21/01/2013 Stormont Today


21/01/2013

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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Transcript


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Welcome to the programme. The Social Development Minister

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outlines the planet to detect fuel poverty. And elderly gent a man was

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able to tell me he reduced his fellow apps of oil by one. We hear

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how he is going to do more to capitalise on environmental

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heritage. And sharing his insides, our

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political respondent Garratt Gordon. The first item on today's agenda

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spilled over from last week, a delayed vote on an Ulster Unionist

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motion on inclusivity and the rejection of violence. The motion

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was passed, but not without some party political ramifications. With

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me to discuss what happened is our political correspondent, Gareth

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Gordon. First of all, a lot of talk today about Basil McRae deciding to

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vote against his own party. Why did he do that? It is complicated but

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that debate last week was very fractious, over the issue of

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identity and it was found by the flak to speak. The Ulster Unionist

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motion called on the Assembly to reconfirm its principles of

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inclusivity, mutual respect, peace and democracy. It called on all

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parties to support the spirit of the Belfast Agreement. The DUP did

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not like that because they did not sign up to the Belfast Agreement,

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they were signatories to the St Andrew's Agreement. They wanted all

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mention of the Belfast agreement removed. The vote was taken this

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mine and the Ulster Unionists made clear they would be supporting the

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DUP amendment which did not mention the Belfast Agreement. Basil McCrea

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has lost the Ulster Unionist whip. He sat through the debate last week.

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He did not speak at all. He was obviously fuming. It was too much

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for him. End an article of this morning in Belfast paragraph, he

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said he would not be voting with his Ulster Unionist colleagues. He

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said for the first time ever he would be voting against them. He

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accused them of failing to back the Belfast Agreement, an agreement to

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which they were key. He said he would not be voting with his party

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colleagues and he said that was for the first time ever. With Mr McCrea

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facing this disciplinary charge, the fact that he did not vote with

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the Ulster Unionists is likely to annoy them even more, you would

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imagine? It ups the ante. At Christmas he lost the Ulster

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Unionist whip. He spoke out about the flying of the Unionist flag at

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Stormont. He is facing a disciplinary committee here on

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Friday on -- on Friday afternoon. He will mount a stout defence. He

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is not going quietly. By writing this article and taking the stance

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he has taken, it has opened hostility from many in the party

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towards them. He has upped the ante. We have his friend and colleague,

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John McCallister, who lost a few months ago, the deputy leadership

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of the party, when he accused the party leader, Mike Nesbitt, or

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sleep walking towards Unionist unity. He up the ante by saying the

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Unionist form, to which the Ulster Unionist Party are part, was a dead

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end. Mike Nesbitt facing a dual attack. What has he been saying?

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issued a statement this afternoon in which she said Basil McCrea's

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concerns over the party moving away from the Belfast Agreement, he said

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it should be clear that the amendment was never going to pass

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and there was no threat to the commitment. Some people will think

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that is an odd position to take. As for the sleepwalking charge, he

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said he remains committed to advancing the cause of the Unionist

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and that is best achieved by working -- if that is best achieved

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by working in opposition to other parties, that's what they would do.

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As to the street protests, he would co-operate and he was grateful for

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the overwhelming support of the party.

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Gareth, for now, thank you. Two weeks ago, the Social

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Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, announced the

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replacement of the Housing Executive. Today at Question Time,

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he faced scrutiny of what would happen to its employees. First

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though, he was taken to task over fuel poverty.

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Does the Minister agree with me that the recent reduction of the

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overall proportion of households considered as being in fuel poverty,

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from 44 % to 42 %, which is still significantly more than the 34 % we

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had in 2006, it is so insignificant it is hardly worth boasting about.

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Can we have a question, please? Does the Minister agree that the

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direction he has taken and the strategies he has spoken of his

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failing to tackle the sub-standard of course of fuel poverty? Can I

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say, I do not agree. There are a number of things which contribute

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to high level fuel poverty in Northern Ireland, one of them is

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the high level of dependency on oil. Hence the work my colleague is

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taking forward is a fundamental in addressing the fuel poverty issue

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in Northern Ireland. In September, I launched the boy in a replacement

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scheme for owner-occupiers, following on from the successful

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pilot lasted -- I launched the boiler replacement scheme. This

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will replace a boiler. A Housing Executive has received a lot of

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interest in the scheme and acute -- applications are being processed.

