25/06/2012 Stormont Today


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

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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Euro 2012 moves to the semi-final


stage. Wimbledon has started with the usual flurry of upsets. The


Olympics are just around the corner and the sport of politics grinds on


relentlessly. Tonight: An end-of- term bonus from the Education


Minister. I am announcing an investment of �133 million for


capital projects. This will be in the 2013 / 14 financial year.


debate about crossing the road made one member very cross. When the


minister is not consider whether the functioning crossings are


functioning properly, will he consider whether ministerial


appointments are functioning properly within his department?


my guest this evening is a law lecturer Rosemary Craig.


We are approaching the end of term here at Stormont so ever earned --


over the next two weeks we will decide how some of our departments


have fared. Tonight, we start with justice. Rosemary Craig is here


with her analysis. How do you think we have done overall? I think we


have to be positive. Have a lot of new appointments, new judges, we


have a new Attorney-General, we have a new Director of Public


Prosecutions, so I think we have to look at the positive side and


Northern Ireland is moving forward and I think justice is moving


slowly. But I think we have to be very positive in how we are moving


forward in Northern Ireland in that particular area. What sort of


problems do you still see happening? You mentioned things


happening slowly, cases coming to court do seem to take a long time?


Yes, I can understand that from the public perspective, but I think we


have to look at the due process of law and how a case does come to


court. I think if you remember that when a crime is committed, the


police have got to investigate that crime. They have got to put


together the file, the papers and that goes in a system to the public


prosecution service. The Public Prosecutions Service have them got


to look at the case when it comes in and make a decision based on


tests whether or not to prosecute in the case. Another new thing in


Northern Ireland is the public prosecution service. Although it


has been in existence for over five years, it is relatively new. The


Police Service of Northern Ireland is relatively new, the directive


brand new, he was appointed six months ago, he is a new boy on the


job. You have to look at all of that and take that into perspective


and say you cannot rush just as. If something is rushed through and


something is missed, you cannot really try something twice. By the


same token, we have had some cases which have taken over ten years to


come to court. Yes, there are special circumstances and I think


that is a matter for not dwelling on specific circumstances. Delayed


defeats equity. There is no doubt about that. Let's look at the


positive outcome from that case. The outcome from that case was


people were declared by a jury and the jury trial is sacrosanct and I


really like to see a jury trial. The jury trial found those people


innocent and that is a triumph for justice. OK, we will talk late in


the programme. The Education Minister have


announced a huge spending plan for school buildings, ending a two-year


freeze. But as they say, you cannot please all of the people all of the


time, particularly our MLAs. I am today announcing an investment of


100 their �3 million in special projects. It will be in the


financial -- the last quarter of the current financial year or the


financial year of 2013 / 14. I want to ensure they have been future


priest and remain a priority for an investment. I have instructed my


officials to identify it suitable projects. This is a pragmatic


approach to ensuring that issue news of the capital budget. I want


to stress that today's announcement in no way implies that other


projects will not be considered at a later stage. Some time ago there


was a review carried out of the capital projects. That resulted in


schools being designated compliant, partially compliant or non-


compliant. Schools that were deemed compliant, if they look down the


list they will see some of them that their names are missing. I


particularly draw attention to Ballymoney High School and another


school which was linked for a school project. Can the Minister


explain why those schools have somehow mysteriously disappeared


off his captain and best man? a major blow today to those who


were expecting to be on the list, which are not on the list, such as


part call which is a split site. It has already spent over a million on


its design. There have been ten years waiting. Are we going to in


the autumn see a list of the schools and a list for the future


so that schools can plan and see into the future when they are going


to be rebuilt, because it takes three or four years to redesign and


it has been a major blow to the schools. We are in the midst of a


recession and two things which would help us get out of a


recession our education and innovation. My question really is,


what consideration is the Minister giving to the refurbishment of


science labs as part of the school refurbishment programme? Schools


may be in a position where they have hoped for a rebuild and now


think this schools enhancement programme is a way forward. Can the


Minister give detail about whether this will in future be detrimental


to any school's application for a new build?


RB pelican crossings in Northern Ireland working? What are the


differences between a pelican crossing and a Puffin crossing?


