25/02/2013 Stormont Today


25/02/2013

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


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Hello and welcome to Stormont today. The very nature of the structures

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of the assembly were under scrutiny with the select committee here to

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take members use today. The sports minister reassure us and LA's that

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all is well with the police and fire games. Everything that was in

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place remains the same. There are couples over the opening ceremony.

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If hand opinion polls, flagpoles... They even squeezed in the South

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Pole today. We have arrived at a crucial moment where we will

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surrender Antarctica. To discuss that, I'm joined by our political

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reporter for stop hoo-ha --. Should the public have the right to

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know who gives a significant sums of money to our local political

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parties? That was one of the issues under discussion today when

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Westminster's Northern Ireland affairs committee came to Stormont

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to take evidence on a Bill proposing a number of changes to

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the political system here. Of political reporter watched

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proceedings and he is with me now. First of all, why is the committee

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here today and tomorrow? A this is the Northern Ireland affairs

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committee and they are looking at the issue of structures in the

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assembly. There are looking at things like the opposition, party

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donations and all the structures that we are familiar with because

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there is this Northern Ireland Bill that will be going through

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Westminster. They've been hearing evidence from witnesses today and

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they will hear evidence tomorrow. One of those that they heard from

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was Jim Allister, the TV -- T U C leader. He has always championed

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the idea of an opposition and this is what he told the committee today.

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A great burden of what I want to say relates to not what is not in

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this bill and my disappointment about that. Thatched homes in in

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particular on the absence of the opportunity which existed at to

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democratise the these institutions instalment. As things stand, this

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dormant is a blot on a democratic landscape. The issue of party

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donations was raised. One party did think it would be premature to drop

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anonymity at the stage. That was the United Kingdom Independence

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Party, who gave evidence today. One person was asked questions about a

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number of MPs about the issue of party donations. He was asked about

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this whole issue of whether or not anonymity should be dropped and

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this is what he told the committee. I am not asking any specific things

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on this issue. I am taking in the round and I am taking and thinking

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of the general protection of people in Northern Ireland, who would wish

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to sponsor ordinator to any political party. As someone who has

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been threatened more than once... That is why we want to hear from

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you? It is not something I would want to place upon anybody else's

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shoulders. The that was David Nutt Berry, the Alliance Party and the

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Greens disagree. They want full disclosure, as does the T U v.

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Stewart... He made it clear why he feels there should be full

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disclosure. I am not sure FARC for wrecked is any more or any real

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than it is to any business person or any other individual. -- I am

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not sure that is the case for any more real person. More evidence

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being taken by the committee tomorrow. That's right. They will

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hear evidence from the two Unionist leaders. They will hear evidence

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from Alastair Macdonald. Also from Sinn Fein and from the Independent

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and La David Carter. -- MLA. All these proceedings took place in the

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chamber. The committee will go back to Westminster, they will take more

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evidence in Westminster and then eventually a whole report will be

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presented. We will get a sense of what the committee thinks should go

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on to Westminster. After much speculation, it was

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confirmed last week that the opening ceremony of the world

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Police and Fire Games will be held at the King's Hall in Belfast. The

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topic came up several times during questions to the Sports Minister.

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She described the uncertainty as a hiccup but said that everything

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else is in place. There are 41 sport and 57 venues. Not all are

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based in Belfast. Something like 15 are outside. They have all been

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settled. Everything that was in place remains the case. Pick up was

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due to the opening ceremony. Can I ask the Minister how the venue will

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be modified to accommodate the opening ceremony? I thank the man

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before her question. But for last Federation visit, several visits

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took place between April and June, the capacity for something like

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21,000... The King's Hall can reach than. Even contract to see smaller

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numbers when it is appropriate. It is not envisaged at this stage.

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Even going by last week, the figures that were anticipated are

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still to be expected from the first to 10th August. The opening

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ceremony is more than able to cope with that. Could I ask the Minister,

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in relation to the number of people attending, you've said 41 sports

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have a 57 venues, can I ask the number of athletes and the number

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of people we anticipate coming to watch the games? I have no figures

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in terms of how many spectators there will be. I know that there

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are 10,000 athletes and with those 10,000 athletes, they are expecting

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15,000 to accompany them. That is up to 25,000. There will be a big

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local interest, particularly for some of the events. The company is

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looking at ticket regimes to make sure members of the public have

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every opportunity to attend the events and particularly for the

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schools. Some of the schools will be paired with countries who are

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visiting and competing but I have no figure, not even an indication

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of what the demand is yet. I expect that I will closer to the time.

