22/04/2013 Stormont Today


22/04/2013

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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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme: An

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exemption for schools from fair employment legislation faces fresh

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opposition from both Unionists and Sinn Fein. How can the any

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political party that claims to be committed to equality, be content

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to oversee what is an overt discrimination in how our teachers

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are recruited? Why is Alex Attwood coming to the defence of the public

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sector? There are Many services better delivered by a private

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organisations. -- public organisations. And Mark Simpson

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joins us with his thoughts on the big political stories of the day.

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All that and more coming up on tonight's programme - but first I'm

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joined by our correspondent, Mark Simpson. This time last week we

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were discussing a growing sense of crisis within the Executive - but

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at the start of a new week, the foundations haven't moved at all.

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No. Sometimes you look at the DUP and Sinn Fein and they remind you

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of an old married couple. They fight all the time yet still stay

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together. Crisis, what crisis? This time last week we were talking

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about relations being at an all- time low. A week later, there has

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been a clear the air of meeting between Martin McGuinness and Peter

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Robinson. If proof were needed, it is pretty firm. At the tail end of

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last week, there was disagreement over the Maze project, even though

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it was granted planning permission. Yes, this is going to be one of

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their next tests. I think this could go to the door of Martin

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McGuinness. The details, at the fixtures and fittings, who is going

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to be the tour guide around the age Block, that negotiation has still

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got to be held. My indication is it my right go to the top. This is all

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about dealing with the past, of course - and today there was a

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contribution to the debate from the Progressive Unionist Party. Yes. We

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have been here before. Another initiative, another attempt to get

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something sorted out in terms of dealing with 30, 40 years of

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conflict. As the Bulls when you talk to parties, you get somebody

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within all of the party's who say that if the deal with the past, you

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are condemned to live in it. -- parties. The DUP have been talking

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about her new initiative, a truth commission, something to look at

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what happened here. There are indications that loyalists and

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Republicans have been talking. When we talked to John Kyle earlier, we

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asked and the extent of those contacts between Republicans and

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loyalists. Conversations have been going on since the days of Long

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Kesh. There has been the dialogue and debate taking place between

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republicanism and loyalism over many years. Within society at large,

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the question of giving with the past has really just dropped off

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the agenda. -- dealing with the past. While we're prepared to talk

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to anybody wants to talk to us, what we say is that it needs to be

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broader than just loyalism and republicanism. It needs to be owned

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by the society as a whole. PUP's John Kyle. And shared

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education was also an issue that was on the agenda today. Another

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big issue which really has not been dealt with in terms of the two

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biggest parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, coming to some sort of

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agreement and overall education policy, whether it is transferred

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tests or shared education. That has been the problem with this report.

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Recommendations about bringing Catholics and Protestants together

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in school. It also raised the issue of what should happen in terms of

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bringing people from all sides of the community in terms of the

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social divide, together again. The pitch did get a little bit weird.

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Education, there has been a bit of a stand-off between the parties.

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Today people are at last talking about education again. Thank you

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for now, Mark. We'll hear more from you later in the programme. The

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long-standing exemption for schools from aspects of fair employment

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legislation is discriminatory and should be abolished, the Assembly

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heard this afternoon. The exemption has been used by the Catholic

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Maintained Sector to require teachers to have a special

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religious education certificate to work in its schools. An Ulster

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Unionist motion calling for its removal was backed by the DUP, Sinn

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Fein and Alliance - leaving the SDLP as the only main party in

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disagreement. This motion should not be something that it conjures

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up via or suspicion. It should be an issue that truly unites this

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house. How can any political party that claims to be committed to

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equality, be content to oversee what is an over discrimination in

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how teachers are recruited? They cannot. It would be rank hypocrisy.