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It is important in terms of energy efficiency and fuel poverty because

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in one case, I visited her home, the elderly chap told me he had

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reduced his fills of oil per year by one entire Phil. House and

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structures are about providing better services for tenants,

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better-quality housing and also a structure which allows good value

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for money for the tax payer. In essence, it is about creating a

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system which is sustainable for the future. This is not that reducing

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staff, cutting back or saving money. In fact, the member who sits on the

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social development committee would be aware the review was never about

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cutting jobs of saving money. It is about getting the structure right

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for Northern Ireland moving forward. It is important to realise there

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are still a need for functions the housing executive performs within

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the new structure and, and staff will be required to consider those

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functions and services to tenants. N I P S they will be consulted as a

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key stakeholders representing the views of staff at a local land

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higher level. We must be cognisance of the fact that we are at the

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early stages of a project which has still a lot of work to be done.

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This is high on the agenda of the programme board, of which the chief

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executive of the housing and fictive he is a member. Let me be

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clear, it would be pre-emptive and totally wrong to start speculating

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at this stage. The fact is, I have stated repeatedly this has not and

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never has been about cutting jobs. Could the Minister give more detail

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on the potential benefits of the new landlord function being out

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with the public sector? The member will be aware that this

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affords an opportunity to address a major problem. We need to have more

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houses built. Secondly, we need to have better quality. There are some

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older properties which need a tremendous amount of work done to

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them. We are talking about billions of pounds of work in the short-term,

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to get back stock up to a standard which we should be able to expect

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and tenants should be able to have -- expect. That money is not

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available at the moment but if we moved the stock eventually it over

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to effectively a housing association sector, it enables them

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to borrow money so there for the work can be funded. I would want to

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come back to one point, this concern that staff have and I can

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understand that. I have written to every staff member in the housing

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sector already and there will be communication there with the trade

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unions and I know the Housing Executive, the chief executive has

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been writing to the staff as well. What does not help, and it is back

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to the issue of welfare reform, is misinformation. If somebody had

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picked up one of our local newspapers on Saturday, they would

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have read that the Housing Executive's was to be broken up and

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its range of roles transferred to housing associations. That is not

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the case. We are creating, if we go down this road, we will be creating

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a regional housing body, staffed by housing professionals, to carry out

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the regional services and regional polls. A total misunderstanding but

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that misinformation going out there does not help and does create fears.

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If some he was working in the housing sector in the red, I could

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understand why they should be concerned.

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The Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland.

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The Ulster Unionist party may be going through a tough time, but its

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minister says he is going nowhere. A touchy subject perhaps, because

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during Question Time today, Danny Kennedy joke twice that there are

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no ministerial vacancies. But first, Mr Kennedy began by giving a

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breakdown on how funding for the A5 will be allocated.

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I recognise fully the importance of the objective and growing the

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economy and I realise the advantage it will bring to jobs in the short

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term and the longer term. The Department for roads services will

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robustly defend the legal challenge. In terms of finance, total 330

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million has been allocated to construct a section, however, my

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department will have to await the outcome of the legal challenge

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before the funding can be determined. At least to confirm

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that corporation between my department and D F P officials has

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enabled some repro filing of expenditure which will allow for

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the deferral of the A5 allocation and so it is required at my

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prompting. The Finance Minister has secured flexibility from Her

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Majesty's Treasury to carry-forward monies for reinvestment and reform

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initiative, 50 million borrowing power into 2014 / 15. This helpful

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in managing the on going delays to the project.

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Deputy Speaker, I welcome the Minister's response. Can I ask the

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minister in light of that, in terms of should the legal challenge be

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protracted, could the minister outlined by house what steps have

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been taken to ensure money ring- fenced goes to that specific

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project? Can I thank the Member for his supplementary question, early

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promotion in January, for you! But not at the expense of the Ulster

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:12:36.:12:37.

