20/11/2012 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.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 20/11/2012. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Hello and welcome Stormont today. For once, our MLAs were forced to


concede centre stage. The Prime Minister was on the hill but


without any more news for the executive or corporation tax.


A bid to include clerical victims in the historical abuse inquiry


bill is turned down in the latest stage. It is unfortunate that in


the addressing of it, we create a hierarchy of abuse victims. Sinn


Fein MLA, Barry McElduff gives us a preview of the stories that make up


his new memoir. I wasn't the only political person to see the inside


of a prison cell. One ex-prisoner visited me, namely Ian Paisley.


own visitor today is political commentator Alex Kane.


Events inside the Assembly chamber very often get hot and heavy. The


grounds outside can seemer is reen in comparison, not so today. At


rifle of the Prime Minister prompted a buzz. First David


Cameron visited a factory in Craigavon and made the big


announcement of his trip. chairman of the G8 I get to decide


where to hold the big G8 conference next year on June 17, 18. I've


decided the right place is right here in Northern Ireland and we'll


be holding the G8 on the 17th and 18th of June in county Fermanagh. I


think this will be... APPLAUSE


A brilliant advertisement for Northern Ireland. Our visitor today


is the political commentator Alex Kane.


Events inside the Assembly chamber very often get hot and heavy. The


grounds outside can seem serene in comparison. Not today, the arrival


of the Prime Minister prompted a buzz over on that part of the


estate. First, David Cameron visited a factory in Craigavon and


made the big announcement of his trip. As chairman of the G8, I get


to decide where to hold the big G8 conference next year on the 17th


and 18th of June. I've decided the right place to hold it is right


here in Northern Ireland. We'll be holding the G8 in county Fermanagh.


I think this will be a brilliant advertisement for Northern Ireland.


That news was cheered here in Stormont chamber by the enterprise


minister Arlene Foster whose home patch in Fermanagh will host some


of the world's most powerful leaders. It will not surprise you


to know that I am ecstatic that the G8 summit is coming to Fermanagh in


2013. I think it says a lot about Northern Ireland today that our


Prime Minister can have the confidence to come to the most


westerly part of Northern Ireland and have the G8 summit. What he


said today was one of the most beautiful parts of the UK.


Confirmation then of this week's worst kept secret about the G8


coming to Fermanagh next June. I'm joined by Alex Kane. Are you


excited that the prospect of the G8 coming to town? Not particularly.


I'm glad it's not coming to Belfast. Usually Belfast goes into lock down


with anything like this. It's a pre-Christmas Prime Ministerial


visit with good news for Northern Ireland and particularly good news


for the resort which I think is in administration. The resort is in


administration. The last time Britain hosted a G8 sum tit was in


Gleneagles, which has -- summit, it was in Gleneagles, which is a


global reputation. This resort is relatively young and has had


difficulties of its own. Did they choose it because it's remote


because from a security point of view it ticks all the boxes?


think it does tick the boxes. Oddly enough, maybe ironically the fact


that it is having financial difficulties, the Prime Minister


who wants to be seen to be doing something for local economy, you


couldn't do anything better than say, look, here's a hotel which has


difficulties, but I have enough confidence in its ability and in


its staff and the people of Northern Ireland to clifr a big,


world-class -- deliver, a big, world class conference.


political is this on the part of the Prime Minister and the


Secretary of State to say we have lots of choices here but we're


plumping for Northern Ireland? These choices are political. It is


the name of the game. I don't think he could take it to Scotland in


view of what's happening in terms of referendum and independence.


There's not much happening in Wales. Northern Ireland, it is, they're


going to have Londonderry as the City of Culture next year. Also,


because you've had these signs from dissident Republicans, this is a


Prime Minister, clearly saying, over and over again today of the


United Kingdom, this is a splendid place in the United Kingdom, making


his mark, saying he's happy with Northern Ireland. He's happy with


the peace process, telling the world to come here. That's


important. Security concerns must have been a consideration here.


This is, you know, this is not some second-rate gathering. These are


the eight most significant world leaders, probably eight of the most


recognisable people on the planet. To bring them here and be


responsible for their security when they are here is a pretty big deal,


isn't it? Location is perfect. It's surrounded by water. It's not easy


to get to. High visibility all over the place. Let's not forget the


PSNI are one of the best forces in the world when it comes to dealing


with rioting and terrorist threats. It's their whole living, breathing


operation. The Prime Minister will be pleased there was a broadly


positive response to his announcement on the G8. We're not


much clearer about the other thing that we thought he might say


something about, that was corporation tax. Did he hedge his


bets? I think the trouble with corporation tax, I'm not convinced


it's coming. If you get it in Northern Ireland, what happened --


happens to Scotland and Wales? What happens to the relationship, an EU


relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland


and Great Britain? They haven't been squared off. It will go on and


on. I suspect some time maybe next Easter, it will be landed very


gently and just bypassed until forever probably. What are the


implications locally? Our politicians here have invested a


lot in the idea of it. They've said this is something we should be


working hard to get, at the right price, but it would be good news


for Northern Ireland, plc. If it doesn't come, what's the Plan B?


