23/01/2017 Stormont Today


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23/01/2017

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 on what was the penultimate day

:00:25.:00:27.

of debate in the Assembly chamber in this shorter than

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Last week, one MLA suggested the clock was counting

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down with a whimper, but today there was still plenty

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of important business to be discussed on the hill.

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Sinn Fein unveiled its new Stormont leader and in the chamber MLAs spent

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more than six hours discussing the Renewable Heat

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So, coming up on tonight's programme...

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She's just into the top job and weeks from an election,

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but Michelle O'Neill is already sure how she wants to move forward.

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Accusations after the RHI scandal rumble on during another marathon

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Agreements must be honoured. Partnership government must mean

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exactly that. Accusations after the RHI scandal

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rumble on during another marathon I am suspended from the party for

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telling the truth about people in the front bench and those behind

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them are guilty of far more serious inappropriate relationships and

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behaviour than I am. And joining me with his thoughts

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on another busy day in the Assembly is our Political Correspondent,

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Enda McClafferty. Everyone knew it would

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be announced today - but no-one could be absolutely sure

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who it would be. Sinn Fein named Martin McGuinness's

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successor as party leader north of the border and,

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as the bookies had been suggesting in recent days,

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it was indeed Michelle O'Neill Here's what she had to say to party

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activists and the media just after lunchtime,

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and just to warn you there is some For me to be selected to lead our

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party in the North is truly the biggest honour and privilege of my

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life. I feel an enormous responsibility on my shoulders and

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while I do not are never underestimate my task given the

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changing political work locally, nationally and internationally, I

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will not let you down. These are challenging times and we have set

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ourselves a big objectives, but Republicans have never been afraid

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of a challenge. I have never been afraid of challenge and I have never

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been afraid to act. As Sinn Fein Minister for agriculture and rural

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development I decentralised an entire government department, Lock,

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stock and barrel. When the system told me it could not be done. As

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Minister for health I ended the DUP's discrimination against gay men

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donating blood and I did it because it was the right thing to do. Over

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the course of the last number of weeks, one others have shouted from

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the sidelines, it was Sinn Fein who stood up and confronted corruption.

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It was Sinn Fein who called a halt to the arrogance and intolerance. In

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the aftermath of the election, there can and there will be no return to

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the status quo. What does that mean? It means Sinn Fein are only

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interested in participating in a power-sharing institutions if they

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deliver for all of our citizens and if they operate on the basis of

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equality and respect. Agreements must be honoured. Commitments must

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be delivered. Partnership government must mean exactly that. It means

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that regardless of where you come from, what language you speak, what

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your sexuality is, what gender you are, that you are treated with

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respect. Michelle O'Neil according

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to Martin McGuinness has been Unlike him she does not have an IRA

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past, but did we learn anything It was interesting but Martin

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McGuinness took some time to set out Republican pedigree before regard to

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the point when he talked about her role in leadership. He talked about

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her father, he was a Republican prisoner. He was a councillor in

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Dungannon. We know her uncle is involved in the movement which

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fundraisers for Sinn Fein. We also knows that a cousin of hers was an

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IRA man shot dead by the SS. She takes a lot of the boxes when it

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comes to grassroot Republicans and what they would like to see in terms

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of her past and family. There are big challenges piling up

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in Michelle O'Neill's in-tray. There will be a short honeymoon

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period because she has this election to fight and she knows she will be

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in charge of a much smaller party at Stormont because of the fact that

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you can analyse will not be returning after George II. She knows

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the group would be smaller, but she also knows that the party faces a

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big challenge from people before profit in west Belfast and in foil.

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She knows in foil the party will be facing a bit of a dogfight for the

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last seat because we know Eamon McCann pulled well last time and we

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know Martin McGuinness is not on the ballot paper and that could have a

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big bearing on the outcome of the election and it could come down to

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the last seat between Sinn Fein and people before profit. There are

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areas like that when the chalets will face a big fight.

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We know the DUP in the last election used the prospect

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of Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister to mobilise

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its voters, what happens with that this time around,

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now that there's a new leader in charge?