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Mr Speaker, to provide a very quick background to this debate, in order

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to apply for teaching posts in Catholic maintained nursery and

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primary schools, applicants must possess a recognised religious

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education certificate. This certificate is supposed to be sure

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that teachers in Catholic maintained schools have an

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understanding of the Church, its teaching and a way of life, to

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enable them to contribute to the maintenance of the ethos of the

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school, and to assist parents in educating their children in the

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faith according to the principles of Catholic education. That appears

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to be all very noble. But should every single primary school teacher

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in the maintained sector require it? The answer is clearly no. For

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many people, the requirement of primary-school teachers to all the

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certificate which effectively eliminates up to Haka of the

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potential workforce, would sound grossly discriminatory. And that is

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because it is. It was discriminatory within the PSNI and

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it is discriminatory within the education system. To anyone who

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says this is an attack of the ethos of Catholic schools, they are wrong.

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I am well aware of the important role that premier school teachers

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play. The commune, for instance, and the excellent education

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throughout. -- the communion. I do propose that some protection

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remains in plays. In my amendments to the Education Bill I propose up

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to 20% of teaching jobs, the teaching of religion in various

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ways. This one in five will be similar to the case in England.

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While some parties may talk a good game on the vision for a single

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education system, the fact that the DUP leader or any of the other

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three executive leaders could not be bothered to read and respond to

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this debate, shows how insincere they are Willie Halve. -- they

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really are. The Education Minister should realise that his silence on

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this issue is the equivalent of his compliance. It is totally

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unacceptable that any organisation is allowed to discriminate in the

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way in which this practice has been going on for the last 40 years.

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Let's try not to dress it up. Let's not try and hide it. What is at the

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core of this? At the core of this is one sector that once took, by

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all means and methods, ensure that it protects its own sector. I speak

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in support of the motion. I am delighted that the Ulster Unionist

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Party has finally seen fit to introduce terms like equality and

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equal opportunity into their educational discourse. The recent

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decision to formally amend this current policy, that all teachers

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seeking appointment to Catholic maintained primary schools must

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halt his certificate in teaching Catholic Education, is to be

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welcomed. This amendment now enables all teachers irrespective

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of their background, to be considered for Catholic maintained

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schools, subject to a commitment. Given that this House has examined

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the future cohesion of the excess of -- education system, perhaps

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today's Mohsin is important -- motion.... I do think it is

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salience to stress that a any proposed repeal will not be the

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silver but some believe it may be in a dress in the ongoing legacy of

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the sectoral education system or any poll rise workforce. Sinn Fein

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do not propose the continuation. We would call upon the Education

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Minister to take forward proposals under article 71 of the fair

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employment and treatment order following the features Dabbers and

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of the education and schools of the Mac. The SDLP a strong advocate of

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parental choice when it comes to school. Equally we want student

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teachers to be able to apply for jobs in the full range of

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educational sectors, whether it be Catholic, controlled etc. The

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certificate in religious education was never designed to be exclusive

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ticket to employment or to exclude talented teachers. The Catholic

:10:45.:10:55.
:10:55.:11:02.

maintained sector... In addition, at primary level sacramental

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preparation is an important part of religious education. The sacrament

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of reconciliation at Holy Communion Taarabt two stages. I believe it is

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a positive step to encourage those students if it enhances their

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profile and bodies their choices when it comes to applying for work.

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Our goal as the assembly must be to ensure their children across the

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North have access to a first-rate education system and our teachers

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are equipped to deal with a diverse range of pupils in one of Herceptin.

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Hits the SDLP will not be subordinates Mohsan. -- hence the

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The SDLP MLA Sean Rogers. And Mr Rogers is with me now in the studio

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along with the Ulster Unionist Party member, Jeff Dudgeon, who's

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been heavily involved in the campaign to have the legislation

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changed. You are both very welcome. Apart from the SDLP, all the other

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main parties got behind this motion today. How significant was that?

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think it was a dramatic moment. To some extent it was not expected

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that there would be almost unanimity. It is 35 years old. It

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is time that the teachers were not exempted from firms. As long as

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were backed by every party, including Sinn Fein. Were you

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surprised? We were not expecting it, to be asked. I thought it would be

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I had no way job. And the DUP, who backed the thing, had tried to

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amend it. They suggested it was a matter for DUP and Sinn Fein to

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decide privately. Sean Rogers, the SDLP has put itself out on a limb,

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hasn't it? The SDLP, parental preferences very important to the

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SDLP. There is a large demand for Catholic Education, particularly

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primary education. And we need to have teachers properly trained to

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teach in Catholic schools, particularly primary schools.

