21/02/2012 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Welcome to Stormont Today. We often criticise our MLAs fought lack of


progress on real issues. Today they stepped up to the mark and called


for action on how we deal with organ donation. It is inappropriate


to assume that you have consent to remove organs. At the same time, I


am very clear that if something happens to me, I want to give


others the opportunity to live. it was a very personal issue for


one MLA. When I looked up and saw Mark up in the gallery, I saw, -- I


thought, don't cry. I have been nothing forward to this for so long.


Perish the thought of criticising the Executive in a TV studio.


most productive dialogue and debate is that that takes place not in


front of the television cameras but behind the scenes. What difference


will this actually make? We are totally on behalf of the Ulster


Wildlife Trust and also the Marine Task Force. We are really pleased


that the minister is finally bringing the bill for it in order


to get it to move forward. What difference will it make in real


terms? What will be protected that cannot be protected without


The chance to have marine planning to take part so all industries can


work together to have a way to move forward and have a vision for the


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 58 seconds


Stay with us. Plenty more to talk about. Do we need a CCTV in our


slaughter houses? What is the Department of Agriculture Dearing


to get bored -- better of broadband connections? All of the answers


from a Agriculture Minister in a moment.


First, the first and deputy first ministers try to encourage


investment this year by jetting off to foreign shores. Before that,


progress to report on the C S I strategy, the one that is meant to


improve committee relations. parties must play their part. This


is a very important strategy for our Executive. We must focus on the


work ahead to finalise the strategy soon. I thank the First Minister


for his response. I would like to acknowledge the good work that is


being done. In relation to the culture of language, can the Deputy


First Minister tell us how having two a separate language strategies


instead of one fully comprehensive strategy can contribute to the


promotion of a C S I to which we can all support? I think they


member will be well aware that the reason for that has historical


roots in agreements that were made previously. That is as far back as


1998. There is an opportunity in the course of the discussions that


are taking place at the moment between the five political parties


to air or of the issues. I would be fairly confident that the way in


which these five parties are working, I understand there will be


a five -- a further meeting later this afternoon, and I hope that


will produce a successful conclusion to many of these


difficult issues that I think many people thought would be beyond us


in terms of resolution. I work on the basis that these things can be


resolved that we can reach agreement. Hopefully it can be an


agreement that all parties can sign up to. Any particular issue in


relation to language that is of a concern to the member, I would


advise them to raise that through the alliance representative. While


the finish line might be in sight, another member wanted to know what


was causing the delay. I think the decision we have made to bring


together all of the parties given that some of the parties were at


odds at was the initial decision and sensible. It is clear in the


course of those discussions that there are a number of issues that


create difficulties and problems. Flags are one of them as an example.


I think what we have to do is recognise now back to the body has


been in existence since September last year. It is continuing with


its work. The vibes that are coming out are encouraging. I would hope


that we will see a successful outcome sooner rather than later. I


know also that there's a temptation that members jump into television


studios to debate these particular issues. I have always found as


someone who has been involved why negotiations for 20 years that the


most productive dialogue and debate is that which takes place not in


front of the television cameras but behind the scenes. Then there was


news of a whistle-stop Investment off. Next month we will travel to


the United States and Canada to continue to promote our economic


strategies at the highest levels of the Obama administration. We plan


to meet the Canadian Prime Minister to build on our strong historical


cultural and economic links. We also planned to travel to the


economic power houses of India and the Emirates do meet existing and


potential investors and build trade links insuring local firms have all


possible assistant and development for export markets. The SDLP wanted


to know when corporation tax would be devolved? If all of the parties


in the house are in agreement to bring about a reduction in council


tax and I think that during the cause of our visits to the United


States it is clear from speaking to potential investors that if we were


to have the devolution powers transferred to us, that would have


a huge impact on attracting foreign investment. It is a key priority.