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The so-called bogeyman is gone for the DUP because last time they built

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their campaign around Martin McGuinness as being the big threat

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to them in terms of becoming First Minister. This time round I would

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imagine the tactic would be different because it is Michelle

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O'Neill they are taking on. You can hear the language already talking

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about taking on the Republican agenda. It is not about

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personalities, it is about the republican movement as a whole in

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terms of what they want at Stormont around the Irish lumberjack and

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other bills they are proposing to take forward to which unionists

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would have difficulty with. That will beat the strategy employed by

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the DUP. Here in Northern Ireland, three of the main parties are led by

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women. We have Michelle O'Neill, Arlene Foster and Naomi Long. Very

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clear in here. Mary Lou McDonald was here as well. You could see that

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this felt like a changing of the guard within Sinn Fein. Gerry Adams

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is likely to handover party Mary Lou McDonald at some stage. Martin

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McGuinness has done that with Michelle O'Neill. We could see the

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three big party figures on the island of Ireland in the not too

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distant future. It is significant. MLAs spent most of today debating

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the plan by the economy minister to cut ?490 million loss to the public

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purse of the renewable heating scheme.

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The debate started in the chamber a week ago, but was halted to give

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The design process by officials and consultants field. The business case

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scrutiny process did not identify the problems. All of the evidence

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given to the committee did not inform the recommendation. Remember,

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the committee recommended the design of this. This house, all of the

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parties across this house supported the original, flawed, scheme. The

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member might recall that party colleague, William McCrea, used to

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sing a little song called excuses, excuses. Does that not some up

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exactly her speech and that of Mr done this morning? Trying to spread

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the blame to everyone else and running away from the reality. It

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was Arlene Foster and Arlene Foster alone who was the minister and alone

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signed of this scheme without the cost controls. No matter who else

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you might try to smear, that is the irreducible reality. Thank you for

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your comment in relation to this. I had hoped you would have listened to

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what I have said and what I said was this, this is not, all of the

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evidence, I do think this has to go above and beyond party politics. We

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have got to step back and look objectively at the evidence before

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us. At the evidence in front of the DAC. The evidence we have all heard.

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This was not the feeling of a single individual. Indeed, I listened to

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the permanent Secretary, Doctor Andrew McCormick, he was at

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committee earlier today and effectively what he was saying was

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what we have here is the best available. Very different from good,

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very different from sound, solid, as good as it gets. Just, within the

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context, this is the best available. I think that is a fair assessment. I

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would also say Doctor McCormick has done more than anybody I have heard

:09:27.:09:30.

over the last number of weeks to try to maintain the integrity of these

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devolved institutions and I thank him for that. Today, the committee

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had the opportunity to shift their position from them did the

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regulations to prevent the regulations. They did not. The

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minister did not turn up. The member needs to be unaware that her party

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did vote against the proposal to close the scheme last February. That

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is a fact. You can say you like, you voted against that, as did the

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Ulster Unionist party, the closure of the scheme, despite repeated

:10:05.:10:07.

warnings about the cost that was going to be accrued and lost to the

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public purse. Your party voted against closing the scheme. The

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simple fact. I know you want at the time, so it is not your fault. Your

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party as a party and other members who are still here and you were here

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last year did vote to oppose the scheme. On that date, when the SDLP

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presented themselves here, they, like other members in this house,

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were very mindful that the quick execution and the early closure of

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that scheme was placing legitimate businesses and legitimate access to

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the scheme, that was putting them at risk, because there were people who

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had signed up to a very good, worthwhile scheme at that stage. I

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will finish my point. A very good, worthwhile scheme at that time.

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Those businesses were in the process of realising orders coming into

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their businesses. They were in the process of installing these boilers

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and, again, I repeat, with the measures in place that should have

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been there from the outset. So, your little red Herring has just died.