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is no suggestion that teachers about the certificate and not

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properly trained? Yes, but it is one very important area. It is not

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just the subject of religious education, it is about the

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Christian ethos, sacramental preparation. In terms of sacrament

:13:36.:13:46.
:13:46.:14:08.

preparation, there important years for new teachers. The exception

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applies to every school and every teacher in Northern Ireland. So

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every school will have to adjust their activities and their

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appointment processes. Is that 20% exemption not acceptable? We didn't

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know anything about the 20% until the debate today. You know about it

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now? I know. We will consider it carefully. You have to think in

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small primary schools where you have two or three teachers, the 20% rule

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wouldn't be useful. The problem for your party is if the SDLP says it is

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interested in equality and fairness, you look like you are supporting an

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anomaly in fair employment law? want equality in terms of what our

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parents want for primary schools. Others would say if you want

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equality, you should be supporting this? I would like to see greater

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access for this certificate, that students shouldn't have to do it by

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distant learning. That is the equality in terms of our students

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when they are doing their A-levels. If they want employment in a

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Catholic primary school, they need to have the certificate. That is the

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type of equality I want. Do you not accept that Sean Rogers has a point,

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that this is very important? Well, it is true also in controlled

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schools. The law applies to them. It is not a Catholic law. It is unique

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in Europe. Not a single country in the 27 members of the EU need that

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exception. OK. It is an interesting one. We will see how it turns out.

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Thank you both very much for coming in. Now, three long-running issues

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raised their heads again during First and Deputy First Minister's

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Questions in the Assembly today. The investigation into the Magdalene

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laundries, the jond going struggle to have corporation tax devolved and

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what is being done to encourage economic growth were all discussed.

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The Junior Minister answered questions on the inquiry. We are

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mindful of the pain suffered by many individuals who were resident in the

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Magdalene laundry type institutions here. We sympathise greatly with the

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plight of all who have experienced abuse. Anyone with any information

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on any abuse of any kind should report it to the PSNI and to social

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services for investigation. Anyone who was resident here within the

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Magdalene laundries, or similar institutions as a child between 1922

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and 1995 can go forward to the inquiry into historical

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institutional abuse to relate their experiences. They will be able to

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talk in private about their experiences to two members of the

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inquiry's acknowledgement forum and contact details for the inquiry are

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available on its website. Can the Junior Minister outline how many

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people have come forward to date? The inquiry and investigation is

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independent of office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

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I know the work has been continuing. Many people have already been to see

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the acknowledgement forum and have had the opportunity to tell their

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experiences. In addition, I understand 240 people have come

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forward with complaints to the inquiry and these are being

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currently addressed and looked at to identify locations and the systemic

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similarities. We met with the Prime Minister on 26th March to discuss

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devolution of corporation tax powers to the Executive. The Prime Minister

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indicated that no decision on this would be made until the autumn of

:18:29.:18:34.

2014. You will already be aware of our considerable disappointment that

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a decision on the devolution of these powers has been deferred. We

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briefed the Executive on our discussions on 28th March and our

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disappointment was reiterated and shared by every member of the

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Executive. This was not unexpected but it is regrettable and will delay

:18:51.:18:57.

our efforts to rebalance the local economy. Our meeting was adjourned

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so consideration could be given to an economic package for Northern

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Ireland. The aim would be to assist our economy through encouraging

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private sector growth. We are presently working with the United

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Kingdom Government on the details of this economic package which would

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use the economic levers open to the Northern Ireland Executive and the

:19:17.:19:20.

UK Government. We would hope to be able to resume our meeting with the

:19:20.:19:24.

Prime Minister and agree a formal package in the coming weeks. As far

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as the announcement that they would take a decision by 2014, we want to

:19:31.:19:35.

be clear that not only will a decision be taken in the autumn of

:19:35.:19:43.