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Would the Minister agree with me that this would be an excellent

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opportunity for her to show case Northern Ireland at its best? There

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will be so many people coming from all parts of the world and it will

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be a opportunity to let the people see that we have a shared heritage

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and we are promoting our shared and better future for everyone in

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Northern Ireland? I would agree with a member. Not just that, but

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some of the delegation have come over already, four weeks ago, from

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five different countries. They visited some of our historical

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sites, are tourist attractions and some of the communities. They were

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nothing but impressed with what we had to offer. That was just a

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glimpse of what will come from the start of August. Can I declare an

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interest as someone who has applied to be a volunteer in the Games?

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Could the Minster telly if the rumour is true that I'm going to

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have to have -- have an awful lot of competition to give up some of

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my time for free? I am afraid you are! I don't think we are done yet.

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There is a request for 3500 people giving up their time to volunteer.

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We are at 6000. One of the reasons we extended the deadline for people

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volunteering, was on occasions, there were difficulties to do with

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the services. They have applied. I think it is good news. By hope and

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under his successful in his application and a look forward to

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seeing him taking part. Plans to transplant at the

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University of Ulster campus in Jordan's town to Belfast are to go

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to the planning committee within weeks. But to the pan has been

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welcomed, there are some concerns as the environment minister

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revealed during question time. -- although the plan has been welcomed.

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In terms of the design of the proposal, it will masques

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significantly. It will go up very high. It will have impact upon

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Heritage, parking, traffic and so on and so forth. In terms of the

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nature and character and scale of this proposal, it is a very

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challenging one. I hope there is nobody in this House or elsewhere

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who thinks that this is an easy call for stop it is a big call

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because it is a big proposal which will have a big impact upon fad

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part of the city. If it is done right, it can be part of the

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overall development of the north side of the committee but the

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exchange, with north side, with it the underpass West Link. All will

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gather around the cathedral quarter. We have an unprecedented

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opportunity to shape that part of the city, an opportunity that only

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comes once in a century. This is a community that, especially during

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the summer and autumn of last year, demonstrated a great sense of

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dignity and resilience. High think that they deserve a particular

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degree of respect in terms of issues in that area, including

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respect of this planning application. I had very frank

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conversations in terms of how they should manage the supplication and

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in terms of the character of the application itself. I think we are

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moving forward. It would like to see a recommendation going to the

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City Council in respect of the main scheme, in advance of the town

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planning a meeting of 7th March. I do have major concerns to inspect

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of a car-parking proposal. It might be that that particular part of the

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application will have to be separated from the main application.

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I do think this would be great opportunity for North Belfast. By

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agree with the minister. But in this development, will the Minister

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take into consideration and certainly not prejudice the

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development of some element of social housing, which is needed in

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that area? Local people are certainly supportive of it. I think

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the issue of housing in that area needs very careful management. We

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don't want to see a situation arrive -- a rise where we have...

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There is the potential for that to happen. That is why I welcome the

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city council report which, working with the various people in Belfast,

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can map out how the student housing issue might be dealt with over the

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next couple of decades. And we have to recognise that there will be a

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demand for social housing in that area. There are areas which have

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previously been designated for housing and then in my view, that

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needs to be respected going for it. I do not think that development of

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all the available land for the university is the way forward. I

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believe it needs to be balanced development and that would include

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potential student housing. Have you heard the story of the

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:12:58.:13:04.

finance minister who got cross- I have to congratulate the minister,

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and appreciated as a wonderful job. Self-praise is the recommendation,

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but I am giving it anywhere. Something that came that is the

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commitment that is being given in the department's in relation to

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redeeming funds as an -- at an early a stage as possible and we

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are not losing it, so I appreciate that. Up until now, things are

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working better and I know that in history, there are manys that have

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to go back to Westminster because they were not spent, and I know the

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media like to jump all over the budget will receive, the block

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grant we receive and the money we spend, and we are not spending it

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all. Can I say that within the parameters that have been set death

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in relation to how much we can or cannot carry forward, it is good

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for cheating -- set down. There will always be exceptions and

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circumstances that cannot be anticipated and again, I think the

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flexibility of the monitoring rate allows us to adjust. I would echo

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the Commons about the efficiency savings. Some of the departments

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have genuinely found efficiency, but possibly the same focus that we

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had previously put on financial projections and performance with

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innings to be addressed, because it is going to be an ongoing issue

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with pressure on the block grant, so on that basis I would commend

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the minister and the motion for the work that has been done so far,

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just to join in! Are no the minister would feel short-changed

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if I didn't mention that the ongoing costs are unsustainable.