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For the avoidance of any doubt that people would say to me that he did

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not speak until very late, I have a letter to the First Minister. A

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letter to Arlene Foster dated 23rd of March 20 16. Three pages of a

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four, I give her my permission to put into the Assembly library and

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make public. The first paragraph of that, after the introduction, was in

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the renewable heat initiative. The first paragraph refers to the fact

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that the special advisers advised me to keep the scheme open. All of the

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difficulties in the 23rd of March 2016, given to Arlene Foster. It

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surprises me when you see the contents of this letter that I am

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suspended from the party for telling the truth while people on the front

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bench and those behind them are guilty of far more serious,

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inappropriate relationships and behaviour than I am. Far more

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serious. We have a prize in one hand of some reduction in the public

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spend, but we have the risk on the other hand of litigation, of

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judicial review and a further waste of public money on expensive legal

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challenges. With publication of the Auditor General report ought last

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October with the publication of the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, they

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could have brought forward the food plan the public deserves. Could he

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explain why he, as committee chairman, has been absent from the

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committee for the economy and by his two party colleagues have not

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bothered to turn up? If his only issue with Sinn Fein is our

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attendance at committee meetings when we recognised the full scale of

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the impact in terms of these institutions, in terms of public

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finance, in terms of public confidence that this scheme has

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brought to this Assembly then the member is living in cloud cuckoo

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land. This has been a disastrous scheme from start to finish. The

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Handling has been disastrous, they provoked -- B proposal is not the

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proposition outlined by the First Minister a couple of weeks ago. This

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is a sticking plaster The real scandal here is that while

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we have people unable to heat their homes and struggling to feed their

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family, we have Barnes being raided by the police, empty Barnes, Mr

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Speaker, with steam rising off them in the snow. I want that to stop. We

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will not block these proposals today, despite our serious

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reservations, and I hope that these proposals are a success, not for the

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Minister and not for his party, but for the sake of the public who

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ultimately are paying the price for this debacle, though they carry none

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of the responsibility for it. I, am I department, have cooperated fully

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with the Department of Finance and asked -- answered all questions and

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queries and provided all requested information and yet no approval has

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been forthcoming. The business case process is there to assess value for

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money and also regularity and I understand that there have been no

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issues raised in respect of either. I know the Finance minister is just

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coming into the house and I would be happy to give way to him if he was

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to offer approval for the scheme. The areas of concern remain state

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aid approval and the fact that we do not have state aid approval. I know

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that the commission has been contacted. I do have some concerns

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in that regard. The scheme can't kick off on April one without the

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stated approval. Also, as the Minister knows, major concerns

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around the inspection regime, and I'm sure the Minister will accept

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and it will be in his narrative later that without rigorous, robust,

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100% inspections, this interim solution will fall. I don't have a

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business plan for the inspections regime, I do think it is like a

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horse and carriage, both go together. The Minister knows that

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state aid approval cannot be sought, and will not be given unless there

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is both public finance approval and approval of this house. I am

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reluctant to say it is a chicken and egg type situation given the issue

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we are debating, but it is. The inspection regime minister is also

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well aware of our intentions in respect of taking forward a tender

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for 100% site inspection, and I will give him the commitment to continue

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to work with his officials, as long as they response to that in good

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faith and does keep this issue politics three, which is

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unfortunately not a conclusion at this stage.

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And that motion eventually passed on an oral vote.

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There was just one question time today, education.

:16:44.:16:45.

Questions were supposed to be asked of the Executive Office,

:16:46.:16:48.

but despite Michelle O'Neill getting the new top job in Sinn Fein,

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neither the First nor Deputy First Minister's positions

:16:52.:16:53.

So, Peter Weir was the lone Minister facing the Assembly.

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I am disappointed that the NUS UWT are engaged in ongoing industrial

:17:03.:17:11.

action. A recognised negotiating forum for teachers terms and

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conditions as the teachers negotiating Council that the

:17:15.:17:19.

department represents. It is made up of representatives from the Northern

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Ireland teaching Council, comprising the five teaching unions and the

:17:22.:17:30.

management size which comprises representatives from education

:17:31.:17:34.

authority, C CMS, sectoral interests and the Department. Management side

:17:35.:17:37.

meets regularly with the teaching Council as part of its work on TMC

:17:38.:17:45.

and it is committed to moving forward in a constructive fashion.

:17:46.:17:49.

