A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.
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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. In Brussels, they have been
haggling over-rate �130 billion bail-out for Greece. But here, our
MLAs have been talking tough as well.
I am afraid there is not an answer I can give. I am not going to play
with him. And the Social Development Minister
was not in the mood for playing either.
As I had said in the past, it people would just eremite, God gave
us two ears and one mouth, and I am sure he will benefit from that
advice. For back to where it all began.
What brought the former First Minister, now David Trimble, back
to parliament buildings this evening?
To add a gentle prose to the events of the seething, my guest is Martin
Lynch. We are all watching the pennies and
the pounds these days, and the arts are no exception. My guest tonight,
playwright Martin Lynch, obviously we have had the recent controversy
over funding. You must be feeling pleased you have got your money?
I feel a relief it has been reinstated.
Funding for the answers right across the board is a tiny
proportion of government funding. That straddles right down to
funding for the cathedral quarter. �300,000. This is nothing. Add
water generates, I get a small grant, I did a play last year, and
we get about 2000 �5,000. Extra money is spent in bars and
restaurants, and so we know that actually art and culture is a money
generator, so it is stupid to cut that.
D C D art as an easy target? Do we do not live by bread alone.
People will tilt all kind of things to survive in this world, in the
arts and culture generally, there are a huge part of what we do. It
is right across the social spectrum. It is everyone who participate in
the art. We have just done a number of plays,
right across the spectrum, loads and loads of people come and enjoy
Caused a bit of a stir at Question Time earlier which some members not
happy about how the culture minister, Caral Ni Chuilin and to
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 51 seconds
I am in discussion with other colleagues about how we do that.
What I have said is that in relation to the council's going to
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 51 seconds
Could I reminded the Minister include the words, promoting of a
Has she changed her bigoted stance on any of those issues? The I don't
feel there is an answer. It was then return of John O'Dowd,
education minister. The Good Friday Experience of what is going on here.
This is about to young people, children learning in Irish go
through the medium of Irish. They come from all walks of life. And
all different opinions on many He was extremely critical of the
Minister and especially around the issue and especially in relation to
the reduction or the increase in pupil and teacher ratio and clearly
Sinn Fein cannot have it both ways and it is critical go of what is
happening bus-stop can remember finish his question, please? When
it will the Minister act in the best interest of the children in
Northern Ireland and stop chasing moonbeams, especially the one that
is in Middletown. Cannot we welcome them member's interest and
particularly in Sinn Fein contributions. It is always good
for people to broaden their horizons. Or whatever language they
were in, is a welcome the fact. In regards to the funding issue on how
the Dublin government fund education, I don't think it is
appropriate for me to get involved in that debate but I can tell a
member of that we have actually ring-fenced funding for specialist
educational needs in this jurisdiction, we have not been
involved in cuts in special education needs provision. The
money is there and as the member well knows as well, but regards to
the overall budget, working alongside the First Minister, we
have invested formally in this jurisdiction and so we are not
involved in a penny pinching programme around those most
honourable in our society. We do face a difficult issues but those
are matters that the Executive continues to study. I have said
that Middletown, there is an ongoing report being prepared and
it will be before the next a 0 South ministerial meeting in May
and we will make a decision on the way forward on that occasion.
Looking at the wider issue of the Cathedral Quarter, do you see that
now as the hub of theatre and arts in Belfast? It is one that cluster
of groups and activities that is important. It is not the most
important, we have fabulous menus in Belfast, a lyric, the Crescent
Arts Centre, the opera house at the Cathedral Quarter as an interactive
area draws in not only local people but tourists and will be a focus
will stop if you look back at the Cathedral Quarter 10 years ago, it
was a derelict community. Donegal Street have been devastated by
bombs in the Seventies. I wrote the first paper saying it could become
a cultural area and it was picked up and from that, what was a
derelict community has die had somebody estimated �2.100000000
invested into it. In terms of the arts, there was some debate last
week and it brought a lot of different views out and people did
say, why not go to some of the bars and restaurants and get them to
subsidise and give you some grants to what it? Private income is
something we stride to bring into it. We work hard trying to raise
private finance every year for our projects, all the arts groups do.
There is in the culture in United States for doing so but here there
isn't that culture so it is an uphill battle all the time but we
do try very hard to breed of private income into the arts.