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The minister did highlight in his opening remarks some office

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successes around tourism and maybe I need to take the opportunity to

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tell their how wonderful he is at this stage. However, in the face

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off good news stories, the recent unrest has shown how, when we

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scratch the surface, divisions are still very evident and that there

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is no doubt this division will continue to hurt us economically

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and financially, by deterring tourism and investment and

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committing our ability to attract and faint taint of talent. So while

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I offer my support to the Bill, the question still stands about how

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much longer can we as an Assembly afford to keep spending money

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managing division rather than finding sustainable solutions.

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wishing to be a party-pooper and wishing to go on record that I

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actually do like Sammy Wilson quite well, I rise to speak, however,

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fear opposition to this Budget Bill. And while they finance minister did

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a good job of presenting the Budget, the budget he had to do that there

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was a complacent but it accrued by a complacent Executive and

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presented to the complacent Assembly -- agreed Fife. However, I

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exonerates -- exonerate the minister, who is someone who has to

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present the Budget to create behind closed doors by the Executive and

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he has carried out his duty professionally. I did consider

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making some amendments, but what is the point? This Budget is and what

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a done deal before the Minister presented it to the house -- is and

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was. In fact, the house must share my thoughts, because there are no

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amendments tabled by any party. The purpose of the Bill is to authorise

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the use of resources totalling over 16 billion by departments and

:16:52.:16:58.

certain other bodies. Current capital receipts of over 2 billion

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contribute to an overall operating total of just under 19 billion. And

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the finance minister, in his usual combination of jolly approach on

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the one hand and school teachers called in on the cover, has been

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the only minister to present on that the -- during the Budget

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debate. His job was to act as the delicate it Minister task with the

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job of presenting a Budget Karpov agreed at the Executive table. No

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other minister, it would seem, felt it move -- necessary, or was

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present to defend their department will spend, despite the universal

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criticism of all departments five disassembly. The -- 5 disassembly.

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This short, final starch, let me emphasise that, final stage of the

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budget Assembly, they have been many opportunities in this house

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over the last couple of weeks for those who take the view that

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somehow or other there are fundamental flaws in this Budget.

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Fundamental flaws which he believed are shared by a widespread number

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of people in this house, and I'm sure that had he come and put a

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cogent case, and much more importantly, put some amendments

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down, then that untapped source of discontent they have been able to

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find some expression to it. -- may have been able to.

:18:38.:18:41.

The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson. Now, he might not have been a

:18:41.:18:44.

household name a week ago, but he's certainly heading that way now.

:18:44.:18:47.

During an extraordinary day at the World Track Cycling Championships

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last week, Newtownards rider Martyn Irvine won a silver medal in the

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individual pursuit before going one better and winning gold in the 15k

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scratch race. Today, MLAs on all sides of the chamber rose to

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applaud his achievements. Despite being almost out on his feet after

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his earlier exertions, with 10 out of the 16 laps to go in the scratch

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event, he broke from the plunge and face if he went for it -- from the

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bunch. Sprinting away with every last drop of energy he had. And he

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has done it all on a shoestring. It is bread and water in cycling. You

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rightly in, but you ride with very little resource. The budget for

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track cycling in Ireland is well under 100,000 euros, at just under

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�90,000. Compare it with the 8 million available per year with the

:19:44.:19:54.
:19:54.:19:58.

GB team available. It goes mainly -- it goes mainly to fund Mark if

:19:58.:20:04.

and one other rider. Hovered rather do more than just honour him -- I

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would like to do more than just on him, I would like to invest in him

:20:08.:20:13.

and show how proud we are. The this is an achiever and they'd all the

:20:13.:20:18.

more remarkable -- made all the more remarkable given the resources

:20:18.:20:24.

available to him. Even Martyn Irvine said he couldn't live on

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what he lives on. Everybody should be proud of what he has done

:20:28.:20:31.

through his hard work, his discipline and his endeavour.

