23/01/2012 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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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. As the Department of Health


confirms, another baby is being treated for what appears to be


pseudamonis in Wales. We have identified what are a number of


potential problems and will be getting a report back tomorrow in


terms of the potential for it to come from a water source water.


That has been the case elsewhere. It used to lead to catcalls if from


Unionists. Now it just makes them laugh. What's so funny? It is the


right of any nation to have a mechanism in place to decide their


future, and can he assure me that we're still in line for a united


Ireland in 2016? LAUGHTER


With me throughout, Oliver Wilkinson from the great Healing


Through Remembering. Now, the past is a topic that comes


up time and again here on the Hill. Oliver Wilkinson is from the


organisation Healing Through Remembering. Tell us what you do.


We're a voluntary organisation, been in existence about ten years,


put simply, our purpose is to discuss and debate issues of how to


deal with our past. Is it more than a talking shop? What are you hoping


to achieve? Well, we want more and more people to do the kinds of


things that the members of our organisation are doing, which is to


have very difficult conversations about contentious issues that


haven't been discussed in the past in the hope that over time we can


ensure that we learn from our past. We can assist and support our


elected politicians in determining what's best for our future, and for


our children or our grandchildren we can have a much more peaceful


outcome. What do you think you have achieved in the ten years you have


been in existence? Perhaps the most important thing is we have brought


together approximately a hundred people now who come from very


different backgrounds and who have been able to have the kind of


conversations that simply weren't possible ten years ago. We have


made contacts with our political and community leaders right across


Northern Ireland and further afield. We have both learnt from them and


helped them to see what we're doing they can do in a similar way, and


in that way we can begin a conversation which generates over


time and makes it possible, as I say, for those difficult


conversations that we have avoided and neglected, the Seamus Hainny


business of "Whatever say, say nothing" becomes "whatever you say,


say something." Thank you. If you fancy being the next Police


Ombudsman, sorry, you have missed the deadline. The post was


advertised in December to replace Al Hutchinson. A short list is


being drawn up for intervurs in February. In the interim, there is


an interim ombudsman. Here is highlights from today's questions.


We start with that policing issue. Who was consulted on an issue to


appoint an interim ombudsman? issue of the interim ombudsman


really is the responsibility of the Department of Justice. It's their


responsibility to ensure the continuity of the functions of the


office of Police Ombudsman. On January 17, the outgoing Police


Ombudsman announced his intention to delegate his statutory functions


to appropriate levels within his office pending appointment of a new


Police Ombudsman. He say announced that he did that in an attempt to


wait until the new appointment. This is the third position he's -


his latest position is on the basis of legal advice which he has


received. His legal advice differs from that provided by the Attorney


General to the dodge dodge which we have seen and con-- Department of


Justice which we have seen and confirmed that the office of the


Police Ombudsman can continue to work. It has caused a stir on this


side of the Channel, but what about our own border? I thank the Deputy


First Minister for His very comprehensive reply. Does he agree


with me it is the right of any nation to have a mechanism in place


to decide their future, and can he assure me that we're still in line


for a united Ireland in 2016? LAUGHTER




I have to leave - a supplemented question needs to relate to the


original item. This has taken some eggs...


I suppose a lot of people will be wondering what the member in the


past has done for a united Ireland. Strip searching is under review, as


the Justice Minister revealed. Significant progress has been made


with regard to the implementation of recommendation 8 of the prison


review team. Prison officials conducted a review of both the


capabilityabilities and limitations of full body scanners. This review


is complete. I received a copy last week, and following discussions


with officials, I'll give considerations to the findings of


whether there is any scope for a pilot for alternative search


capabilitys in prison establishments. Thank you very much.


Can I thank the Minister for His answer? Will he give a commitment


if the technology which he is appraising at present takes us to a


full body search - will he implement it? I can certainly


assure the House that if it is possible to find a technology which


provides greater dignity for prisoners and staff whilst


maintaining the absolute security of prison establishments dealing


with the issue of contra band being smuggled in or out, I and the


Prison Service will be willing to move. We have already heard the


Speaker's comments on supplementary questions that grow legs. It seems


it's catching. The Minister will be aware that Colin Duffy was


campaigning on this issue at the weekend. Does the Minister want to


comment on his release from custody? And what is he doing to


reveal how the criminal justice system manage that particular case?