don't think there is a Plan B. Plan A was nothing more than we want a


cut in corporation tax, but we don't want to have to pay for that


ourselves. We don't want that out of the Northern Ireland budget. We


don't want to pay anything else at local level. There is no way,


there's no way the Chancellor can say yes to that without having


every other part of the United Kingdom asking for exactly the same


thing. No special pleading for Northern Ireland? No, I think


that's the thing. Northern Ireland has its own Government. Governments


have to make their own decisions. They have to get away from the


notion that they can constantly go to Number Ten and say we are still


a special case. We are not any more. Let's get over that. Thank you.


Inside the chamber, most of the time today was taken up with the


debate on establishing an inquiry into the historic abuse of children


in care homes and other institutions in Northern Ireland.


There were 79 amendments to get through. Jim Allister wasn't


pleased his amendment to include the scope to include clerical abuse


wasn't accepted by the Speaker. Many victims of abuse, Mr Speaker,


have lobbied courageously to get to a stage whereby this inquiry will


become a reality. They are indeed to be commended for their efforts,


for their determination and for their undoubted courage. Mr Speaker,


we have a raft of amendments today at the consideration stage of this


bill. 79 in total I understand. The vast majority of these have come


from OFMDMF -- OFMDFM. Mr Speaker the issue of who this legislation


should cover is an important one. I want to consider that in some


detail having received representations on this from


constituents. We have to bear in mind that there are children from


Northern Ireland who suffered abuse in the Republic of Ireland and


there are children from the Republic of Ireland who suffered


abuse here. These victims, most of whom are now adults, exist in


jurisdictional limbo. There has been an impression that neither


side, neither jurisdiction wishs to take responsibility. Indeed, I've


raised this matter separately with the Minister for Justice in the


Republic of Ireland. In short, it has been left to be somebody else's


problem. Today, I think, is an important opportunity to say to


those people that they are recognised as victims. That they


will get the time and space to tell their story and all efforts will be


made to ensure that never again will people be exploited and abused


in this way. A number of specific examples have been brought to my


attention. For instance, a young person who suffered gross


malnutrition had to be rescued by the local church of Ireland


clergyman and was sent back to Dublin. Then sent to Northern


Ireland to a relative of the family where he suffered further neglect.


I've been told of a mother whose children were sent to the West Bank


orphanage that closed in 1998 and were denied knowledge of sibling


relationships. I will begin by expressing regret that amendments


which I sought to table to widen the scope of this inquiry to


include clerical abuse are not before the House. I think it is


fortunate, right as it is that we certainly address the issue of


institutional abuse, I think it is unfortunate that in the addressing


of it we create a hierarchy of abuse victims. Those abused within


institutions and those abused outside institutions who


predominantly were the object of clerical abuse. Whereas I've heard


others in this debate say that that issue cannot be forgotten about, it


cannot be swept aside, the reality of this bill is it does forget


about it. I've yet to hear affirmations that that will change.


So I think this was an opportunity to address all abuse, including


clerical abuse and I very much regret it hasn't been taken..


the request of the victims and survivors who have spoken to us, I


would pay tribute to those who have gone before, who are not alive to


see this day and to equally salute their courage and tenacity in


helping us to get to this point and not to underestimate the pain that


they suffered and that they endured during this process. It is pain


that is the most vulnerable. These were children, children who didn't


have mums or dads or step mums or step dads. Or other care givers to


go back to. These were people who were abused and hurt in the most


horrible ways by the people who were entrusted to care for them.


And to provide the support and love for them. That is why we have


defined residential abuse because these were the children who had


nobody else to go back to, whose home and into whose care they were


the victims of those who shamefully should have been there to protect


He is proposing we do away the terms of reference completely. We


believe this would have an effect of detrimental reducing the


detailed remit of the inquiry. extent to which this was a deeply


imperfect Bill is reflected by the House today. The SDLP's Conall


McDevitt and after several hours of debate the vast majority of the 79


amendments were passed. Fresh from welcoming the decision


to hold the G8 summit in her for man -- in her Fermanagh


constituency the enterprise Minister was back to bread and


butter policy issues in the chamber this afternoon. The focus of much


of her Question Time was the utility regulator, just hours after


it emerged that NIE had rejected this ruling on how much it can


charge customers. It is not for me to become involved


in the due process to be followed in determining the price controls.