:20:31.:20:38.

Hopefully the likes of Martyn Irvine and Wendy can inspire a

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generation, over the major events such as the Giro d'Italia, and

:20:43.:20:49.

Northern Ireland can be more than the capital of golf. A Hall of

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Newtownards will come together to celebrate this achievement -- the

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whole of. We will remember it is not exceptional to this area, with

:20:58.:21:02.

a silver at the recent World Swimming Championships. We

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congratulate Martyn Irvine and, yes, there is pride across the whole of

:21:09.:21:14.

Ireland, because he did win wearing an Irish vest and I look forward to

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seeing him in Northern Ireland colours next year at the

:21:16.:21:21.

Commonwealth Games. The Ulster Unionist Party's Mike

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Nesbitt. Staying on a sporting theme, this afternoon, Members

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backed a motion calling for more investment in grass roots sport.

:21:29.:21:33.

The committee is mindful of the pressures on the minister's budget

:21:33.:21:37.

and that knowledge is the difficult job she has been balancing it

:21:37.:21:41.

vestment with tangible benefits. However, the committee is calling

:21:41.:21:44.

on the minister to ensure this all sports are not overlooked for

:21:44.:21:54.
:21:54.:21:59.

investment. By spectator and -- the Without Investment, the sport may

:21:59.:22:04.

not be able to develop. It may not have enough like it, but I was once

:22:04.:22:07.

a keen sportsman. Though I challenge anyone to the effect on

:22:07.:22:12.

share sportsman than I am now. I want to talk about that old

:22:12.:22:15.

chestnut, joined-up government. We all call for it and we very rarely

:22:15.:22:19.

see anything happening and we have a department for the very small

:22:19.:22:22.

budget which makes it even more important. If we do for for many

:22:22.:22:27.

that is probably wasted by duplication of resources and

:22:27.:22:30.

inefficiencies, not so much in this department but with other

:22:30.:22:35.

departments -- if we do that, if with a fat education, for schools,

:22:35.:22:42.

the sports fields, there is a lot of money being spent their fat may

:22:42.:22:47.

be could be spent in just a slightly different way -- that may

:22:47.:22:54.

be. Sport adds to a wide range of social and economic cultural needs.

:22:54.:22:57.

It improves health and well-being that gives us opportunities and a

:22:57.:23:00.

fast moving world to come together, celebrate and enjoy shared

:23:00.:23:05.

experiences. I should say that Mr Deputy Speaker, since the new year,

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I have taken to the treadmill myself and managed -- as you might

:23:11.:23:16.

observe, I am not match-fit check that I do feel a tremendous benefit.

:23:16.:23:20.

Experience has shown me that physical exercise is good for

:23:20.:23:25.

everybody and should be available for everybody. We often talk about

:23:25.:23:28.

their shared future but unfortunately, these discussions

:23:28.:23:33.

are frequently academic and lack a degree of practicality. With no

:23:33.:23:39.

physical exercise has health benefits and, like the previous

:23:39.:23:45.

speaker, I too have taken up swimming recently and it has done

:23:45.:23:51.

me great, it has helped my recurring neck problems. But sport

:23:51.:23:56.

also has the power to break down barriers in society and bring

:23:56.:24:02.

people together. It is a practical thing for fostering good community

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relations and that must never be underestimated. I am not too far

:24:07.:24:10.

from you. A lot of sport, if I'm not watching it through invitation,

:24:10.:24:15.

I am watching it on television or listening on the radio but I do

:24:15.:24:18.

understand the power of sport in terms of health and the economy and

:24:18.:24:23.

certainly in terms of education, and certainly in terms of safety

:24:23.:24:27.

and health and well-being across the board. And there are many

:24:27.:24:30.

overlaps for term fees to say that in my short time in the department,

:24:30.:24:37.

I have seen some of the has kept afloat.

:24:37.:24:40.