It is a work-in-progress. There are meetings taking place. Officials


are consistent -- consistently working with the Treasury and


others to ensure that we have a decision some time this year.


agriculture and farmers are high take these days and need broadband


connection. To underline my connection -- commitment, I have


announced a project in order to target rural areas and the areas


that we would deem hot spots in terms of only being able to get


under two megabytes of lines. We have started to get a process to


get more businesses including farmers to connect to broadband but


this will only work if they can access broadband. The DUP wanted to


know if the minister had plans to introduce compulsory CCTV in


slaughter houses. Some already have CCTV installed. There are a further


two plants that have CCTV in place. There are five remaining plants


which are smaller. I know that I did meet with Animal Aid


campaigners last year when she discussed the implementation of


CCTV in slaughterhouses. I made the point that I would consider it and


keep it under review if I felt it was necessary. I know other


legislators are looking at the issue. They do not have any plans


in the south to bring in compulsory CCTV. I know that in Britain there


have been a number of highly publicised cases but I think you


have to that at it in a different context because we are very local


here. We have a vet in every slaughterhouse. At this stage, I'm


not convinced of the need for CCTV. Anglers may be banned from catching


wild look -- wild Atlantic salmon in an attempt to address the


declining fish stocks. The Culture Minister was responding to an


Ulster Unionist demand for an action plan for the endangered fish.


After consider rock -- after a consideration of the available data,


it has been concluded that eight continued commercial exploitation


of wild Atlantic salmon is currently unobtainable. Authorising


such exploitation would be inconsistent with the Department's


applications under the habitats directive. This could lead to


significant fines being imposed by the European Union. If this finds


were levied, they would have a real lamplight not just on our fisheries


but on wider public services. -- if these fines were levied they would


have a real impact. Salmon stocks need to be sustainable for the sake


of salmon and to avoid cuts in our public services. I have called on


stakeholders to support their voluntary conservation measure for


2012. We have asked for voluntary cessation this year. To help us


prepare gaps in legislation -- repair gaps in legislation, we need


to take this forward. It may also include not catching salmon at all.


We need to be clear beyond this what we are intending to do. We


will make a decision within the next few days. A decision is


imminent. The minister said a lot but not quite enough to know


exactly what is going to happen. Taking her. About asking fishermen


not to look catch the salmon on a voluntary basis. Is that going far


enough? It really does depend if the fishermen take that up. The


problem is, those salmon are protected because they do not just


come from Northern Irish waters, they come from Irish waters as well


where they are protected in an area similar to a locked under the


Special Area of Conservation. That means that we could be facing fines


as the minister said. She needs to think about the fact that you need


to take the precautionary never and -- measure and you need to protect


the salmon. I am speaking to the Ulster angling group and they have


said that for a catch and release they have a 97% rate of the salmon


surviving and going back out to sea when they catch and release.


anglers are saying it is not the licensed anger is doing what they


should not be doing? There will be some anglers who were taking the


salmon. However, if they make it mandatory, that means that there


will only be catch and release and that will have benefits for


Northern Ireland's tourism and hopefully it will include not


just... It will be part of the future strategic plan. How can you


believe something like that given the vast stretch of water? This is


part of the problem. It is not just a matter for the Department of


Culture and leisure. It is wider than that. As the minister


mentioned, the Department of Justice may have to get involved.


This is one of those factors that is why as part that is why as part


of the marine pass false there is a marine... This was streamline his


actions. Lots more still to be sorted. Thank you very much. Could


reddest in to be an organ donor soon be a thing of the past? --


could registering. After a lengthy debate, members agreed a review was


We are duty bound to explore the number of organ transplant people


in Northern Ireland. Organ donation is stressed to be a UK service. Co-


ordination between locally based doctors and co-ordinators across


the UK. I would urge further Coe ordination and co-operation with


Dublin government on this issue, also. I commend the Minister on his


attitude and actions with regard to north/south co-operation on


healthcare issues. The well shall government are currently


undertaking an approach based on a soft optout system, which sees the


removal and use of organs and tissues as permissible unless the


deceased has made their objection to this clear during their lifetime.