However, Mr Mr Deputy Speaker, it is important the price control


process ultimately gets to the point where there is an appropriate


balance between ensuring that the energy firms have sufficient


financial cover to make the investments necessary and


infrastructure and that the cost to consumers are minimised.


Thank you. The Minister will know that the commission's indications


are that the utility regulator has failed to act in the public


interest in referring the Phoenix Gas and ultimately the actions of


this utility regulator is damaging confidence in investors and


consumers are ultimately going to be left to pick up the cost. Does


the Minister believe that the utility regulator is damaging


confidence in investors and, therefore, damaging to consumers


who will ultimately be left to pick up the cost? Recent responses to my


department's consultation on the new energy bill have showed firms


do have some concerns about the way in which the utility regulator is


operating and of course, these concerns need to be balanced


against the principle duties of the regulator and indeed of the


department, for electricity particularly, the duty is to


protect the consumer and therefore, there is that balance. It is a


difficult balance. I think that's recognised. Is it within the


actually review the utility regulator's role and if so, is


there any intention to do so in the near future? Well, as I have


indicated, these concerns have been raised in response to the


consultation on the energy bill and I do recognise that there are


genuine issues that we need to address around accountability and


the need to ensure that the regulatory framework for energy in


Northern Ireland ensures the right investment for the future and


that's why I am bringing forward proposals in the new energy Bill


which will ensure provision to ensure that this happens and


specifically I am bringing forward a proposal for a new strategy and


policy statement which will be developed by the Department,


obviously consulted upon and led before the Assembly for debate and


particular strategy and policy statement in the performance of his


duties. But also ensure that the regulator is aligned with the


executive's strategic energy goals, as well. Of course, we are not


suggesting for one minute he doesn't do that at the moment but


what we are doing is we are providing confidence that there


will be greater Coe hereence between policy and regulation and


it's something I I intend to brining before the House so we can


all discuss that issue but I have to recognise those concerns have


been registered with me. Question number four, Deputy


Speaker. Both my officials and the Northern Ireland tourist board have


had discussions with the Belfast visitor and convention pwaour Ree,


and wider hospitality industry to ensure participants in the games


and visitors will have a good experience. Almost 27 seminars will


have been held with local businesses using the tourist


information centres and industry association net w. The tourist


board, convention centre and games company will continue to encourage


the whorld of whole -- whole of Northern Ireland to maximise


The greater Belfast already has 3764 hotel rooms, if you replicate


the 86% occupies and rate achieved for the period that year that will


leave 527 rooms spare for an anticipated visitor numbers of


15,000, would the Minister agree that's a tight fit? Yes, and I am


not asking them all to share. I the G8, as well. We know that there


will be thousands of people that will come to Northern Ireland for


that event, as well. But it is about being flexible. It's about


working with accommodation providers, being innovative in


terms of pop-up hotels, for example. And making sure that we stay very


close to the limited company who are planning the World Police and


Fire Games and that's exactly what we are doing. Arlene Foster. You


may have noticed in some town centres derelict shops and


buildings have had a makeover. During today's environment


questions the Minister said with more funding he would like to give


more towns a facelift but first, here is the Minister giving his


verdict on communication between applicants and the planning service.


Sure, there are as we always know, contact centres levels of delay and


frustration. But I am not being told that that is the broad


experience. If 22% of contacts are being dealt with by the contacts


centre, if 80% of other issues are being responded to by the planning


service within 24 hours, if calls are being answered within 15


seconds of the call being made, all of that suggests that this new


approach to citizen agent developer contact with the planning service,


that it is beginning to bed in more and more and together with access


to the planning where there are over 130,000 points of contact


every month, in my view, that is all helping aid the planning


process, certainly there will be nobody in the planning system,


including myself, who will not call for even better performance than


that. But I think that performance is working and working to the


We do intend to roll out changes to the planning system that will see


applications being made online, rather than the current system made


through the paper process. So, yes, we will continue to look at


opportunities to roll out and improve the service. My answer is


go to Portrush and port Stewart and go to Derry-Londonderry in the -


City of Culture, where I believe that the interventions to mitigate


decay and derelictation have and continue to prove that this is for


a moderate sum of money a worthwhile investment. I did make a


bid which was denied. I did make a bid for monies in September and the


recent economic package, it was denied. But I think that the


argument is gathering pace around the Executive table, that for


relatively small scale of monies deployed to address decay and


derelictation in towns and cities across the north, has added value


in this time of recession. I think the Minister for his reply, I do


have to agree with him that some people now describe Portrush as a


northern kergs of kin -- version of Kinsale. Has the Minister plans for


rolling out his successful scheme to other towns? And indeed to


encourage, if not compel property owners to take a greater interest


in port that's fallen into derelictation? Or is an eyesore?


