18/09/2012 Stormont Today


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

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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up in the next 30 minutes:


Parading in is back at the top of the political agenda MLAs discussed


how to resolve the issue of contentious marches. Never mind


hugging a hoodie, what about hugging a lawyer? Deputy Speaker I


fear he will make me hug a lawyer. Is the Ulster Covenant the birth


certificate of Northern Ireland? The historiam Jonathan Bardon gives


us his verdict. Parading was a hot topic for politicians today.


Outside the Chamber, earlier in the day, parties met the Parades'


Commission to voice concerns over an Ulster Covenant march next week.


Inside the Chamber, parading was the subject of a motion brought to


the floor by Sinn Fein. It called on the loyal orders to become


involved in direct dialogue with residents' groups. In the handful


of contentious parades, there are only a handful, that the cost last


year was over �6 million. That's �6 million could be used in other


policing issues and with community safety right across all of our


community. The bigger cost of them was that they are toxic to policing.


It's hard to quantify it, but I would say that you could gauge that


policing has been slowed up five, six, seven years because of these


parades and the image that they give. I've heard, over the last few


days, a number of other loyalists and unionists and others talking


about mutual respect. Who can disagree with that term, of course


there has to be mutual respect. Surely, mutual respect comes from


mutual conversation and from that dialogue, direct dialogue, between


two people or two groups. Is it too much to ask for that the loil


orders get involved in that? There are, I understand, very deliberate


attempts ongoing behind-the-scenes to ensure that we will have a


positive resolution to this entire process and situation. I welcome


that. I, along with my party leader and other colleaguesed in the


Ulster Unionist Party, met with the four main church leaders recently.


Again, a positive meeting. Something that can be built on. I


do stress and reiterate, Mr Speaker, that this cannot all be from the


one side. Our society relies on an upholding of the rule of law. Where


it is broken the consequences of violence are clear for everyone to


see. We need people to demonstrate mature leadership and dialogue with


others if possible. I would call on all leaders to defuse tension


rather than to fan the flames of frustration and hate at this


difficult time. You see, I don't get it. I don't comprehend why the


movement of Orange feet along public roads doesn't incur the


wrath, the hatred of people, primarily concerned with a minimal


disruption for as little as 10 minutes, which turns into an all-


day affair. Contrived by a bunch of law Breakers, provoking violence,


directing hatred and displaying intoleration, which is etched on


their faces. If we go to Dunloy and the issue of parading. For 11 years,


no parade. No parade to allow the loyal, lodge in Dunloy, made up of


18, 19 people, most of them senior citizens, led by an all Ireland


Championship band, nothing that can in anyway be described as


distasteful. Nothing that anyway can be described as in anyway


offensive. No way could be aligned to any illegal organisation. What


have republicans done in the village, they have under the


leadership of Sinn Fein said, no parade. Unfortunate, because of the


failure of the two big parties in dealing with community division and


their efforts in Stokeing up sectarian tension, particularly


around election time, plays to the gallery. We only - I listened to


radio interviews where I heard so- called community activists saying


they wanted more money. That the violence was around. There was not


enough funding in some of these areas. That was a failure of their


political representatives to deliver for their own constituency.


Dolores Kelly of the SDLP. That Sinn Fein motion calling for


dialogue between residents and loyal orders was rejected by MLAs.


They voted for an Ulster unionist admendment which praised the loyal


orders and call on all those in positions of leadership to ensure a


positive outcome from future parades. From the Prison Service


redundancy scheme to the implementation of fully body


scanners in prisons, some of the issues raised in questions to the


Justice Minister, David Forde. had to answer this question


re'lawyer friendly' questions from Alban Maginness. I think an


alternative dispute resolution system here would be exceptionally


helpful. Has the minister any plans to extend training in alternative


resolution to lawyers? I fear he will make me hug a lawyer, which


could be bad news. The reality of course is that the training of


lawyers is not my responsibility. There is training done within the


two professions, the two branches of the profession and at


institutions of higher education. I certainly think it is the case,


indeed I have been discussing, just last week, with representatives of


barristers, the issue in many cases alternative dispute resolution may


benefit with the input of those with a legal background. There is


clearly scope for his professional colleagues to engage in ADR. I


trust many of them will take the training courses vain to them.


would ask the Minister if he supports the introduction of


tougher sentences for those who attack the elderly. If so, what


plans has he put in place to do just that? The several answer is, I


support the use of appropriate sentences to deal with all crimes


whatever range they come from and to recognise the reality of the


limited amount of crime which is directed against older people, but


the seriousness of that which does occur. A total of 544 members of


staff applied for the voluntary early retirement scheme. 159 staff


have been released to date. A further 139 had been told they


would be allowed to leave when it is operationally possible for them


to do so. All other applications remain under consideration. As the


Minister outlined the redundancy was popular and oversubscribed. 139


members of staff wish to grks but haven't been able to go.


