20/05/2013 Stormont Today


20/05/2013

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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Coming up in the next half hour: A bill designed to protect victims or

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discriminate against former prisoners? The Special Advisers Bill

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was before the House for further consideration. There is a prisoner

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elite who think that they have got higher entitlements than any of the

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rest of the citizens in this part of the world.

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The Health Minister says the care of patients is much more important than

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party politics. I could not care less where I look to. I will work

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with Dublin or whatever else is to ensure we deliver the best possible

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service. And our political reporter, Stephen

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Walker, is here to cast an eye over Back before the Assembly today was

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Jim Allister's Special Advisers Bill. It was originally brought

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forward after the controversial appointment of Mary McArdle who was

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a Special Adviser to the Sinn Fein Culture Minister. She had been

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jailed for her part in the murder of a judge's daughter. In a moment,

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we'll get a flavour of the debate, but first, I'm joined by our

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political reporter, Stephen Walker. Remind us what this Bill is all

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about. This is the work of Jim Allister. If passed, this Bill would

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ban anyone convicted of a crime which carried a jail sentence of

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five years or more of being appointed to a Special Adviser. As

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you said in the introduction, this is a direct case, following the

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appointment of Mary McArdle. There was a blaze of publicity. One of

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those who criticised that decision was and Travers, whose sister was

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murdered in 1984. Jim Allister has championed this Bill and said if

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this Bill went through, it would be a landmark piece of legislation. It

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really has divided the party is up here. It has. It broadly got support

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from Unionists. There was fierce criticism from nationalists and

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republicans. The SDLP wanted to amend some of the wording. Sinn Fein

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's position was slightly starker. Stephen, thank you. Well, let's have

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a look at what MLAs had to say about the Bill and, as we'll see, it was a

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series of amendments put forward by the SDLP that largely took centre

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stage. No matter how much the SDLP might like to massage these works

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and say they mean something they don't, the reality waves -- the

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reality is, they merely require regret couched in language which

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utterly undermines any suggestion that there is contrition. The member

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will have to admit that contrition has to be interpreted. I do realise

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that contrition is a very Catholic words, and perhaps the panel will

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have to draw on the services of an imminent Catholic theologian to

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divine contrition and decide whether or not a particular applicant was

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contrite. Obviously, they will not go to that extent, but the point I

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am making, that at the end of the day, the interpretation is

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objective. I certainly think that contrition is something we can all

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experience and express. Overall, the STL P amendments would substantially

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weaken the Bill. They would diminish the protection for victims. The

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easier you make the appointment for a serious criminal, the more you

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diminish the right of the victims. If this Bill passes, I want this to

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be seen as a landmark piece of legislation that, amongst the first

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times, demonstrates that victims have a right to be heard, a right to

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have a say and a right to be heeded. The SDLP's amendments are

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brought forward. I see more with trying to be in agreement with Sinn

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Fein on this matter and trying to protect some people. It is evident

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to me that if somebody has been guilty of a crime, they should not

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take the post. I have to say, I take exception with the member was trying

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to do this to Sinn Fein. They haven't even got an amendment down.

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The amendments which we have down today seek to remove the

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retrospective element of the Bill. The purpose of which is to remove

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 45 seconds

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indication that there was concern to kill off this Bill. That is the only

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way the STL P can actually do that. Don't try and pretend this is

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anything but an attempt to stop ex-prisoners from getting employers

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-- employment. If the proposal... In my opinion, this Bill should be

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stopped. There is a prisoner elite who think that they have got higher

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entitlements than any of the rest of the citizens in this part of the

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world. Released early, millions of pounds from Europe, millions more

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going towards prisoners groups over the next period of funding and so on

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and so forth. I would like to begin by mailing the suggestion that this

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Bill picks out and discriminates against what had been terms

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political ex-prisoners. There never were political prisoners. Even if

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one stretches to understand the concept, this Bill does not

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discriminate against that perceived group. This bill applies equally to

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everyone with a serious criminal conviction. Be that person a rapist,

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fraudster or a conflict. Joining me now is the SDLP MLA,

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Dominic Bradley. All of your amendments failed today. We were

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disappointed. We have put a lot of work into it. We came forward with

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amendments at the consideration stage. They had limited success.

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Unfortunately, they were not successful. We are disappointed

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about that, but we are pleased we have made every effort we possibly

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could to make this Bill into good law. Jim Allister says your

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amendments would not have been good for victims. We disagree totally for

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that. We stood for victims and good law. We reject Jim Allister 's

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allegations in that respect. We have worked very hard in this Bill and

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are amendments would have got to a stage where we could have supported

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it. The argument against your amendments was made in the House

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today that it would have made it easier had they been taken for the

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appointment of a serious criminal to the position of Special Adviser.