Well, I have written to the chief executive of Coleraine Borough


Council, acknowledging the good work that's been done, asking him


so that it can be more like Kinsale going forward. If I were to say


today there is a more are to kwroupl on out of -- moratorium,


there will be a rush to the PAC or they would say is this is against


the law, it's against planning The environment Minister Alex


Attwood. Now the Prime Minister's arrival at Stormont wasn't the only


thing prompting a flurry around the House today. Sinn Fein's MLA Barry


McElduff held a reading of his new book. It's described as a memoir of


his experiences at home in Tyrone and in Stormont. Our political


correspondent got a sneak preview of yes, you have guessed it, Keep


It Lit. I have taken risks, I have spoken about my unionist opponents


here at Stormont. One of the stories is explaining the


difference between David McHrarty and David McNarry, now there is a


risk and a half. I suppose my story emNates from Carrickmore, Tyrone,


Really that's my story, I maybe want to provoke curiosity from


people beyond that community as to what makes us tick. I have


something to say and I want to say it and I am saying it in the form


of a book. You have spent sometime at Her Majesty's pleasure, do you


touch on that in the book? I do, I spent some months in the Crumlin


Road remand prison. During that time I learned a lot. I wasn't only


political person who ever saw the inside of a prison cell. In fact,


one ex-prisoner visited me then, namely, Ian Paisley. He was then a


DUP member of the European Parliament and he came into prison


to assess the conditions of the jail for the benefit of loyalist


prisoners essentially. I did ask to meet him and when I discovered he


was in the prison it was made possible for me to meet him. But I


specifically made the request to meet Ian Paisley and he abg seeded


to that request and we had a productive meeting at the time.


you seek permission of the Sinn Fein leadership before writing this


book? I imagine they were a little bit nervous or were they? I got


great support. One of the people that encouraged me to write the


Barry McElduff there. We'll see if that strategy was a sensible one,


when we see the reaction to the book over the next few weeks. Our


guest Alex Kane is with me again. We'll talk about the book in a


moment. But let's have a word about Jim Allister, the former Deputy


Leader of the Assembly group with the Ulster Unionist Party who made


a speech again yesterday about opposition and about the need for a


formal opposition here at Stormont. Not surprised that he should have


done that, but does the case stack up in your view? I think it does


stack up. It's worth bearing in mind that since 1998 every opinion


poll has shown majority, substantial majority in favour of


having opposition at Stormont. All the political parties have talked


about having opposition and at Leeds castle and St Andrews they


talked of the need for opposition. No-one has done anything about it.


Allister, give him his dew, he went into the leadership campaign and


that was his big idea. It doesn't exist now. It's interesting he has


come up with the idea of the private members bill. For all the


talk of opposition, personally I'm supportive, there's huge


difficulties. If you had structures of opposition, do you have to have


a cross-community opposition? If you have a leader of the opposition


does it have to be Unionist and Nationalist working together? If


you have a formal, funded, properly structured opposition, do you have


the situation where you have to have a cap on the percentage and


number of MLAs? At the moment if you have over a certain percentage


you're in the executive if you want. If you're in opposition, isn't it


sensible to say, I'm sorry, you haven't enough to be in Government.


The Deputy Leader of the SDLP floated this idea, saying her party


should be thinking about, it even though it's not what her leader


talked about in his speech. She said it's something we should


discuss. Is it a scenario where we have a Shadow First Minister and


then a deputy Shadow First That's thousand would have to work.


If you are setting up opposition as an alternative to what's been


described, as the Sinn Fein DUP carve-up, I am not sure how you


have a credible alternative which consists of one party and if these


two parties are saying we have a role and relevance and we could be


better than the other two parties, we can show we can work together


then they have to do it together. Here is the thing, surely, politics


is about power, it's about getting your hands on the hrefers of powers,


having control of the purse purse strings. They have that power at


the moment to go opposition they would be giving it up. I am not


sure they have that power. Having observed them since 2007 when the


DUP-Sinn Fein became the two biggest parties, they have very


little input. They have little influence. They're often ignored at


key executive decisions, not told until they arrive at the meeting, a


decision has been taken. A final word about Barry McElduff's book


that he was talking about. Do you think that any unionist politicians


will have a copy of it as a secret pleasure in their Christmas


stocking? Probably if it's given to them as a present! I don't think


they'll rush out and buy it. I am tkphrad to see someone -- glad to


see someone writing about the background to the Assembly because


it can be a fun job and it's an entertaining job and also it's


instructive given Barry's background to see where he is now


and writing, so openly about it. That's good. Would you be happy to


have a copy? Yes, it anybody wants to send me a copy I will happily


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.

Download Subtitles