Operational considerations are at the forefront. Would the Minister


appreciate that the inability of those people being able to leave is


having an affect on their morale. appreciate there are moral concerns


among those who wish to leave. He should bear in mind the specific


issue, if we were to give people advance notice that we would lose


the compensation in lieu of notice, whilst it is unfortunate we cannot


give people the full details we cannot to ensure they get the


maximum benefit. As I announced I made a commitment that the Prison


Service would pilot and evaluate the use of two types of full body


imaging scanners. Prison Service officials have 2mm wave scanners,


the first was delivered and installed yesterday. Following the


delivery of staff training it is anticipated that this pilot will


commence on 26th September. A second scan frer a different


supplier is due to be delivered next month and a similar pilot will


commence then. When does he believe that the pilot will be finished? If


successful, when can we imagine the scanners will be placed in the


prison? There are two different parts to what he asked. The simple


question is the duration of the pilot. It is admendment that both


of those will last for three months. They will involve the existing


practice of full body searching alongside the use of the millimetre


wave scanner to see whether the scanner is as effective as the


existing practices in ensuring the security of prisoners and prison


staff. If they are successful it will be planned to put those, that


technology into use in the two prisons at the earliest possible


point. There are serious issues as to whether it is possible to have


adequate protection in what is a category A prison with some of the


most dangerous prisoners in Northern Ireland in custody.


Whether the technology which we are planning for the other two prisons


is adequate will be a key question which would have to be addressed if


millimetre wave was seen to be effective at the other two


institutions. That is why we are seeking the justification,


authorisation for the use of transmission x-rays for there,


because that is seen as a more robust of searching technology that


what is being implemented at the moment in the two pilots. Clearly,


as I said, there has yet been no approval for any use in any UK


prison. Therefore, there is significant issues we need it


address to ensure that we do make sure that we can get the


appropriate technology fully approved. Installing double glazing


in social housing was one of the topics which came up during


questions to the Social Development Minister, McCausland. He was asked


why tenants having their windows replace ready being refused


redecoration grants. The new specification for replacement


double glazing windows, in line with the glass and glazing


federation recommendations allows window replacements from the


outside rather than the inside of the dwelling. As has been the


housing executive practice. Existing windows can be removed and


new windows fitted with minimal damage. This reduces the need for


redecoration grants to be paid. refusal of redecoration grants has


put pressure on residents, many people find that in, after the work


is completed the blinds don't fit. Is there any provision being made


to revise the decision to refuse the grants or help those who have


been adversely affected by this? Well, to make it clear. What I said


was, that there should not normally be a need for a redecoration grant


because there will be no damage to the inner reveal. I don't know


about the member who posed the question. I had windows fitted in


my own home, fitted from the outside. As is the normal practice


right across the glazing sector. In that case, the windows, there was


no need for internal work to be done. Can the Minister detail the


level of consultation which is undertaken by the housing executive


in relation to their tenants before the type of work is undertaken?


have to say, Mr Speaker, I'm not clear what that question means.


When a window's replacement scheme is brought forward, usually, people


are actually clambering to have it done rather than to have it delayed.


I have never come across people yet who turn down new double glazing.


When I came into the Department one of the things I was appalled by was


the fact it was willing to be a piece of work that would require


ten week for the housing executive to complete. That is why we set the


target to have the work completed within the life term of this


Assembly. The Minister has just told the House that there is no


need really for a redecoration grant for replacement windows.


Given the recent experience with Red Sky and others can the Minister


ensure the house that when contractors are not up to the


standard that he tells us that I welcome the question because it


gets to the heart of something else I am concerned about. We need to be


sure that the people fitting windows are good at it. We need to


make sure it is done in a professional way. I'm sure a -- I


have seen a number of contractors' work. Not just one, a number. The


standard fitting windows left a great deal to be desired. In my own


constituency, there was one particular case where you could put


your hand below the window, it was so badly fitted, and that is simply


unacceptable. Therefore, that is why we are looking at a proposal to


have a separate tethering -- tendering process for that


particular work so that you actually have people who have the


specialist skills to fit windows rather than people who may be


general trade men but do not have that skill. I think that additional


decision that we have made and the Executive have made is the right


decision and I look forward to seeing the results.