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don't accept that. We were arguing mainly for an appeal mechanism which

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would give people a reasonable chance. Any appeal mechanism should

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do that. Mr Allister's appeal mechanism closes the four -- closes

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the door very tightly. Will the SDLP now use a petition of concern to

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kill the Bill at the next stage of proceedings? We have made every

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effort and spoken with Mr Allister. We have brought amendments to the

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consideration stage. That hasn't been successful. We are considering

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using the option of a petition of concern. We have tried the other

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options available to us. They have not been successful and we have to

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consider a petition of concern. Could you be persuaded to live with

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the legislation as it will be? don't think we can be persuaded to

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live with the legislation. We have made every attempt that we possibly

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could to shape this into good law. That has not been successful at this

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stage, we are considering supporting application of concern. But will you

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do it? Probably. A lot of people would be disappointed that that.

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have come forward with reasonable and well thought out amendments

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which afforded people a reasonable chance of success. They have been

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 45 seconds

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rejected so I don't think we have Eye make-up and to discuss whether

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there was flexibility. I asked him to give consideration to a to

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centre model. Potentially providing services in Belfast and Dublin gay

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bar. In the Belfast -- in Belfast and Dublin. I ought to expedite

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this as quickly as possible. Can I ask if he believes if there is a

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more ambitious or enervated framework. Than the one identified

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in the expert working group report? That would hopefully see some form

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of surgery maintained. Go quality and safety must remain at the top

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of the agenda. I suspect that the model will maximise quality but it

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might not maximise safety. We cannot look at one without the

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other. Those children who get there at appropriate times can be treated

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at that site. And we will get better outcomes. I do not want to

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raise expectations on the matter but what was previously proposed is

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not a done deal. I am looking for a different kind of outcome.

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Buildings do not save the lives are. It is the people who work in them.

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It is important we do our best to maintain an element of elected such

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a. To do that, and to be attractive to surgeons. We must be part of a

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larger network. A stand-alone site will not do it. I have been

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criticised from a political perspective about what it would do,

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looking to Dublin, for assistance here. I frankly could not care less

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where I looked to after it saved the lives of children. I will work

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with Dublin or whoever else to a deliver the best possible service.

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I want to retain some elective surgery. The health minister. The

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First Minister has told the Assembly that there is still a

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range of announcements to come on the proposed Shield future. Peter

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Robinson was speaking during forced Minister's Questions today. He also

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told the Assembly how far they believe Northern Ireland had come.

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Hour announcement on 9th May of a package of strategic actions

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towards a united community is clear evidence of over commitment to this

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critical a her. The latest peace monitoring report recognises we

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have come a long way as a society. The collective effort at an

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individual level and community level is to be commended. This

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report is useful in the measuring progress. It highlights the

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progress to date and the challenges for the way ahead. The Deputy First

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Minister and I welcome the reassuring evidence that we live in

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a community where citizens are less likely to be the victims of crime.

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Racist hate crime has decreased. And segregation has diminished.

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There are a number of wide-ranging issues. But which ones would you

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highlight? If I was to look at the indices which are provided, and

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which are widely available, and draw out some of the more positive

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aspects, it has been the longest period of sustained stability for

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the devolved institutions. Sectarian incidents and crimes are

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significantly down. The number of crimes based on the religion are

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down dramatically. From 148 in 2005/2006, to 14 in 2011/2012.

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Attacks on Orange halls and chapels are down. Casualties per annum as a

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result of paramilitary shootings are down. A significant increase in

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young people who believe that relations between Protestant and

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Catholic are better. If 90% of people believe that their neighbour

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had is a shared neighbourhood. People on all side indicate respect

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towards cultures and identities. No new peace walls since 2008. One

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since devolution but that was put up by the Northern Ireland Office.

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If I could draw on hundreds of indices that show the positive

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progress that has been made. But again I emphasise, there is a long

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way to go off. Can be First Minister outline ongoing

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negotiations with the Secretary of State on the matter of the

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substantial financial package for Northern Ireland? We had the

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opportunity to talk in detail about the financial package. The

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Government's attitude to extending it, as far as the individual

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proposals, I am reluctant to go over them. In some cases the Deputy

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First Minister and I will seek to alter or and extend it does

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Coppetts other proposals. But we are both of the view that we have

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been disadvantaged because of the overall climate with the economy in

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Northern Ireland. We need to have impetus, momentum, to move for work.