Now, an unlikely subject found its way onto the floor of the chamber

:24:40.:24:43.

today. At first glance, you might wonder how MLAs could justify

:24:43.:24:46.

spending time talking about Antarctica, but today they did -

:24:46.:24:49.

and they even managed to drag the continent - temporarily - into the

:24:49.:24:57.

flag dispute Delighted to address the House on this hot topic.

:24:57.:25:00.

It is important that in our society, this house is not the cold house

:25:00.:25:06.

for anyone, but I beg to move... don't give up the day job.

:25:06.:25:11.

Assembly will be aware that the First Minister and Deputy First

:25:11.:25:14.

Minister have led a legislated consent memorandum in which they

:25:14.:25:19.

are seeking support for a legislative consent motion, in

:25:19.:25:24.

respect of the Westminster Antartic full to Northern Ireland. The bill

:25:24.:25:29.

includes a provision that regulation of activities in

:25:29.:25:33.

Antarctica should be made and accepted matter in terms of our

:25:33.:25:39.

devolution settlement. During the drafting of the Antarctic Bill, it

:25:39.:25:45.

was identified but the Antartic and the subjective -- subject matter of

:25:45.:25:49.

the Bill had inadvertently been devolved to the legislators in both

:25:49.:25:55.

Scotland and Northern Ireland. In our case, the matter of regulation

:25:55.:26:00.

and activities in the Antartic was admitted -- omitted from his first

:26:00.:26:05.

scheduled to the Northern Ireland after 1998. While the matter is

:26:05.:26:09.

technically a devolved here, no relevant functions were transferred

:26:09.:26:13.

without and the department he has any her to spit it powers in

:26:13.:26:19.

relation to the Antartic. -- and no tip-off that he has any legislative

:26:19.:26:29.
:26:29.:26:29.

powers. As such, it proudly flies the Union flag and I think there is

:26:29.:26:32.

no restriction that it can fly the Union flag so why was just one

:26:32.:26:38.

drink, would it be a warm house for Unionists and Belfast City Hall? --

:26:38.:26:45.

I was wondering for?. In Antarctica, effectively the day last pretty

:26:45.:26:49.

much all day, so in terms of daylight, the Union Flag can be

:26:49.:26:53.

seen for long periods of time. After that rather interesting and

:26:53.:26:57.

diverse debate, I think we have arrived at the crucial moment where

:26:57.:27:01.

we will surrender Antarctica. The question is that the motion

:27:01.:27:11.
:27:11.:27:17.

standing in the Order Paper be agreed. All those in favour say 5

:27:17.:27:20.

Mac -- say aye. The ayes have it. Deputy Speaker, John Dallatt.

:27:20.:27:22.

Our political reporter Stephen Walker is with me again. Unusual

:27:22.:27:26.

debate there, Stephen. Yes, when you think of the things that are

:27:26.:27:30.

normally discussed at Stormont, health, education, the economy and

:27:30.:27:36.

we have the debate about Antarctica and the jokes were very predictable,

:27:36.:27:40.

skating on thin ice, a cold house for Unionists and nationalists, but

:27:40.:27:44.

it was a little bit of light relief. A quick look ahead to tomorrow, it

:27:44.:27:51.

is a pity that busy order paper. is, one of the debates that jumps

:27:52.:27:56.

out of the debates about flags. There is a motion being put forward

:27:56.:28:00.

by the SDLP and Sinn Fein that the whole issue should go to the at hoc

:28:00.:28:04.

committee. It looks like the Unionists will oppose that and it

:28:04.:28:08.

looks like they will be a petition of concern, so after Antarctica, it

:28:08.:28:13.

is back to the more normal subjects. And the Northern Ireland affairs

:28:13.:28:18.

committee, as we mentioned earlier, is here for a second day, hearing

:28:18.:28:21.

evidence and interestingly, Sinn Fein is going to be appearing.

:28:21.:28:25.

is right. The Unionist leaders are going to be there, Peter Robinson

:28:25.:28:28.

and Mike Nesbitt, Alastair McDonald will be there and a representative

:28:28.:28:33.

from Sinn Fein. We don't know who it will be, but it is clear from

:28:33.:28:36.

recent statements from Sinn Fein that when it comes to the issue of

:28:36.:28:40.

political donations, they will call for transparency. An interesting

:28:40.:28:45.

day, will have the details tomorrow night, of course. I'll be back the

:28:45.:28:48.

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


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