THE SPEAKER: Order. Order. A supplementary question. Our members


have an imaginaryry mind around all of this, and certainly the


supplementary commission has very little to do with the original


question. Can I ask the Justice Minister does that indicate he has


abandoned futile attempts to change the badge, the name and the symbols


of Her Majesty's Prison Service? THE SPEAKER: Order. Order once


again. Once again, the member knows - he knows so well he's totally out


of order. The question raised to the Minister has absolutely nothing


to do with the original question. Let us move on.


Now, the Health Minister has told the Assembly he hopes to update the


House fully on the ongoing investigation into the outbreak of


skeudomonis tomorrow. Three babies have died since the outbreak in


January and another is being treated for the infection.


All necessary precautions are being taken to avoid the spread of


infection. Biodecontamination of the Intensive Care part of the


neonatal unit at the hospital is complete. The affected area in the


hospital will remain closed while a team of specialists continues to


attempt to identify the most likely source of the infection. All other


maternity sources and wards of the Royal Jubilee Hospital are fully


operational and working as normal. Expectant mothers should attend


their appointments as normal. This can be found in natural


environments in food and water. Infections are normally seen in


immunocompromised patients. These outbreaks have occurred throughout


the world as these infections are mainly immunocompromised. The Trust


continues to monitor the situation and a teleconference is in progress


at present. This is an evolving situation. Further updates will be


issued. We have identified a number of potential problems. And we will


be getting a report back tomorrow, all being well, in terms of the


potential for it to come from a water-sourced problem, and that has


been the case in all the outbreaks of pseudomosni elsewhere. We can't


at this stage say that's the cause of the problem, but it's certainly


one of the areas being investigated. Being a microorganisimism, this can


leave in very clean environments, and obviously the whole issue of


hand hygiene is absolutely critical not just for staff but also those


visiting these facilities. I would urge people to whatever hospital


facility they're visiting to actually use best practising as set


out by the hospitals because we need to ensure that hospital-


acquired infections are reduced and very often that can be members of


the public who introduce those infections to the facilities. In


terms of this particular facility, we'll continue to identify where


this problem has come from. Hopefully, we'll get to the nub of


it in the future. We're facing big Fiennes over management of


Strangford Lock. The wildlife trust has complained.


The Minister joins me now. What sort of fines are we talking about,


what sort of figures? Hopefully, there will be no fines, but if we


were to find ourselves on the wrong side of the fraction, then the


fines would start at around �7 million. That's why I have made it


my purpose since I became Minister six or seven months ago to build a


much moor robust case about how we're going to deal with the issue


of the horse mussels in Strangford Lock, how we're going to protect it


going forward, how we're going to avoid further EU fractions against


us, and how we're going to further develop that resource, unique in


the scale of the protections it has. Some of the criticism has been that


they haven't been able to get the department of agriculture to play


ball. What's going on? There is no doubt in my point of view if they


were in the same room or if indeed the interests, environment,


agriculture and fishery were represented through the Marine


Organisation Association that manage the loch. These tensions


that have existed... You have the same executive table... Yes, but


departments are departments, and as we know, sometimes they don't join


up very well. Sometimes in the past there have been tensions between


those who want to protect the environment and who may want to


protect fishery or agricultural interests. In the last six months,


I think both departments have been working a lot better in getting a


better action plan in order to better deal with the issue of


infraction on the one hand and to better protect these very valuable


mussel reefs we have in Strangford loch in order to sustain that area


of the world and in order to use it in a positive way going forward.