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We have put forward a very extensive proposals in terms of a

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shared future. They go beyond what the Government expected us to do.

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There is a range of other announcements to make. Having shown

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ambition we are now looking to see the reward. During the discussions

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that the First Minister take the opportunity to raise the matter of

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the G8? The in relation to the G8, there was considerable enthusiasm

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for the benefit that would flow on both sides of the border. Being

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close to the border, even in terms of accommodation, the South is

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getting a considerable benefit. As I understand, the teacher has been

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invited by the Prime Minister to attend part of the discussion. It

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has significant benefits for Northern Ireland and permits us to

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show case nor on Ireland in the new year, moving forward. We'll take

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the worldwide attention to our advantage. Today marks the first

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day of community relations week. After the winter of discontent and

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concerns that the summer might bring more of the same, is there

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any hope that such initiatives can help? I am joined by teeth

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Executive of the Community Relations Council. -- the chief

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Executive. For this week community relations is top of the agenda.

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What about the other 51 weeks of the Year? We get the chance to

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focus very specifically on lots of different events going on across

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the country. A chance for people to show case what they are doing. And

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more importantly, for those who are not involved, to get a chance to

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see what we are involved in and to blow out some of the maths that are

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there about community relations work. It is now top of the

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political agenda with the driver to find a strategy as far as the

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Executive is concerned. How much does your work chime with the

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worker to Deputy First Minister and First Minister? An hour off this is

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funded by their office. And we receive support from the European

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Union and International Fund for Ireland. -- hour of this. So they

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are supporting us even without the new strategy. New initiatives have

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come for what. We did not know about those in advance. And we

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still do not know the detail of what is involved. Are we

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disappointed? In the long run it would be better if there was better

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connection in terms of working with organisations involved in community

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relations to bring forward ideas. If but nevertheless it is progress

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and we welcome it. What about the strategy launched by the Office of

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the First Minister and Deputy First Minister one week ago? That does

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not deal with key issues like parades, flax. We believe the full

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detail will be announced later next week or possibly next week. --

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later this week. One difficult issues, they are enormously

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difficult and we fully recognise that. What we know so far is that

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there will be an all-party discussion. I know there is a great

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deal cynicism regarding that. We have been there. But this time

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there will be independent voices involved. Maybe that will help us

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move on. Are we moving in the right direction, in you have you? I hope

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so. The Pope to -- peace monitoring report shows a very good statistics.

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To the First Minister is right to quote them. It was a good year. We

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cannot be blind to the issues we must tackle but we're making

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progress. The Assembly had time to discuss spot this morning when

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there was widespread praise for a golfer, Graham McDowell. He won the

:25:26.:25:36.
:25:36.:25:38.

the World Match Play Championship over the weekend. We cannot over

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estimate the scale of the success that Northern Ireland golfers have

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achieved in the recent years. When we look at the illustrious list of

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previous winners of the World Match Play Championship we see, Jack

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Nicklaus, Gary Player, said it Alastair Ross, Nick Faldo, golfing

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greats. Many of them legends. Now, Graham McDowell, joining that

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illustrious list. Geoff I hope that the achievement will be an

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inspiration to other young sportspeople to take up golf or to

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take up other sports. I pass on my congratulations to Graham McDowell

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and his father, Kenny. At it inspires a new generation of sports

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people that would be very pleasing. There is no doubt that this success

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is timely. It brings the spotlight back. Since the Open was played at

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Royal Portrush, the spotlight has been brought back to Irish golf,

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Irish to risen, and the opportunity of jobs that surrounds the two rows

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and product. A very timely victory. Very timely for bringing our minds

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back to the opportunities that we have around two risen and golf

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tourism in particular. I also want to admire congratulations. A

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terrific example for all of our golfers. Particularly with such an

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incredibly difficult course. That is where Alexander the Great

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started his world domination. Lex maybe see it go on and we can have

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grey and the great! By Our political reporter is with me.

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Going back to the bad issue of the day. The special advisers still. --

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debt issue. We have from Dominic Bradley, the nuclear option, a

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petition of concern, will be If you listen carefully to what he

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said, clearly the SDLP are very happy. This was the nuclear option.

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He admitted that. He admitted it was an option he was looking at.

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Looking at the mood music it would seem to be the only option open to

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the SDLP. If they are unhappy with the bell and if they want to kill

:28:18.:28:25.

it that is the only option A quick what about other news - the

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Deputy First Minister getting ready The ministers met the Chinese

:28:33.:28:39.

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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