A bid by the SDLP to get the Executive to make opposition to
welfare reform its highest priority has failed to get support in the
chamber. Sinn Fein supported a motion but the DUP and Ulster
Unionists would it against. These reforms are not about
simplifying the system, they are surely at tool to cut costs. The
Tories also have great expectations for most of the personal
independence penance which are to replace the L A go stub their
expenditure will be 20% less than that on the D L F. That is money
coming from the pockets of people in need. This restructuring will be,
reduction, is already under way with people being assessed as being
able to walk 100 metres after really demonstrating the ability to
walk 10. Northern Ireland has a higher percentage of people on
benefits than the rest of UK, largely attributable to the likes
of the Troubles. We need a unique solution for what is a unique
situation. Here in Northern Ireland, I am sure that all of us who have
ever worked in trying to guide a citizen through the benefits system
will agree that the system does need to change. It is too complex
and Unwin tinkle stop there are too many benefits were there too many
different criteria reading too much confusion. Once alliance is
supportive of reforming welfare system, in getting people to work
were possible, to gain skills and contribute positively to society.
We have serious concerns. Bluntly put, you have to be able to get a
job or be able to increase you're working hours for the current
proposals to mean something other than a poor return. One of the
shortcomings I detect and the SDLP and from some of their more local
exponents is simply that they are big on rhetoric and strong also on
denial, that they live in a state of denial about the realities that
we face and perhaps if they were as a more constructive as to what
might be done, then perhaps we as an Assembly might benefit from
their support and from their advice, rather than... No, I will not be
giving way. As I have said to others in this House, as I have
said in the past, if people were doing just their mind that God gave
us two years and one might, Alastair McDonald will benefit from
that his advice. We must recognise that we need to break into
generational work and break the cycle of dependency. This will be
difficult and it will require all of us in this Assembly to show
leadership in supporting the measures necessary to achieve these
important cultural and societal changes. After the vote, the SDLP
leader head out of the Unionist and Alliance parties for not supporting
the motion which was lost by just six votes. Nelson McCausland is
telling us he is merely a bailiff for the Tory government in
Westminster, let him tell us that outright. There's always room, we
have devolution here and there is room for an Executive to be
creative and to think ahead and they are not doing that, they are
just sleepwalking. With me now it is Mickey Brady from Sinn Fein. We
are disappointed with the outcome of this afternoon's did it? Yes,
disappointed that there was a division on the amendments and
indeed on this it stands up motive because certainly in relation to
the Sinn Fein amendment. Obviously you are on the committee that is
looking at this as you have had a lot of discussion, the one thing
that seems to be coming across is that we don't actually know what
impact this is going to have on people, how do you think you can
push the Minister or push the government at Westminster to give
We're told that parity cannot be broken because of the financial
link. We are looking for the minister to do that, and the
Assembly. We want them to look at how we can best mitigate the
effects and the impact of welfare reform, because it is about cuts,
it is ideologically driven. 4th what we are going to try and do is
do the best we can to mitigate the effects of welfare reform, because
the votes to vulnerable in our society, particularly the disabled,
and if you read the British pressure, the disabled have been
vilified. This is legislation which has been ideologically driven up,
it is more relevant to the south- east of England than it is to
Northern Ireland. We have different circumstances.
For his change not overdue? Whether or not we have different
circumstances, people were on benefits has become something to be
ashamed on. I would not agree with that,
because my previous benefits -- previous background was working in
a JobCentre with people on all kinds of benefits. Prior to that, I
worked in a security service office in Belfast. Welfare reform is like
the age of though all over again, because we have seen all these
changes, they do not really work. They do not help the people who
most needed. There is this myth that people like being on benefits.
I have never met anyone who has coming to me and said that they
love being on benefits. It does not work like that. I deal with people
who have been employed for 30 years, and because of the recession they
have lost their employment. Those are the people who are also going
to be the victims of these cuts, and let's have no doubt about it,
these are cuts. The chief constable, Matt Baggott,
paid a visit to the Justice Committee on Thursday, his first
grilling from MLAs. We will see some of that in a moment, but let
us start how we did look at the committee's with the doomed
Department of Employment and learning.
Option one of creates a number of advantages. It underpins the
strength of the economy and would not only included job creation, it
also include skills policy and increased productivity and
competitiveness. Until this strategy is entirely implemented,
you may not have read is in full, and you may misinterpret things. In
recent times, there have been very major changes. There is try to --
quite a strong connection I have with of Ireland. The the whole
thing is around a shared skills, which have come about in recent
times. The department will prepare people for new investment. We have
150 graduates, for example, who are being employed by companies here,
and we are working with universities and colleges to get
them on other courses. Option two, skills and Employment Service. This
is all-rounder employment law and further education, higher education,
the back to pre- devolution. I do think that you have a strong case
for linking with the economy, because you are so skilled around
The argument may come from others, whether it gets aborted or not. It
was certainly articulated earlier that higher education is churning
out professionals. They have a case to make about why they are put up
to it, as I am just saying to you, that is an issue we are looking at,
and it will be a developing discussion, I have no doubt. I am
only putting arguments about, I am not expressing an opinion.
