20/05/2013 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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Coming up in the next half hour: A bill designed to protect victims or


discriminate against former prisoners? The Special Advisers Bill


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


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


rest of the citizens in this part of the world.


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


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


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


service. And our political reporter, Stephen


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


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


forward after the controversial appointment of Mary McArdle who was


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


from Unionists. There was fierce criticism from nationalists and


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


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


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


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


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


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


reality is, they merely require regret couched in language which


utterly undermines any suggestion that there is contrition. The member


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


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


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


divine contrition and decide whether or not a particular applicant was


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The amendments which we have down today seek to remove the


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


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 45 seconds


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Bill picks out and discriminates against what had been terms


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


one stretches to understand the concept, this Bill does not


discriminate against that perceived group. This bill applies equally to


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


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


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


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


amendments at the consideration stage. They had limited success.


Unfortunately, they were not successful. We are disappointed


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


would give people a reasonable chance. Any appeal mechanism should


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


have come forward with reasonable and well thought out amendments


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


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 45 seconds


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


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


centre model. Potentially providing services in Belfast and Dublin gay


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


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


more ambitious or enervated framework. Than the one identified


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


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


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


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


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


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


raise expectations on the matter but what was previously proposed is


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


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


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


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


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


criticised from a political perspective about what it would do,


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


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


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


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


First Minister has told the Assembly that there is still a


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


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


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


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


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


critical a her. The latest peace monitoring report recognises we


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


individual level and community level is to be commended. This


report is useful in the measuring progress. It highlights the


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


Minister and I welcome the reassuring evidence that we live in


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


Racist hate crime has decreased. And segregation has diminished.


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


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


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


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


the devolved institutions. Sectarian incidents and crimes are


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


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


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


result of paramilitary shootings are down. A significant increase in


young people who believe that relations between Protestant and


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


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


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


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


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


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


way to go off. Can be First Minister outline ongoing


negotiations with the Secretary of State on the matter of the


substantial financial package for Northern Ireland? We had the


opportunity to talk in detail about the financial package. The


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


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


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


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


been disadvantaged because of the overall climate with the economy in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


has significant benefits for Northern Ireland and permits us to


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


the worldwide attention to our advantage. Today marks the first


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


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


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


Executive of the Community Relations Council. -- the chief


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


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


focus very specifically on lots of different events going on across


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


connection in terms of working with organisations involved in community


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


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


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


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


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


later this week. One difficult issues, they are enormously


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


estimate the scale of the success that Northern Ireland golfers have


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


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


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


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


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


inspiration to other young sportspeople to take up golf or to


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


incredibly difficult course. That is where Alexander the Great


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Deputy First Minister getting ready The ministers met the Chinese


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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