Unionist Party. The short answer is we are maintaining a strong defence

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of our actions in respect of the A5 project and we very much hope that

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will successfully conclude and allow us to move forward. It do you

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think giving the protracted delays in the legal challenge it would be

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appropriate your department to bring forward further projects

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which are already have approval, for example, the A six and the dung

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Devon bypass? Of course, the member will be aware that the works have

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already commenced on a 80 and they are shortly about to commence on

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the A two, which he will know of. I think that I continue to bring

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forward and encourage and instruct my officials to bring forward

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schemes such as the schemes that he has mentioned, in preparation for

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the next round of available finance. I am looking beyond spending the

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money on the A5 that has already been allocated and as Roads

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Minister, I want to see the instruction -- infrastructure

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improved overall. I am keen to bring for projects such as the ones

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mentioned. Will the Minister clarify if he is

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aware of the impact on health and well-being, any delay on the bypass

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:14:15.:14:18.

will have on the local and wider I thank the member. There are no

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vacancies for ministers, by NOAA! - - by be away! There are substantial

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benefits from the Dungiven bypass scheme and not least the

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improvement of air quality. There would be a reduction of something

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like 60% of heavy vehicle traffic currently going through Dungiven.

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For all of those reasons, I am aware of the representations made

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by the members and Limavady Borough Council and others, and it is a

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scheme that would be well worth doing and of course, if the member

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wants to approach the Finance Minister to assist me with that to

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deliver that at the earliest possible stage I would not be

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standing in your way. The Regional Development Minister.

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Take a look at these images. Carrickfergus Castle... Dunluce

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Castle... Carrick-a-rede rope bridge... And the City of Derry's

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historic walls. All examples of Northern Ireland's historic

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environment. Could places like these be used better to help our

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economy grow? This new report thinks so, but the DUP has

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questioned whether the Environment Agency is the right organisation to

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capitalise on the potential. Joining me now, David McIlveen and

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You're one of the members who brought this issue to the floor of

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the chamber. What were due seeking clarification on, or what was your

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motivation for raising this? First of all we have to highlight this

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was a positive story. The reality is, there is over half a billion

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pounds spent on historical environment in Northern Ireland

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every year. For ever �1 that the public sector spends be debt-free

:16:07.:16:17.
:16:17.:16:19.

back. -- for every �1. -- we get ��3 back. The issue we wanted to

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raise, are other areas we can do better? And are there? I do believe

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so. We are at a third of our capabilities per-capita compared to

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the Republic of Ireland, won the eighth compared to Scotland. The

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question has to be asked, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency,

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who are protection rather than promotion, are they the right

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people to do the job? Do you agree with David McIlveen and his

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colleagues, that that part of your environment Aaron Pryor, if you

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want a comet that, could do better? -- the environment empire, if you

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want to call it that. He if we are going to grow the tourism industry,

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a free are going to do that with the jobs and investment that can

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bring and the protection of heritage, we need to do that.

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have argued for more investment in our belts archaeological heritage

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and we will be all the better for it. I am not precious. I am not

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precious about beat Environment Agency taking the work forward. If

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there is a better model and if you go to Scotland you will see that in

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Scotland there is independent bodies to do this work on behalf of

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the Scottish government for the Scottish people. So you would like

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to see a re-Configuration? If that is the best way to bring about

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heritage led development and continuing to protect their

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heritage environment we have, you will have no argument with me. Do

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we as a government, does the Assembly fully recognise that in

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terms of heritage led development there are enormous economic

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opportunities? As David. That compare -- as David points out,

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compared with others in the UK we are behind. Are your hands tied?

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if you look at the Executive's decision in October, more money

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went to tourism initiatives and listed building support. That

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indicates good form about going forward. But, a strategically it is

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required in terms of policy and resources in favour of Heritage

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Labour firmament as a major economic driver going forward. --

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heritage development. Heritage led development, around are natural,

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build, EDO larger gulf and Christian environment, is a huge

:18:59.:19:09.
:19:09.:19:10.

opportunity. -- environmental and Christian environment. If Alex

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Attwood puts something on the table, would he get the backing of the

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DUP? We have to come back to the report, which makes a number of air

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recommendations. Many of those are said to have to implement. For

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example, recommendations about clear signage. The air is a bigger

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issue than that, it is not just signage. If we look at Scotland, I

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think the minister makes a good point. Scotland have had excellent

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system in place. They have a website. It is ultimately

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accountable to the Scottish Executive and that is something we