2014, but that it is capable of being implemented and legislated for

:19:43.:19:46.

before they entered that parliamentary term. The Executive

:19:46.:19:50.

has taken the important step of making the economy a top priority in

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its programme for Government. We are committed to growing a sustainable

:19:59.:20:07.

economy and and investing in the future. We must rebuild the labour

:20:07.:20:11.

market and rebalance the economy to improve the wealth and living

:20:11.:20:14.

standards of everyone. Our programme for Government sets out the main

:20:14.:20:19.

actions. We are committed to increasing the number of jobs,

:20:19.:20:24.

increasing value of exports, increasing research and development,

:20:24.:20:29.

providing rate relief, eliminating IPD, investing in social enterprise

:20:29.:20:34.

growth, supporting creative industries, regenerating former

:20:34.:20:39.

military sites, supporting business, improving skills attracting tourism,

:20:39.:20:44.

increasing uptake in stem subjects and implementing a strategy to

:20:44.:20:49.

address economic in activity. First Minister. The Environment

:20:49.:20:53.

Minister has given his early assessment of the success of the new

:20:53.:20:58.

plastic bag levy. Mr Attwood said the feedback he's received from

:20:59.:21:03.

retailers has been positive so far. Before that, he outlined how the

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extra revenue will be used. When the single use plastic bag levy was

:21:12.:21:17.

introduced, the administrative costs, which will be around �600,000

:21:17.:21:26.

a year, with those jobs being located in the city of Derry, the

:21:26.:21:32.

residue monies that come in will go to environmental causes and what

:21:32.:21:39.

will they be? My ambition will be to have a river restoration fund. That

:21:39.:21:45.

will be a sustainability and innovation fund and more money to

:21:45.:21:52.

rethink waste. As a levy, 80% of the money will go out in terms of

:21:52.:21:58.

intervention to support the economy, especially at community levels.

:21:58.:22:03.

there any suggestion that proposed savings that the administration

:22:04.:22:10.

costs would be for the single-use bag levy? Well, there was a

:22:10.:22:18.

suggestion within the department initially that the management of the

:22:18.:22:22.

single-use bag levy should be administered by a third party

:22:22.:22:26.

private organisation. I proposed that proposal. Why? The costs would

:22:26.:22:33.

have been significantly more. There are many services better delivered

:22:33.:22:36.

by public organisations than private organisations. People should not

:22:36.:22:41.

embrace the private when there is a better public model. There is a

:22:41.:22:50.

better public model when it comes to the carrier bag levy. The costs of

:22:50.:22:54.

�600,000 a year, given the environmental benefits of this

:22:54.:23:02.

proposal, and given the small income streams that will go back to the

:23:02.:23:05.

environmental organisations. I don't think that that is a highly

:23:05.:23:11.

significant amount of money for bringing about a highly significant

:23:11.:23:21.
:23:21.:23:22.

change in environmental practice. Thank you. Early as it may be on

:23:22.:23:29.

feedback, whether it be positive or otherwise, have you had any feedback

:23:29.:23:35.

at all from the shop owners? Yes, I have, of course. I have had feedback

:23:35.:23:39.

and I think more and more that the retail industry is more and more

:23:39.:23:43.

recognising that this was the right time for this right measure. My

:23:43.:23:51.

sense, very strongly, is that the citizens and the consumer were well

:23:51.:23:57.

ahead of where some of the politics and the law was in this regard, that

:23:57.:24:02.

people had been conditioned by the plastic bag levy in the Republic of

:24:02.:24:07.

Ireland to begin to adjust their behaviour. There has been

:24:07.:24:10.

enthusiastic welcoming and embrace for the levy in the North from the

:24:10.:24:18.

consumers. Yes, there were some questions raised in respect of the

:24:18.:24:23.

business side. (A), because we were innovative of how we rolled this out

:24:23.:24:29.

and (b) because there were some very good business leaders who said the

:24:29.:24:34.