Can you outline any actions you are taken to ensure teachers will be

:17:50.:17:54.

adequately played -- paid and work on the conditions and appropriate

:17:55.:17:57.

support to deliver education for our children and young people. Number of

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things in relation to that. In terms of workload there is a key issue

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that has been raised by a lot of teachers with May and whenever we

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have sought anything from schools and collated responses in terms of

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not simply where there could be additional responsibility or

:18:18.:18:19.

opportunity, but a greater level of flexibility for schools. Why it was

:18:20.:18:28.

sore, not simply that, but also in terms of suggestions of easing

:18:29.:18:32.

burdens. It is a tight financial situation and looking well began

:18:33.:18:35.

these burdens on schools and teachers is important as well. I am

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also a bit disappointed for those unions that have taken the view of

:18:43.:18:46.

non-spike action -- strike action that there is an impact in terms of

:18:47.:18:50.

non-cooperation around the Inspectorate that can impact on

:18:51.:18:54.

pupils learning. As regards the broader financial situation I think

:18:55.:18:57.

it is important that there is a focus of where we move from 2017

:18:58.:19:02.

because it isn't a big pot of money sitting somewhere that is ready to

:19:03.:19:06.

be paid to make up for what has happened to date. With the Minister

:19:07.:19:10.

agree that the potential for a resolution to teachers Bay has been

:19:11.:19:21.

compromised due to the shenanigans in this assembly? Is the Minister

:19:22.:19:23.

confident a resolution with some post-election when he abandoned his

:19:24.:19:26.

post? I am not sure that abandoning is quite the right word on that side

:19:27.:19:29.

of things, although clearly we have had in terms of issues around the

:19:30.:19:35.

broader perspective, the fact that the executive has been collapsed by

:19:36.:19:38.

one party and in particular it has been done ahead of any budget

:19:39.:19:43.

settlement is not helpful to the overall situation. I think the

:19:44.:19:47.

opportunity for a greater level of resolution and a greater level of

:19:48.:19:50.

result the Matiz that people look forward to 2017 and is not realistic

:19:51.:19:54.

that there is a pot of money out there to cover the situation between

:19:55.:19:59.

2015 and now, or to backdate that. It is the case that it is not just a

:20:00.:20:03.

question of finding a one-off pot. If you make changes to the pay and

:20:04.:20:07.

conditions it is actually having a long-term impact in terms of school

:20:08.:20:10.

budgets and it places a level of pressure on the baselines within

:20:11.:20:14.

that so that must be borne in mind. I think the opportunities for that

:20:15.:20:18.

will be potentially looking forward to 2017. The reality is wait it is

:20:19.:20:25.

myself or someone else impose the issues remain the same. I think

:20:26.:20:30.

simply a belief that if there is a change of personality is that it

:20:31.:20:34.

will suddenly make resolution very easy, I don't think, I think that in

:20:35.:20:38.

many ways misunderstands the nature of the problem.

:20:39.:20:41.

Peter Weir on the continuing stand-off on teachers' pay.

:20:42.:20:43.

The day's business opened with a Matter of the Day

:20:44.:20:45.

about the gun attack on a police officer in North Belfast last night.

:20:46.:20:49.

The officer was shot at least twice in the arm while in a car

:20:50.:20:52.

MLAs united in their condemnation of the shooting.

:20:53.:20:57.

It could easily have been talking about death here today, and a family

:20:58.:21:04.

suffering that death, instead of hopefully the recovery that we are

:21:05.:21:12.

going to see. It could also have been in the open court of the

:21:13.:21:15.

Garrard, other people killed or maimed in that. Let me condemn it

:21:16.:21:22.

absolutely and let me also say as a representative for the area and all

:21:23.:21:26.

the other representatives of that area will be in one voice that

:21:27.:21:30.

people that vote for us, and I mean that right across the board, are

:21:31.:21:34.

absolutely opposed to the people who are involved in this. There are many

:21:35.:21:37.

issues that divide us in this house but it is clear today that there is

:21:38.:21:42.

an issue that unites us, and that is our unreserved condemnation of what

:21:43.:21:46.

took place last night. The truth this violence has no place in our

:21:47.:21:51.