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have to look at. We have to make sure we are getting things in the

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right order. David McIlveen says we need to look at it, you say it is a

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model you quite like. It sounds like you are singing of the same

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song sheet. What is the problem? is a difference of response. On a

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daily basis since I have been minister I've been trying to drive

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the department in favour of heritage. That is why I have put

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money into archaeology and working with their Heritage Lottery Fund in

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protecting the village next to Dunluce Castle. We can do work

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around better marketing, website, signage and interpretation. We are

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doing all of that. The issue behind it all is a strategic decision to

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invest significantly more resources, time and effort around the Hausa --

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Heritage product. That needs to be agreed round the table. Let's do a

:20:52.:20:57.

million things better but let's recognise that the one thing is

:20:57.:21:02.

investing in heritage led development. Let's see if David

:21:02.:21:07.

McIlveen can leverage money out of the Finance Minister's Perce!

:21:07.:21:12.

Good work done, but more to do. That was the enterprise minister's

:21:13.:21:17.

message during a statement on improving telecoms ever stricter.

:21:17.:21:26.

On mobile phone coverage, Arlene Foster expressed concern about

:21:26.:21:34.

second-generation and looked We need to have a telecoms

:21:34.:21:37.

infrastructure that meets the needs of business to allow them to be

:21:37.:21:41.

competitive and promote their services and products. Over the

:21:41.:21:44.

last three years my department and the Northern Ireland Executive have

:21:45.:21:50.

invested �45 million in improving our telecoms infrastructure and

:21:50.:21:53.

some �21 million has been specifically earmarked to support

:21:53.:21:56.

improvement of networks in rural and remote locations where there is

:21:56.:22:02.

no likelihood of private sector investment. We have provided

:22:02.:22:07.

investments to stimulate super-fast broadband services, given Northern

:22:07.:22:10.

Ireland its first international telecoms link to North America,

:22:10.:22:14.

ensured continued access to a broadband service at reasonable

:22:14.:22:19.

cost for business and residential consumers who are unable to get

:22:19.:22:24.

broadband by a wire, and established a free advisory service

:22:24.:22:26.

for all businesses to help them understand how they can exploit

:22:27.:22:32.

these new services. We are not resting on our laurels are becoming

:22:32.:22:34.

complacent. I know our infrastructure is not perfect and

:22:34.:22:39.

there is more to be done. The Ofcom report indicates there are still

:22:39.:22:47.

some broadband blackspots and Northern Ireland has the lowest

:22:47.:22:52.

take-up of basic broadband services in the UK at 63.9%. This is

:22:52.:22:55.

something I want to address and my department has plans to further

:22:55.:23:01.

improve broadband coverage. A total of �19 of farming -- a total of

:23:01.:23:04.

Mmac 19 million of funding has been earmarked and we will have a

:23:04.:23:09.

consultation to identify areas we need to intervene in. We received

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over 700 responses and they are presently being analysed. On the

:23:13.:23:16.

question of mobile-phone services I'm disappointed that Northern

:23:16.:23:25.

Ireland has at their lowest outdoor coverage of TG mobile services. It

:23:25.:23:32.

is 80%, just above Wales. On 3G, we have the second worst outdoor

:23:32.:23:39.

coverage at 55.9%, just above Wales at 52.4%. This is a priority for me.

:23:39.:23:44.

The mobile market has not remain static and is continuing to evolve.

:23:44.:23:47.

Providers are can tot -- consolidating services and

:23:47.:23:52.

preparing for the introduction of 4G. The switch off on analogue TV

:23:52.:23:58.

last year created space for more or more by traffic and an auction has

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commenced for this space across the UK. -- mobile traffic. I have

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lobbied for Northern Ireland and secured a target of 95% coverage

:24:07.:24:12.

here when licences are awarded. It strikes me that there is an

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opportunity when the G8 Summit comes to Fermanagh and the

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Spotlight falls on the province that we can positively showcase

:24:18.:24:22.

what we have achieved in Northern Ireland. No doubt, demand for

:24:22.:24:25.

communications services will increase in certain areas and were

:24:25.:24:30.

temporary solutions may be deployed for the event, it gives the energy

:24:30.:24:35.