Presumed consent. Now is the time for Northern Ireland to take a


similar investigative approach to such options. I would be all in


favour of organ donation. I'm not in that position where a loved one


of my has just died. I think when we need look at the opt in and opt


out issue we need to look at the education and how we encourage


people at such a vulnerable time in their lives that being involved in


organ donation gives the gift of life or, indeed, the gift gift of a


better life for others out there. We should, of course, encourage


those who wish to do so to carry a done ar card. As other members have


said, encourage them to talk to their loved ones so they know what


those individual's wishes are in the event of death. I would


encourage the minister to examine how to encourage more people to get


on the donor register. Also to investigate whether or not the


system at present is efficient enough in ensuring we get a


translation from potential organ donations to be brought to the


transplant stage. I do, however, have a number of concerns about


moving towards a model of presumed consent and wish to focus my


remarks on those today. My colleague, Mr Dunne, had said it's


about a competing argument about whether or not it's a gift. I


listened to the moving speech from Mrs Dobson about the gift of life


and whether it's a duty. A system of opt-out raises questions about


the power and role of the state over the individual. One would have


thought some members would have cherished the principles of the


Magna Carter and limitations of the state over the individual and more


resistance to moving towards the position where the state assumes


ownership of a person's organs. Presumed consent is not actual


consent. I think that is very important that we take note of that


today. We heard the issue about not taking something that doesn't


belong to you. I believe that that is right. It's ain propiate to


assume you have con stopbt remove organs from someone's body. At the


same time, I'm very clear that, if something happens to me, I want to


give others the opportunity to live. Joining us now James We wills


Deputy Chair of the Health Economy. We talked about organ donation in


Northern Ireland over the past number of years. Does this take any


further forward? It does because we've now sounded out the views on


Assembly members on possible changes. Today was an excellent


debate. The whips weren't involved today. People had a free vote and


could speak as they wanted to. It was interesting to see the


diversity of opinion. It's clear we need more organ donors we are


committed to taking steps to ensure it's happening. In terms of opting-


out or having a new system there were dissenting voices on your side


of the House today? There was the. The opting-out we are looking for,


you want to opt-out you have to register. Your family have the


final say. That is a safeguard. Whether that has been introduced in


Spain there has been a dramatic increase in the number of organs.


There are still, for instance, last year, 17 people who died in


Northern Ireland because there were no organs available. That is a


tragedy. That has to be avoided if at all possible. A big figure


mention in the chamber this afternoon, 2 people in Northern


Ireland currently waiting on some form of transplant? Sadly, people


are dying every week in Northern Ireland who have organs that could


be used to save the lives of those people. They can't be used because


there is no consent. That is the issue we are trying it get around.


One MLA spoke from personal experience on organ donation today,


Jo-Anne Dobson's son Mark was 15 when had a kidney transplant.


found it emotion. When I saw Mark in the gallery I thought, "don't


cry now". It's a debate I have been looking forward to for so long. One


I enjoyed taking part in. Mark, tell us about what happened to you


then when you were 13, is that right? I had... I went into renal


figure at 13 and my kidney transplant at 15. If somebody told


me three years ago that I'd of been up and leading a healthy lifestyle


because of somebody Coe donating me a kidney, I would never of believed.


It the ultimate gift to think that I'm able to lead healthy lifestyle


now. Before you were given the transplant, how did it impact your


life? What were you able to do and what weren't you able to do?


would have been able to go to school and all, I wouldn't have


much energy or anything. I would of fallen asleep easy. I wouldn't have


been able to do much fitness or walking or stuff like that. What


was it like. Your mum spoke about waiting for the transplant, waiting


for getting a kidney. What was that like for you? It was very emotional.


I remember my mum coming into me at 5.30 am saying, "we've got a call


from the hospital. You have to be down by 8.00 am to get the kidney".


My operation didn't take place until midnight because all the


airports were closed and all. There was doubt the kidney would get


there. I remembered coming up to into theatre and waking up and was


a couple of hours later on my phone to my granny and she couldn't


believe I was already speaking. Amazing for a familiar family to go


through something like this. What was it like from your point of view


as mum? Your life is on hold when you are dealing with renal failure


and living with it every day. Normal family life is out of the


window. When you get that call, as Mark said, in the middle of the


night, nothing prepares you for that call that a suitable kidney


can be found. As Mark said we travelled down. We waited, to the


children's hospital, we waited 12 hours on the kidney. It was held up


with the snow in the UK. A surreal experience. We thank every day the


person that we will never know or meet for giving Mark the ultimate


gift. A happy illustration of what can happen. Not everyone is so


lucky? That was the highlight of the debate, Jo-Anne Dobson's


contribution. We heard testimonys from other constituents who are on


that list and who didn't get the phone call. Of course, we heard of


examples who died whilst waiting on the list. That was very sad. Why do


you think the Minister hasn't gone further? The Minister today wanted


to take soundings as to people's views, MLAs views on it. Then he


will make a decision. There are many things we can do already


without going to the opt-out clause. We haven't done those. We need to


improve our present delivery. If that works we may need oment-out


with tpwroing demand we may have to move that that situation eventually.


What could we do now? 40% of those with kidney donor cards, when they


passe way their relatives do not give permission for the organ to be


removed. In other parts of the world that is a much lower figure.


