those

:26:41.:26:44.

living in poverty are at greater risk of poor nutrition and are more

:26:45.:26:47.

likely to have unhealthy food and have insufficient amounts food. John

:26:48.:26:50.

O'Dowd. And Alex Kane is with me again. A rare enough event then,

:26:51.:26:58.

cross-party agreement on something in the chamber. The importance of

:26:59.:27:00.

children coming to school properly fed. It's one of those odd things, I

:27:01.:27:05.

agree with them but John O'Dowd or any other MLAs was to feed my

:27:06.:27:11.

children at 7am, they are more than welcome. You can't force them to

:27:12.:27:15.

eat. The bigger issue is not food. A lot of teachers will tell you it's

:27:16.:27:18.

children who are coming in tired. Because they been watching

:27:19.:27:23.

television, playing games on their phones and computers, tired because

:27:24.:27:26.

they are struggling into bed after a short nights sleep for the buck the

:27:27.:27:29.

real problem for the children will eat when they choose to eat. It ties

:27:30.:27:33.

in with his other issue at the moment, the common funding formula,

:27:34.:27:45.

in with his other issue at the there a fair argument for saying

:27:46.:27:49.

that but, again, comes down to the actual difficulty of making children

:27:50.:27:52.

need. Yes, you can provide free school meals, have a breakfast club

:27:53.:27:56.

for them, but the reality is, with most children, five or six years

:27:57.:28:01.

old, 13 or 14, setting them down and saying, you must eat, that's the

:28:02.:28:05.

real problem and it's not going to be addressed by free school meals

:28:06.:28:09.

all saying, they should eat breakfast together. It's not

:28:10.:28:14.

possible to solve that with kids. The Alliance Party has announced its

:28:15.:28:16.

Belfast candidates for the council elections. Someone is throwing his

:28:17.:28:22.

hat into the prodigal wringer. Duncan Morrow, very high-profile. He

:28:23.:28:31.

established a high profile for himself. -- political wringer. --

:28:32.:28:44.

ring. He is allowing himself to have something bigger down the line in

:28:45.:28:50.

the assembly. That's an interesting point. We will see if you are right.

:28:51.:28:53.

Thanks, Alex. That's it for now. There's no edition of The View this

:28:54.:28:57.

week because of the half-term break. But I'll be back here next Monday

:28:58.:29:00.

night at the usual time of 11.20pm. Until then, from everyone in the

:29:01.:29:02.

team, bye bye. Should Britain have entered

:29:03.:29:06.

the Great War? Britain's decision

:29:07.:29:08.

for war was a disaster not just for this country,

:29:09.:29:11.

but also for the entire world.

:29:12.:29:15.

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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