The Social Development Minister sounding a little bit like a double


glazing salesmen. An historic and significant event, that is how some


MLAs described the signing of the Ulster covenant as the anniversary


was discussed in a unionist motion today. The signing of the covenant


to place not only enough Ulster -- in Ulster but in Dublin, on ships,


in high seas, and at the stokers mess of a Royal Navy ship halfway


up the river somewhere in China. To deny the importance of these events,


whether you agree with them or not, would be churlish. They are


important. They were fundamentally important. They were important to


my family then and in many ways they affect vast numbers of people,


not for fully but emotionally. -- not a thought fully. We approach


the centenaries hopefully, having learnt the lessons of the past.


Ireland was not all Protestant and Unionist or Catholic and


nationalist. The motion itself is interesting insofar as it talks


about the Assembly recognising the covenant being signed as important


in the history of Northern Ireland but there was no Northern Ireland


entity at the time. So in a way, the motion is flawed. Not


withstanding that, our perspective on these things is that we have


discussed this before or, and we are in a decade of centenaries and


we believe that that is important. Rather than having these events


commemorated in a way which would be exclusive, and that is not to


say that we want people to be told how they should celebrate or


commemorate historical events, but what we are suggesting is that in


order to make this a more fruitful decade, and a decade which helps on


the pathway towards reconciliation and a greater understanding among


our communities here, that we would a Nideffer to make sure such events


there are -- such events are commemorated in an clues of way,


and not in a way about re-running history. -- in an inclusive way.


understand it is important to the Unionist community and we respect


it. Unionists must accept that the cause of Irish National at... It


has caused an unnatural and damaging division of Ireland's


people. Unionism does not have to agree with this fact. But they


should try and understand. I can appreciate that not everyone in


this House will see the Ulster covenant in a positive way, in as


positive a way as I would look to celebrate it but I think we all


acknowledge the legacy of the Ulster Covenant, that it is one


which has been lasting and one which I expect none of us would be


sitting in this House without. There is a lot to be learned from


this. George Mitchell once said that in America people knew too


little about their history and in Northern Ireland, they knew too


much. I think that is wrong. There is a level of ignorance in this


country and I think it is important that we -- it is important that we


use this opportunity to educate people. John von Baden joins us to


answer that question. -- Jonathan Bardon. Did George Mitchell have a


point? I disagree with them. The more we know the better we


understand each other. For many people, there is a lot of fiction


mixed up with the facts about the covenant. Have you found that?


used to think myself that more women signed than men. In fact we


now know that more men signed than women. Many people think that the


covenant was where people pledged themselves to prevent the


introduction of home rule to Ulster. In fact, on 20th September 1912,


they were pledging themselves to resist the introduction of home


rule to the whole island of Ireland. People forget that the notion of


Northern Ireland did not exist as an entity at that time. People make


that fundamental mistake all the time. It is a fundamental mistake.


Eventually, quietly, the Ulster Unionist Council decided in


December 1912 that they would just tried to stop home rule for the


nine counties of Ulster. After the 1916 rising, they reduce that again


to just six Counties. Huge number of people -- huge numbers of people


signed, slightly more men than women but pretty close. In all,


almost 500,000 people. It was an extraordinary number of people. It


shows you the determination of the Protestant majority in the north-


east to resist Home Rule, because they feared that nationalists would


not be satisfied with home rule and that they would want complete


independence eventually. Was it exclusively Protestant? I think it


pretty well was exclusively Protestant. I would think that... I


don't think a Catholic has been found that has signed it. What, for


you, is the significance of it? Some people have described it as


the birth certificate of Northern Ireland. Would you go that far?


would. Are regarded as the founding document for Northern Ireland


because it made it plain to the British Government, whether it be


liberal or conservative, but it was going to have to make a separate


arrangement for the north-east of violent. It succeeded in doing that


even though the original intention was to stop home rule for the whole


island. Carson himself was not in favour of Partition because he was


a sudden unionist. What are your thoughts in the way it is


commemorated 100 years on? Because that is a political hot potato.


cannot be ignored. It is too important an event in our past. It


helped to shape our present. It has to be marked. I must say, members


of the Assembly have shown a good deal of maturity in discussing this.


The problem would be outside the Assembly when passions get aroused


greatly. There is the danger of corruption. How it is commemorated


now, 100 years on, will set the tone for other commemorations.