We have an eight -- we have an impression People will comply with
our ethics. We have expectations of people's conduct. If they do not
fulfil the expectations, I would be very anxious to correct that. The
issue about whether the ombudsman can investigate somebody is a
matter for the law changed. What I would say is that if somebody
breaks the law, whoever they are, they will be investigated with the
full rule of law. There is no it special dispensation, there is that
Amnesty, people will be subject to a criminal investigation whether
they are removed in terms of the contract on up -- or not.
I am not saying all suggesting that. But there is a history of retired
police personnel are not co- operating with the ombudsman. They
are now being required into the police force, and they find
themselves in exactly the same position, as they do not have to
drawbridge. You have a serious -- senior member of your staff who was
asked a question. I would have left that meeting feeling that staff
were not accountable. If there is a lack of clarity, I
was not aware that. The word yes cannot be any clearer.
There is no room for misinterpretation.
There has been much debate about this. I have clarified my own views
on this. What you have done is take a simple line.
No, I have not. But let me declare. I have spoken to my colleagues on
the policing Board and come away with that.
If cannot clarify my position? -- can I clarify my position? If there
is ambiguity, then and there should be an apology. But I think there is
an expectation that people would co-operate with ombudsman's
investigations. That is my expectation.
The former First Minister, Lord Trimble, was back at Stormont to
write for the unveiling of his portraits that will hang in the
corridors of power. He paid tribute to the artist, David Nolan, for
making him look a vaguely human. I asked him what it was like to be
back. The fact that the institutions are
here and operating, and operating by people who a dozen years ago
vigorously criticised at the very agreement that we made, it's just
underlines how right we were to make that agreement. What a shame
that the implementation did not go according to plan. We lost a number
of years, but it is here and it is working. It is important that it be
here and it is important that it works better. It still has a lot of
problems to tackle here, which is there to be done.
During the Lords now and sitting on the Tory benches. How does that
figure he now in future? Do you see yourself actively campaigning for
Conservative candidates hearing Northern Ireland rather than the
Ulster Unionist colleagues? At the last election that is
exactly what I did. I was delighted to support the Conservative
candidates. But the next camp -- campaign I am going to have is to
get Boris Johnson a re-elected as a Mayor for London.
In the meantime, should the Ulster Unionists go into opposition here?
That is a decision for them to take. I remember thinking about it and
discussing it. We did not have to decide whether or not to do that,
but it is obviously a nice decision, and his is a nice decision as to
the timing of it as well. So I think I'll leave it entirely to the
current party, they are the best people to make the decision there.
What about the DUP? How do you feel about them and their move towards a
more integrated society? Words are cheap. Actions count. I
suspend judgment. The record of the DUP would not encourage me.
From the former first minister to the current one, Peter Robinson and
Martin McGuinness were in London today. They have trips planned much
further afield this year. They will be doing a lot of globe-
trotting in the next few months. They met the Chinese vice-president
at a state banquet in Ireland. Earth they have been on a trip to
London and they intend to go to China in the coming months. That
will be after they have already visited the USA and Canada which
they will do next month for some Patrick's Day, and India as to buy.
-- St Patrick's Day. Some criticism. Amnesty International saying that
when they are in China they will have to raise the human rights
concerns about Chinese authorities, but business will be enthusiastic
about it. Also, academics have already established relationships
with China. No doubt they will want an input pulse of academics from
the world of science were at Stormont here today.
Yes, it was the first meeting of an all-party group. It is considered
important in terms of economic growth, but the politicians are not
as well-informed about side of it manners as maybe they should be. --
scientific matters. They discussed are many different matters. Eight.
That was made by a number of scientists, including one from the
Royal Society of Chemistry, was that Stormont should really match
other devolved administrations in having its own chief scientific
adviser. Their results of evidence to
suggest in Scotland and Wales that this has helped to drive through
technology and science within assemblies. It is a no-brainer.
On to a different thing, there was an interesting question today.
It was a slightly unusual example of MLAs tried to get to grips with
scientific reality. He had a question to the agricultural
minister asking whether her department had researched the
cancer risks of putting microchips into cats and dogs. This is not
something they have been campaigning on, but he was asked by
an animal welfare agency to try and get to the bottom of the research.
He thinks it is a good thing, but there was a long list of scientific
papers from the Department of Agriculture that showed that there
might be some risk to laboratory rats and mice, but there was not a
risk to the average domestic pet. What is next on your agenda?
For I am very busy. We are doing eight re-run of one of my plays,
which has been incredibly successful. Then we are doing a big,
big show at the Opera House in August. It is based on a group of
shipyard workers who was selected to sail on the Titanic after they
had built it. Everyone died, so it is a very unique story. They are
all aged between 18 and 21. Were they the best of the bunch at
were given it as a reward? Yes, two weeks before the Titanic
sailed the boss walked in and asked who the best people were. He then
told the -- he then said they were sailing on the Titanic. They
A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills 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.