We have to identify why is that happening. Why do people pull back


at that stage? Would better training of staff help us to ensure


that we maximise organs available at that stage. It's difficult


because the opt-out could surely give rise to more court cases as


well because people could then say, step in at that stage and relatives


say, no, I don't want this to happen? If the relatives on opt-out


could stop it happening. There is unlikely to be a court case. The


experience in 22 countries have indicated that opt-out works. It


increases the numbers of people available for kidney or other organ


transplants. It's important that you advertise there is an opt-tout


give those who have a conscious about it, which is a small number


of people, a chance to register. If they register there is no chance of


their organ being taken for any purpose. The agriculture Minister


is to announce a major investment to tackle rural poverty tomorrow.


16 million will be spent helping farmers, young people and older


people. I caught up with Michelle O'Neill and asked her to explain


what difference she hopes the money will make. Looking at areas of


people who live in rural communities who are left


disadvantaged as a result of that. People who are living in fuel


poverty. People who are isolated and aren't able to access maybe


transport or health checks and all that type of thing that, I suppose,


goes part and parcel of living in a rural community. Some of the


initiatives that I will be launching tomorrow include a rural


challenge fund. It's, basically, like a small grants programme, for


worthy projects out there in the rural communities that work with


the local people. They are new initiatives that people are very


keen and very interested in, particularly around a bore well


scheme. People who can't get access to mains water. There is a project


I will take forward with the Department of Regional Development,


they get access to a well for their own water which currently they


don't. People will find it strange that people don't have access to


mains water. Is there a sense that people in rural communities have


been harder hit by the recession than those in cities? People in


rural communities are isolated by geography, where they live. Yes, I


think, in terms of cutbacks, sometimes the rural services can be


the services that are impacted upon. Some of the other good examples


that I'd like to share with you are around working with young people.


Our rural communities have lots of young people going to Australia,


America, all different places for work. We find that the future of


those rural communities is, obviously, in jeopardy. We are


trying to work with young people. One of the project is a young


employability programmes. Helping them to develop core skills and


working with businesses that will help them build up confidence again.


Achieve their core skill recognition and hopefully, in turn,


help them to get into work if they are lucky enough to find work in


their local area. That has been in the headlines here and across the


water over the past couple of days, is that something different from


steps to work? Is it something that will give people a chance to get


experience, but still earn some money? The key to all of these


project is that it's working with other departments and other


agencies. In terms of the youth and employability it's working with


local industry and businesses. Maybe they are involved with


talking to young people saying, this is what we are looking for


when we are trying to recruit young people, and helping them in


conjunction junction with our department in developing core


skills that they need. It's a werty project and something that we hope


to attract a number of young people to get on board. Consultation on


prot gram for government ends tomorrow. Sinn Fein's Willie Clarke


announced today he is stepping down from his Assembly seat. It's not a


total surprise. He told the Politics Show last June that he


intended to give up one of those jobs. He indicated at the time it


would probably the council post. This morge morning, Sinn Fein did


confirm he would be stepping down around Easter. Some people would


say it's odd to want the council or the glamour of Stormont, there is


less money in councils. This is what he said. Anyone in Sinn Fein


is not involved in it with money. That is clear with our policy.


Being involved in community initiatives, that is why I got


involved in politics. That is why I want to remain in local government.


His successor could be in place by next month. Any idea who it might


be? Sinn Fein say they have to have a selection convention. There is


speculation that one possible would be Naomi Bailey. She is a Queen's


University graduate and she stood in the election alongside Willie


Clarke last year. She may be the ideal candidate. We will see who


else comes forward. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday but it's arn an important


day for the draft programme for government? It ends tomorrow at


5.00pm. If you have strong views on the promises made on that programme


for government you can e-mail or get your views in by tomorrow.


final thought from you, Jade. What is happening with Strangford Lough?


As far as Strangford Lough is going, that has been one ever our key


drives with the Ulster Wildlife Trust at the moment. We are


awaiting Europe's decision on what steps the department of agriculture


and the Department of Environment should take next to avoid a massive


fine. I'm hoping both departments will work together to sort this out


rather than it being a talking shop, that we get action to take this


forward and protect the jewel in our crown. There has been talk of a


lack of communication between the two departments? It's similar to


the Anglican complaint. Departments need to work together in order to


solve these big issues which are really important for Northern


Ireland's marine future. What about the Marine Bill then, when are you


hoping to see that come into force? Well, I have been told it can take


up to a year to come into force. I think before I rush to say that we


want it right now, I would like to see a copy of the Bill in order to


see this it is fit for purpose. That it will protect our


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.