has the fishing industry been protected at the expense of the


future survival of the lock? If you were to look at it over the last 20


years, you conclude no, because trawling has been banned from the


loch. That wasn't in the interests of the fishing industry as they saw


it. Last year two areas of Strangford Loch became no-fish


zones. There are two further areas that will be no-fish zones. If you


look at the direction, more and more, there is less and less


fishing going on in the loch, partly because there is less fish


and partly because the Government has been more robust in stopping


fishing because of the damage that has been caused to the reefs, but


there is more that we need to do, and I am hoping that the EU


authorities when they meet with my officials tomorrow will see there


is a new phase of management of the loch to protect the mussels on the


one hand, to restore on the other and to ensure that going forward


the risk of fines is limited, the protection of the environment is


secured and that the fishermen have For the first debate of the day was


brought by an unknown. First she had warm wishes for for her fellow


members. I wish you all a happy Chinese new year. The eradication


of child poverty comes up frequently in the Chamber but some


MLAs appeared irritated by the wording of the motion today. Its


stated that a quarter of children here live in poverty and called for


the education minister to target extra resources at them. The policy


has been exposed totally that grammar-schools accept pupils on


the basis of their academic ability. The report says that their chances


are dictated by the affluence of where they are instead of their


actual ability. There are swathes of the north where academic


selection is no longer used and in some grammar-schools it has been


dropped altogether. Those schools are still of a high quality and


continued to deliver for the students. To characterise the Child


poverty levels is not just strictly accurate in that sense, I would


refer members to report where a drop in absolute child poverty


levels was dramatic. I'm not making any particular party political


point, but clearly something was done at that time which was right


and which was impressive. And we as an Assembly need to examine the


work of our predecessors at that time and see what different


circumstances exist today. As the proposer of this motion, instead of


getting up and addressing the core issues of the heart of these


proposals, taking another opportunity to have a go at our


educational system, namely the grammar school. Pin it on whoever


you like, but do not give any claim to the department that happen to


have control over education for the past five years. It is the fault of


everyone else. It is regrettable that the tone and content of what


he started his proposals with were way off the Mark. Where there was a


pupil - teacher ratio of the right side of 30 pupils, there is now the


absolute certainty of a pupil - teacher ratio on the wrong side of


30 pupils. So the sad reality of life today in our region for


children in primary schools from the most deprived backgrounds is


that things are worse today than they wear last year. And the


unfortunate sad consequence of where we are with our budgeting


process is that they are likely to remain in a very bad place. Oliver


Wilkinson, the Secretary of State recently asked the parties to come


and talk to him about the past. Do think that is worthwhile? What


would be a solution to how we properly deal with the past?


pleased to see that this issue has come back onto the agenda. It


disappeared for quite some time after the Consultative Group on the


Past report was all but buried. That is a shame. But if things are


beginning to change, and if our political leaders have the courage


- and the use that word deliberately - I'm thinking of


something risen by an American writer who said his tree, despite


its wretched pain, cannot be unlived. But we hope that as our


political leaders find the courage to have the kind of conversations


that are taking place right across the Community, we may find we do


not have to live the horrible history that many of us have had in


the past again. So do you think that politicians, because there is


a lack of consensus, between the parties, are they out of step with


the wider public? I think they are at risk of that. There are very


positive conversations taking place, because they needed to take place,


at community level so that communities can live together and


full-forward. I think politicians are a little bit behind what the


community is doing. In November or Basil McCrea stirred up controversy


when he proposed that the entire employment and training committee


should go on a fact-finding mission to San Diego in California. The


City's universities are famed for their research which has become an


important economic driver. But the idea was dropped amid complaints


that it was a junket. But it may not completely have gone away.


You will have noticed some media coverage recently about a possible


visit to San Diego. Some members thought it was not a good idea. Do


you think it would be important for some people, even not in this


committee, that there should be the visit to San Diego for people like


ourselves? I cannot comment because I do not


understand what is going on with the departments, I cannot comment


on whether it is appropriate for up a committee visit. But considering


other regions which we can learn from, if I may consider the


committee's point of view, just a basic question of should we learn


from other regions, I think absolutely. I was in California for


three years and spent two years, self funded, because the


transformation in that area was incredible. If I had not done that,


I would not be here today talking with some knowledge of what was


achieved there. What I would urge the committee not to include in


criteria up like that is what it cost a couple of extra quid on a


plane ticket if the prize is additional GDP. I think that could


be forgiven. Apart but the criteria, I thought that was useful. This


session is not considering any trip, I make that clear. It is about


taking information. For many people there are any concept of poker has


come from television and cinema. Looking at poker games in films.