Northern Ireland Association of Small news agencies said - this is

:24:34.:24:40.

nearly verbatim - said this would reduce costs to the local newsagent

:24:40.:24:44.

without having any disproportionate increase in terms of the management

:24:44.:24:50.

and bureaucracy. That was a wise - those were wise words and that has

:24:50.:24:53.

been widely recognised. Environment Minister had a busy

:24:53.:24:57.

afternoon. He remained on his feet to deliver a statement on local

:24:57.:25:02.

government reform. It's been years in the making. When can we expect

:25:02.:25:08.

change to happen? The reform is one of the fundamental building blocks

:25:08.:25:10.

of streamlining public administration, a process started

:25:10.:25:15.

some years ago. It has produced change in the administration of the

:25:15.:25:18.

health sector and the education sector is also under going major

:25:18.:25:23.

change. I believe Northern Ireland does reform well, even if too slowly

:25:23.:25:29.

and in some places, with reluctance. The local government reform

:25:29.:25:33.

programme is arguably the most complex policy issue before the

:25:33.:25:39.

Assembly today. As I indicated in Question Time, whilst there have

:25:39.:25:44.

been many examples where the number of councils may have been reduced in

:25:44.:25:49.

a jurisdiction, it is not often the case that at the same time as

:25:49.:25:54.

merging councils you have the transfer of significant function.

:25:54.:25:57.

After extended negotiations, I can report that on 11th April the

:25:57.:26:01.

Executive agreed a package of functions which will transfer

:26:01.:26:09.

through to legal councils. -- to 11 councils. My own department will

:26:09.:26:19.
:26:19.:26:20.

transfer local operational planning. DRD is transferring off-street

:26:20.:26:25.

parking except park-and-ride. DSD is transferring the following areas of

:26:25.:26:33.

urban regeneration. Functions associated with physical development

:26:33.:26:40.

- and members will note the statement issued by the DSD Minister

:26:40.:26:47.

in that regard today. Some community development programmes for the

:26:47.:26:50.

voluntary and community sector. Now the package of functions is agreed,

:26:50.:26:54.

it is important we move to confirm the number of staff transferring and

:26:54.:26:57.

the quantum of funding. In confirming these details, the

:26:57.:27:01.

Minister will have regard to the principle agreed by the previous

:27:01.:27:05.

Executive. Functions without transfer from central to local

:27:05.:27:08.

government should be fit for purpose, sufficiently funded and

:27:08.:27:14.

cost neutral to the ratepayer at the point of transfer. The recent

:27:14.:27:24.
:27:24.:27:25.

Executive funding decision means council through low interest loans

:27:25.:27:33.

can help ensure reform is fully-funded. Mark Simpson is here

:27:33.:27:37.

with a few final thoughts. The new Principal Deputy Speaker Mitchel

:27:37.:27:41.

McLaughlin was in the chair for that debate? It was always going to

:27:41.:27:48.

happen. Mitchel McLaughlin was always going to become a speaker of

:27:48.:27:52.

some sort. For those of us that covered the peace process

:27:52.:27:59.

negotiations here at Stormont, he was always seen by Sinn Fein as Mr

:27:59.:28:05.

Safe Pair of Hands. When something controversial was going on, they

:28:05.:28:09.

would send Mitchel McLaughlin out, rather than Gerry Adams or Martin

:28:09.:28:15.

McGuinness. He was seen as the night watchman. When we looked at Mitchel

:28:15.:28:22.

McLaughlin in those days, we knew he wouldn't be a Minister - he was des

:28:22.:28:28.

tinned for the Speaker's -- destined for the Speaker's chair. A lot of

:28:28.:28:32.

people were surprised when ever that was mentioned last week, his age.

:28:32.:28:36.

This was your first day following proceedings specifically in the

:28:36.:28:39.

Chamber for quite some time. How do you think proceedings compare to

:28:40.:28:45.

what they were like a decade-and-a-half ago? One thing has

:28:45.:28:52.

changed. Even when I was here in the days of David Trimble as First

:28:52.:28:56.

Minister, there was always this issue with the Chamber not being

:28:56.:29:00.

lively enough, not making enough news, not being as topical as it

:29:00.:29:05.

could be. That is still a problem. The one thing that I have noticed is

:29:05.:29:10.

the barriers coming down between the parties. Somebody said to me the day

:29:10.:29:14.

power-sharing started, "We don't need to like each other to work with

:29:14.:29:18.

each other." I'm detecting more across the big divide people in

:29:18.:29:21.

different parties are starting to like each other. It is nice to have

:29:21.:29:27.

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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