23/01/2012 Stormont Today


23/01/2012

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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Transcript


LineFromTo

Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. As the Department of Health

:00:29.:00:39.

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

:00:39.:00:43.

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

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potential problems and will be getting a report back tomorrow in

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

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

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

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

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

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Ireland in 2016? LAUGHTER

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With me throughout, Oliver Wilkinson from the great Healing

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

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

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organisation Healing Through Remembering. Tell us what you do.

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

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

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

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

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

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have very difficult conversations about contentious issues that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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together approximately a hundred people now who come from very

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

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

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made contacts with our political and community leaders right across

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

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

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in that way we can begin a conversation which generates over

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

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conversations that we have avoided and neglected, the Seamus Hainny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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appoint an interim ombudsman? issue of the interim ombudsman

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

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responsibility to ensure the continuity of the functions of the

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

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Ombudsman announced his intention to delegate his statutory functions

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to appropriate levels within his office pending appointment of a new

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First Minister for His very comprehensive reply. Does he agree

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

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

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for a united Ireland in 2016? LAUGHTER

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I mean - LAUGHTER

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

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original item. This has taken some eggs...

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

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

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the Justice Minister revealed. Significant progress has been made

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with regard to the implementation of recommendation 8 of the prison

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review team. Prison officials conducted a review of both the

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capabilityabilities and limitations of full body scanners. This review

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

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

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whether there is any scope for a pilot for alternative search

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capabilitys in prison establishments. Thank you very much.

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

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

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

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

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provides greater dignity for prisoners and staff whilst

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maintaining the absolute security of prison establishments dealing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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reveal how the criminal justice system manage that particular case?

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

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

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supplementary commission has very little to do with the original

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:08:26.:08:36.
:08:36.:08:36.

House fully on the ongoing investigation into the outbreak of

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skeudomonis tomorrow. Three babies have died since the outbreak in

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January and another is being treated for the infection.

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All necessary precautions are being taken to avoid the spread of

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infection. Biodecontamination of the Intensive Care part of the

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

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hospital will remain closed while a team of specialists continues to

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

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maternity sources and wards of the Royal Jubilee Hospital are fully

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operational and working as normal. Expectant mothers should attend

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their appointments as normal. This can be found in natural

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environments in food and water. Infections are normally seen in

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immunocompromised patients. These outbreaks have occurred throughout

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the world as these infections are mainly immunocompromised. The Trust

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continues to monitor the situation and a teleconference is in progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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visiting these facilities. I would urge people to whatever hospital

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

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

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

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the public who introduce those infections to the facilities. In

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

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

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

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Strangford Lock. The wildlife trust has complained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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agriculture and fishery were represented through the Marine

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Organisation Association that manage the loch. These tensions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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has the fishing industry been protected at the expense of the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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and partly because the Government has been more robust in stopping

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

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

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authorities when they meet with my officials tomorrow will see there

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

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

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

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:14:39.:14:40.

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

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:14:51.:14:54.

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

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

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of child poverty comes up frequently in the Chamber but some

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

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

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

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has been exposed totally that grammar-schools accept pupils on

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

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

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actual ability. There are swathes of the north where academic

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

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

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continued to deliver for the students. To characterise the Child

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

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:16:16.:16:16.

refer members to report where a drop in absolute child poverty

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

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

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

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work of our predecessors at that time and see what different

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

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

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proposals, taking another opportunity to have a go at our

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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children in primary schools from the most deprived backgrounds is

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

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unfortunate sad consequence of where we are with our budgeting

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

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

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

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

:18:11.:18:16.

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

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disappeared for quite some time after the Consultative Group on the

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

:18:27.:18:33.

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

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

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

:18:42.:18:52.
:18:52.:18:55.

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

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political leaders find the courage to have the kind of conversations

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

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

:19:08.:19:13.

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

:19:13.:19:19.

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

:19:19.:19:25.

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

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

:19:30.:19:33.

at community level so that communities can live together and

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

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

:19:45.:19:48.

when he proposed that the entire employment and training committee

:19:48.:19:54.

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

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

:19:57.:20:01.

important economic driver. But the idea was dropped amid complaints

:20:01.:20:11.
:20:11.:20:13.

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

:20:13.:20:18.

You will have noticed some media coverage recently about a possible

:20:18.:20:24.

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

:20:24.:20:32.

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

:20:32.:20:38.

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

:20:38.:20:46.

ourselves? I cannot comment because I do not

:20:46.:20:50.

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

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

:20:58.:21:07.

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

:21:07.:21:12.

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

:21:12.:21:19.

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

:21:19.:21:29.
:21:29.:21:30.

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

:21:30.:21:34.

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

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

:21:40.:21:44.

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

:21:45.:21:50.

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

:21:50.:21:57.

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

:21:57.:22:07.
:22:07.:22:11.

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

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

:22:17.:22:23.

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

:22:23.:22:33.
:22:33.:22:37.

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

:22:37.:22:41.

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

:22:41.:22:47.

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

:22:47.:22:50.

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

:22:50.:22:55.

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

:22:55.:23:01.

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

:23:01.:23:05.

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

:23:05.:23:10.

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

:23:10.:23:14.

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

:23:14.:23:18.

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

:23:18.:23:24.

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

:23:24.:23:32.

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

:23:32.:23:37.

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

:23:37.:23:47.
:23:47.:23:49.

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

:23:49.:23:55.

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

:23:55.:23:59.

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

:23:59.:24:06.

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

:24:06.:24:10.

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

:24:10.:24:17.

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

:24:17.:24:25.

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

:24:25.:24:29.

Even if sometimes they are notoriously hard for booksellers to

:24:29.:24:35.

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

:24:35.:24:40.

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

:24:40.:24:46.

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

:24:46.:24:51.

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

:24:51.:24:55.

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

:24:55.:25:02.

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

:25:02.:25:06.

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

:25:06.:25:11.

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

:25:11.:25:16.

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

:25:16.:25:20.

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

:25:20.:25:25.

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

:25:25.:25:30.

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

:25:30.:25:36.

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

:25:36.:25:40.

Ian Paisley senior described as a real gentleman with old fashioned

:25:40.:25:46.

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

:25:46.:25:51.

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

:25:51.:25:56.

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

:25:56.:26:01.

flattering portrait of the Alliance leader David Ford who is described

:26:01.:26:06.

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

:26:06.:26:11.

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

:26:11.:26:15.

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

:26:15.:26:19.

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

:26:19.:26:26.

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

:26:26.:26:31.

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

:26:31.:26:37.

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

:26:37.:26:43.

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

:26:43.:26:46.

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

:26:46.:26:52.

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

:26:52.:27:00.

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

:27:00.:27:03.

Kennedy this afternoon and he confirmed that this was an option

:27:03.:27:08.

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

:27:08.:27:14.

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

:27:14.:27:18.

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

:27:18.:27:24.

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

:27:24.:27:28.

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

:27:28.:27:32.

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

:27:32.:27:36.

start we hear a lot about international truce commissions,

:27:36.:27:40.

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

:27:40.:27:46.

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

:27:46.:27:51.

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

:27:51.:27:55.

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

:27:55.:28:00.

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

:28:00.:28:04.

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

:28:04.:28:09.

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

:28:09.:28:16.

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

:28:16.:28:20.

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

:28:20.:28:25.

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

:28:25.:28:29.

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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