Games were players could bet anything they owned, gold watches,


title deeds. This could not be further from the game that we love


and we play. I would like to highlight the changes in the past


40 years which have led us to where we are now. The first important one


is the introduction of Tournament Poker. That occurred in Las Vegas


in 1970 with the World Series of Poker Tournament being developed to


try to find the best poker player in the world. It is essential to


know that in a poker tournament there is a flat fee, a fixed fee.


The Blairs are given a certain number of chips and the object is


try to win them all. The chips do not have a monetary value. It is


not possible within the tournament to spend more money. Poker has been


with us near enough for ever. Where I grew up there are a number of


card games that were played, some to the extreme. But poker is the


game that has lasted through most of them. And I know many people in


my constituency would go to their friends' houses at the weekend and


sit and play poker and enjoyed it. And it is far from some people's


impressions of a group of men sitting in a room drinking and


smoking. As a matter of fact, most people playing cards and especially


poker, do it alcohol-free. Politicians love their memoirs.


Even if sometimes they are notoriously hard for booksellers to


shift. Unless it is Thatcher or Tony Blair. More often than not the


bargain bucket beckons. All the Zane the latest politician to tell


all his Peter Hain. Remember him? The permatan secretary of state.


was a man of with a long and interesting career and these will


be interesting memoirs. He was secretary of state here for a time


and spent most of his time trying to persuade the DUP to go into


government with Sinn Fein. He reveals that he used a kind Paisley


Junior as a way to get to Ian Paisley senior, to persuade him to


do the deal with Sinn Fein. Where Sinn Fein is concerned he said that


at that time the leadership was weary and he felt this was the only


point, that if they did not do a deal then, the entire project would


have been in vain. Peter Hain had some interesting reflections on our


political leaders, past and present. He doesn't eat. The aforementioned


Ian Paisley senior described as a real gentleman with old fashioned


manners. Peter Robinson said to be the brains behind the DUP and an


astute tactician. No surprise there. Martin McGuinness also, well-


mannered and polite and always asking after family, but not such a


flattering portrait of the Alliance leader David Ford who is described


as, pernickety, quick to take offence at some imagined slight and


in many ways the least flexible of them all. I'm sure it is not an


opinion that David Ward would have of himself. Last week Peter


Robinson said he wanted to see a single Unionist Party and today we


hear of some contact between the two parties. Well David McNarry,


the Ulster Unionist MLA, described Peter Robinson as an obstacle to


Unionist unity in the past. But now he says that some of the two


parties have been in talks. He says one of those involved is the DUP


finance minister at Sammy Wilson. And he further tells us that since


the election, the Ulster Unionists only minister, Danny Kennedy, has


been going to briefings with DUP ministers. He spoke to Danny


Kennedy this afternoon and he confirmed that this was an option


open to him since the election. He said he did not always necessarily


a tent and he declined to comment further or do an interview. Some


Debi MLAs have not been hiding their displeasure at what has been


revealed. So watch this space. We have not been able to speak to Tom


Elliot, the current party leader, because he has been in Scotland. It


will be interesting to see what he can tell us when he returns will


start we hear a lot about international truce commissions,


but there's no guarantee that people who take part in such a


commission would tell the truce? There is not. And I suppose when we


look at events like the South African truth Commission we can see


that there are many flaws in something like that, as there are


positives. I think we can do it better. With leadership from our


political leaders and with the full participation of our community, we


can find a truth which helps to heal and helps the Community to


move forward into a time when we would be able to look back and see


the things of the past as being of the past and with a much brighter


future for our children. Thank you for being our guest this evening.


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.

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