-- industry an opportunity to leave a permanent legacy for the local

:24:35.:24:38.

community's benefit. It is something I would be pleased to see

:24:38.:24:41.

happening and I would encourage the industry to seize that opportunity

:24:41.:24:46.

positively. I would be very disappointed at the figures that

:24:46.:24:52.

the minister has given us about mobile services here in the north.

:24:52.:24:57.

That is very disappointing. Also, the potential arising from the

:24:57.:25:05.

roll-out of 4G services, could be minister specified, I know but she

:25:05.:25:11.

-- but she noted she had lobbied for coverage, is that indoor or

:25:11.:25:14.

outdoor and did the firms themselves during their

:25:14.:25:17.

conversation with the Minister give us any time frame for the roll-out

:25:17.:25:23.

of that project? I thank the chair man for his question. It is

:25:23.:25:26.

disappointing to see big coverage. The second-generation coverage

:25:26.:25:32.

problem arises from the fact that we did not have an there for the

:25:32.:25:35.

national targets set by Ofcom meant they did not have to do as much in

:25:35.:25:41.

Northern Ireland as we would have liked to see. Given that we now

:25:41.:25:45.

have this 4G target it is my understanding that it is an art.

:25:45.:25:52.

Target for 95% coverage. -- out. Target. That will vary in relation

:25:52.:26:01.

to outdoor -- indoors. I am asking be industry to exceed the target.

:26:01.:26:05.

According to the gear and the legacy it will leave for Fermanagh,

:26:05.:26:08.

can I ask for further information about the permanent improvements

:26:08.:26:12.

that will be made to mobile phone and broadband coverage in rural

:26:12.:26:17.

Fermanagh, particularly in rural areas instead of the inevitable

:26:17.:26:25.

temporary benefits to serve world powers? Some of us are delighted to

:26:25.:26:30.

see them coming but he makes a fair point in relation to temporarily

:26:30.:26:34.

insulation -- installations that may be used at that time. I have

:26:34.:26:41.

said to be industry, whether it is everything everywhere are Vodafone

:26:41.:26:46.

-- or Vodafone, I have said to each, take this opportunity to put in

:26:46.:26:51.

legacy infrastructure. The cross- departmental group which has been

:26:51.:26:55.

set up to ensure this event is a success and to deal with these

:26:55.:27:00.

issues knows very well might use in relation to these issues. We have

:27:00.:27:05.

commenced discussion with relevant stakeholders about venues and

:27:05.:27:10.

telecoms providers and indeed, with the national government about

:27:10.:27:18.

Our political correspondent is with me. What would shoot -- should we

:27:18.:27:24.

be looking out for tomorrow? Karen Aim: Answers questions, she

:27:24.:27:30.

will be asked about the perceived lack of recognition of Protestant

:27:30.:27:34.

loyalist culture. -- Karen Woo Coonan. She will also be asked for

:27:34.:27:40.

an update of the world police and fire games. I also understand a

:27:40.:27:46.

senior PSNI officer has been trying to reassure those coming to

:27:46.:27:49.

Northern Ireland for big games? they are not be Olympics but there

:27:49.:27:56.

is a lot riding on this. There are 25,000 people coming. The Assistant

:27:56.:28:00.

Chief Constable, Judith Gillespie, has used her blog to calm any fears,

:28:00.:28:04.

saying she wants to reassure people that the majority of recent

:28:04.:28:11.

protests have been peaceful and disorder has been in small areas.

:28:11.:28:15.

She sees a lot of nervousness and is trying to calm fears. It will be

:28:15.:28:19.

interesting to see what Caral Ni Chuilin says about how things are

:28:19.:28:26.

going. A lot of people very sad to hear about the death of Inez

:28:26.:28:31.

McCormack, the trade unionist and campaigner? The word legend is

:28:32.:28:40.

over-used, but where Inez McCormack is used it applies. -- is concerned.

:28:40.:28:46.

In the 1980s she was always present. We hardly did a story that did not

:28:46.:28:49.

feature her somewhere. She was a veteran trade unionist and a human

:28:49.:28:54.

rights campaigner as well. Her fame spread be on Northern Ireland. She

:28:54.:28:58.

was once played by Meryl Streep on Broadway and last year named by

:28:58.:29:04.

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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