society. All it serves to do is to create heartache, pain and

:21:52.:21:55.

suffering, and as each and every one of us in this house knows, there are

:21:56.:22:00.

far too many families in our constituencies who endure that pain

:22:01.:22:06.

and suffering on a daily basis. This was not an attack on an individual

:22:07.:22:11.

police officer or an attack on the PSNI, this was an attack on our

:22:12.:22:15.

entire community. It says all that we need to know about the kind of

:22:16.:22:19.

people who were involved, that they would attempt to kill a person who

:22:20.:22:23.

was serving their community and do so with such reckless disregard for

:22:24.:22:27.

the community in which they serve. These people are nothing but

:22:28.:22:31.

despicable cowards. They have nothing to offer the people of

:22:32.:22:35.

Northern Ireland. Mr Speaker, I have no doubt that this attack was

:22:36.:22:40.

intended to kill. Thankfully the officer is in a stable condition but

:22:41.:22:43.

we could have been hearing the loss of life this morning. This is not

:22:44.:22:47.

just an attack on our police service, it is an attack on the

:22:48.:22:52.

community, an attack on our country. It was reckless, multiple automatic

:22:53.:22:57.

rounds fired into a public safe -- space and I am disgusted. This is

:22:58.:23:01.

the first shooting of a police officer that eight years in Northern

:23:02.:23:04.

Ireland, clearly an attempt by evil people to kill police and also the

:23:05.:23:10.

general public. Totally random and indiscriminate, as others have said,

:23:11.:23:13.

gunfire into a forecourt of a Garrard Jinnah built-up area -- a

:23:14.:23:24.

forecourt of a garaged. There were 12 members of the general public and

:23:25.:23:31.

the police there at the time. This is my last opportunity to speak to

:23:32.:23:34.

this assembly. Some of you may be glad to know that I am retiring from

:23:35.:23:40.

politics, but I hope that in the next assembly no politician has to

:23:41.:23:44.

stand up and condemn a murderous attack on a police officer. Anyone

:23:45.:23:49.

who is prepared to wear the uniform should get the support of this

:23:50.:23:55.

assembly. I pledge my support to the Police Service of Northern Ireland,

:23:56.:24:00.

incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and I hope that

:24:01.:24:01.

everyone else does. Ross Hussey, who said he'll not be

:24:02.:24:02.

standing for re-election. We return now to the Sinn Fein news

:24:03.:24:05.

conference and before handing over the reins of power Martin McGuinness

:24:06.:24:09.

gave a little more insight into why he was stepping down and thanked

:24:10.:24:12.

Ian Paisley for comments he made on last week's edition of The View,

:24:13.:24:15.

and again there were plenty of cameras flashing

:24:16.:24:18.

as Mr McGuinness spoke. I had made a decision well in

:24:19.:24:28.

advance of the particular circumstances that affect me at the

:24:29.:24:37.

moment, that come May eight of this year, that would've been the tenth

:24:38.:24:40.

anniversary of going into government with Ian Paisley, that that was the

:24:41.:24:45.

right time for me to stand aside, so that a decision that I would have

:24:46.:24:54.

stood by. Circumstances have intervened, the calling of the

:24:55.:24:59.

election, the scandals that have existed, and of course we find

:25:00.:25:02.

ourselves in a situation where it is physically impossible for me to

:25:03.:25:10.

continue until May the 8th and I regret that very much because I have

:25:11.:25:16.

very fond memories of working with Ian Paisley for that year that he

:25:17.:25:24.

was in the office. I have very fond memories of not just building a

:25:25.:25:27.

positive working relationship with him but we actually built a

:25:28.:25:29.

friendship that was a real friendship that lasted until the day

:25:30.:25:36.

he died, and they also want to pay tribute to Ian Paisley Junior and to

:25:37.:25:40.