There is a decade of centenaries coming up. The most contentious


after the covenant would be the Easter rising of 1916, but there


are many others. Including the Government of Ireland Act of 1920


which created Northern Ireland. you think nationalists need to


think about how they commemorated the covenant and Unionists need to


think about things like the Government of Ireland Act and what


happened in 1916? I think soft, because if you're going to have a


shared future, it means that you look sympathetically at the views


of people on the other side, and find out more about what actually


happened. The it would be interesting to see how it is marked,


100 years on. Thank you very much for coming in to join us tonight.


Access to credit for smaller medium-size businesses was on the


Finance Minister's mind this morning. Sammy Nelson -- Sammy


Wilson said he was worried that the Treasury's moves are not having


significant impact here in Northern Ireland. By an concerned at our


members of all parties in the Assembly -- I am concerned about


how at the availability of credit can be restricting our economic


recovery. It is an issue that has been ongoing and one where I am


increasingly frustrated at the lack of attention to regional banking


issues. And the specific challenges that we face here. Bank lending to


SMA is a national issue and in response, the Government has


introduced a number of initiatives designed to improve lending and


liquidity. -- SMAs. It is hoped that that will internet improve the


ability to get finance and reduce the cost of credit. As banking is a


reserved matter and is the Government's responsibility to


ensure that such initiatives and schemes are equally effective in


all parts of the UK. They have not done this. I do not believe that


their schemes have been effective here. This is because the structure


of local banking sector is fundamentally different from the


rest of the UK. The key structural difference is the extent of foreign


ownership, whereby local banks are subject to the decisions of parent


bank's base outside of the United Kingdom. Just last week, the


Business Secretary, Vince Cable announced that the Government are


working on setting up a new government-backed institution to


help companies invest. We have taken this up with the Treasury to


ask for details and have been told that the Chancellor and the


Business Secretary are developing options for creating a business


bank in the UK. An institution of this nature would address long-


standing gaps in finance for SMAs bike and boating moat -- promoting


competitive and diverse finance markets and joining together the


Government's existing finance initiatives under one roof. They


see this as complementing what the Government is doing on supporting


private sector lending through the funding for lending scheme. I am


told that the Government will set out the details later this autumn.


It is very interesting, this development, and I will be pressing


to ensure that it is open to and will benefit Northern Ireland


businesses. Sammy Wilson. The pressure group Amnesty


International have been giving evidence to an all-party group of


MLAs on the issue of prostitution. Lord Morrow is hoping to out low --


outlaw the practice of paying for sexual services from a prostitute


but critics say that this could see resources taken away from the


problem. Joining me is a representative from Amnesty. What


are your concerns? Firstly, it is important to see this bill in its


full context. What is good is that it provides us with an opportunity


to debate how Northern Ireland is fulfilling its obligations as


outlined in the EU directive and the Council of Europe convention.


It serves to have a debate around that, which is useful. I also think


the protective sieve gives -- protections against two victims


that are contained within the bill are also useful. It is important to


stress that there are elements that we welcome. What we think is not


useful is caused four, which looks to outlaw the paying for sexual


services of a prostitute. From our perspective, it conflates separate


issues. It has the potential to divert resources away from the


victims of trafficking and bringing traffickers to justice. UCD issues


as separate, prostitution and human trafficking. Lord Morrow says that


he is taking an overview of the situation. -- you see the issues.


People involved are by definition themselves, victims in most


circumstances. That is debatable. There is a difference to treat a


woman who willingly sells sex and a victim of trafficking who has been


transported from country to country against their will. But a lot of


prostitutes are also victims. Absolutely. The debate needs to


stay on victims and making sure that their rights are protected. We


need to have refocused strategy to make sure that Northern Ireland is


a hostile place for traffickers. They may be related but they are


essentially two separate issues. Those supporting the legislation


say that outlawing prostitution will lead to a drop in demand.


Surely that will lead to the benefit of everyone involved.


Bill is based on the Swedish model and there is conflicting evidence


as to whether that has been successful. Other research points


that yes, this has halved the amount of prostitution but for


every point of research that shows that the Swedish model has worked,


there is evidence that has pointed to it not working. That has driven


the problem underground. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to


human trafficking. In Northern Ireland, we have things like Beye


porous border, and we have issues which need to consider like that.


It is important we stay focused on the context. You mention the


Swedish example. Lord Morrow was also in step with legislators to


want to see changes in the law in Scotland and the Republic and in


Westminster. In the Republic, I think it is very much in the


infancy there. I think they are very much at the same point that we


are at. The Scottish police have raised this point as well in terms


of resources being diverted and how they possibly police that. We make


that argument are sore -- also. The PSNI, their resources for example


are diverted away from trafficking and into arresting men who pay for


sexual services of a prostitute. will leave it there. Thank you very


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.