Eileen Paisley, Ian 's wife Andy Carroll Paisley for their remarks

:25:41.:25:44.

during the course of last week. They are all good friends, and they are

:25:45.:25:52.

all people who like Ian were very dedicated and committed to the

:25:53.:25:53.

success of the peace process. Martin McGuinness speaking

:25:54.:25:55.

in Stormont's Long And let's have a final

:25:56.:25:57.

word from Enda. No surprise that Mr McGuinness

:25:58.:26:00.

should show his gratitude to the Paisley family for their warm

:26:01.:26:02.

words about him last week, Enda. Yes, this was his first opportunity

:26:03.:26:12.

to publicly acknowledge what was said by Ian Paisley, Kyle Paisley

:26:13.:26:15.

and Baroness Paisley. What Ian Paisley told you on the view last

:26:16.:26:20.

week. He was also listening to Kyle Paisley 's interview on BBC Radio

:26:21.:26:24.

four as well of the interview with Baroness Paisley on talkback and it

:26:25.:26:27.

is clear from what he had to say that his relationship with them runs

:26:28.:26:31.

very deep and as he talked about there whenever Dr Paisley was in

:26:32.:26:34.

hospital and they exchanged texts and so on, so it is pretty clear

:26:35.:26:38.

that what was said by the Paisley struck a chord with Martin

:26:39.:26:39.

McGuinness. We heard today that the Ulster

:26:40.:26:40.

Unionist Ross Hussey Well, Ross Hussey would say himself

:26:41.:26:49.

that he is in poor health and he needs to get to need replacements

:26:50.:26:53.

and he said in a statement today that that is why he has decided to

:26:54.:26:56.

step down because he knows it will be a long recovery period for that

:26:57.:27:00.

and he will essentially be out of politics during that time so it has

:27:01.:27:03.

taken the decision now that he would be better out outside of politics to

:27:04.:27:07.

allow time to recover but of course he was a subject of a sting

:27:08.:27:12.

operation by a Sunday newspaper some months ago when he sent nude photos

:27:13.:27:16.

of himself to an undercover reporter Andy talked about it today described

:27:17.:27:20.

as an indiscretion but he said that was not why he was stepping down

:27:21.:27:24.

from politics, it was purely on the grounds of the South. -- of his

:27:25.:27:28.

health. And also missing from the chamber

:27:29.:27:29.

will be the SDLP's Gerry Mullan. He's being replaced on the ballot

:27:30.:27:32.

paper in East Londonderry by his predecessor, John Dallat,

:27:33.:27:34.

but all is not well Yes, that's for sure. It's not the

:27:35.:27:40.

first time we have said that, coming up to an election there seems to be

:27:41.:27:44.

infighting within the SDLP. It comes down to a clash of personalities

:27:45.:27:49.

between these men and it goes back to the employment of John Downer 's

:27:50.:27:52.

daughter in Gerry Mullins office and he employed her when he took over

:27:53.:27:56.

from John Dallek in the last election and she was let go from the

:27:57.:28:00.

office and that did not go well with that family and they stopped

:28:01.:28:04.

speaking from that particular point forward. Now the opportunity is come

:28:05.:28:08.

round again for him to put his hat in the ring again and there was an

:28:09.:28:11.

interview panel over the weekend that decided who would run and John

:28:12.:28:15.

Downer came out on top there and Jerry Mullin is unhappy and says he

:28:16.:28:19.

is disappointed and taking legal advice. We know he has been in storm

:28:20.:28:25.

on talking to the party leader and let him know about what is

:28:26.:28:28.

happening. This is not good for the party because if they are to retain

:28:29.:28:31.

their seat in East Londonderry they need all their foot soldiers on the

:28:32.:28:34.

ground in the last thing they can afford right now is to be not

:28:35.:28:37.

pulling in the same direction for the various workers who do work on

:28:38.:28:41.

the ground. Interesting times, that is for sure.

:28:42.:28:42.

The Assembly is sitting tomorrow and we'll have a Stormont Today

:28:43.:28:45.

So for now, from everyone in the team, good night.

:28:46.:28:58.

The View holds politicians to account and we ask

:28:59.:29:01.

the questions that our audiences want answers to.

:29:02.:29:04.

We reflect what's happening in the political world but I think we also

:29:05.:29:08.

set the agenda in the interviews that we conduct on the programme.

:29:09.:29:12.

I always assume that an interviewee is telling the truth

:29:13.:29:16.

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.