Some of the highbrow questions posed to the Regional Development


Minister but first, it was just this and there was a call for a


review of the sentencing of PSNI officers. It while the review will


consider arrangements of other jurisdictions such as England and


Wales, my aim is not to replicate it GB model but find a way forward


for Northern Ireland. My view will also reflect the Court of Appeal


which has been asked by the Director of Public Prosecutions to


review the tariffs. This will provide the opportunity for the


Court of Appeal to review the sentencing guidelines for the


determination of tariffs. The recommendations of the review will


be published for consultation as soon as I have had time to consider


the court's decision and take the view of the justice committee in


the light of them. The minister was asked how much money had been


recovered from people who had for Jilly claimed legal aid. The Legal


Services Commission collected �220,000. Costs recovered included


debt, cost from the court and assisted person's legal aid. I


propose to make more plans to recover costs where defendants are


found to have the means to pay for their defence. Has the Minister any


idea of the real outstanding monies in this and is there any estimates


there for what likely could be recovered and secondly, why is


there not as efficient mechanisms in place to actually stop this


happening in the first place? answer to that second point is


absolutely clear. There are sufficient mechanisms in place


because under direct rule they were not given legislative competence


and it is something we are seeking to catch up with -- there are not


mechanisms in place. We have to consider what level of fraud there


is, whether all payments are made properly and we also looking at


taking powers to allow inspection of account books to ensure the kind


of cheques which have been identified as being required are


actually put in place because it is not a suitable system at the


present time, the one we inherited. The Regional Development Minister


was next or should that be the minister for birds. The my


department's Road Service has advised that all 440 pelican


crossings in operation across Northern Ireland are functioning


properly. A crossing in Londonderry has been turned off temporarily as


part of a temporary traffic management scheme to facilitate a


Water sewer replacement scheme. Would the minister look at the time


that members of the public have to cross and determine whether that


could be extended to make it safer for elderly people, particularly in


areas where there is a high volume of elderly residents nearby? I am


grateful to the member for the supplementary question and indeed,


I can confirm that pedestrian crossing timings are set in


accordance with national guidelines and my department's officials are


aware of the most recent research into pedestrian walking times and


will be included in any future consultation on the proposed


changes to current timings. I will say to further reflect on the


concern that he has raised. called Jim Allister. Thank you, Mr


Speaker. When the minister is not considering the weighty matter of


whether the pelican crossings are functioning properly, has he had


the opportunity to consider whether ministerial appointments are


functioning properly in his department... Can I ask the member,


clearly that is not relevant to the question. The minister did recently


launched what was called a puffin crossing and I am delighted to say


that the Minister's department has relented and will provide such a


crossing to my village which will hopefully help the elderly people


across. Is there any advantage in transferring pelican crossings to


Puffin crossings so that elderly people can cross the road safely?


There are issues of improving road safety that, and the strategic


management of traffic on the road network and a Puffin crossings


offer enhance safety and traffic flow Features. Since September 2011,


the Roads Service has upgraded existing pelican crossings to


Puffin crossings and installed 24 new puffins. The major differences


between puffins and pelicans are that... This is not a black-and-


white issue! Puffins have the red / green man on the push button, I


hope you're listening because this is important, on the push-button


unit beside the pedestrian. There is no flashing amber signal to


drivers who are held on a red signal until pedestrians have


completed their crossing and the time for pedestrians to cross the


road can be extended by sensors which detect people still on the


crossing. Drivers also derive benefit from puffins, for example,


when a pedestrian pursues the push- button and then moves away, a


demand for the Green man is cancelled so drivers do not


Now you know. A charge of corporate manslaughter


could apply to deaths of people in custody or detention here from


September. The new law will apply to those held in court, detention


cells, prisons, police cells and patients detained under the mental


health orld. Here is the Justice Minister, David Ford.


It Will apply to deaths in the custody and detention of the Prison


Service, in police custody, in court detention cells, and the


juvenile justice centre. It will also apply in the health service to


secure accommodation for young people and patients being


detainened under the mental health order T will include custody in


detention facilities of the armed forces and the customs and


immigration wings of the UK Border Agency. My proposed commencement


order will cover all such facilities in Northern Ireland. The


new offence of corporate manslaughter has a number of


important elements. It is committed when the way in which an


organisation's activities are managed or organised causes a


person's death, and amounts to a gross breach of duty of care, owed


by the organisation to the person who has died. So the focus is


largely on the managerial actions of the organisation's senior


management as a whole, rather than on those of individuals,


particularly those further down the organisation. As members will


appreciate, the offence is complex. However, basically it is about


failures of organisation and management, depending on a gross


breach of duty of care. As it is the body itself that will be


prosecuted, the main penalty available on conviction for such a


serious offence is not imprisonment, but a fine.


Rosemary, we have had high profile deaths in custody in our prisons


over the last couple of years. Do you think this will in some way add


to the pressure on the Prison Service to make sure they do


everything right, to prevent people dying in custody? Well, I certainly


think lessons have to be learned, Tara, from any death, anywhere. I


am slightly concerned by what I heard the Minister saying there,


because who's going to be held responsible? It's going to be the


body, he said, and fines. Now, fines, we have had massive fines


for things. Compensations paid in massive sums of money. That comes


out of the public purse. That money could be used for new hips, a new


hospital, for helping programmes, we need many, many programmes in


our juvenile justice system. We need them in the young offenders


centre. We need them in the women's prison. My concern is when people


are fined, or bodies are fined, that the public purse pays the fine.


What would be the alternative then, what puts pressure on the Prison


Service to do things correctly? Well, again it's like Government by


committee, because whenever the ombudsman for the Prison Service


has looked into deaths in prison, her reports have been quite clear


that there are a number of glitches in the system whereby people have


been doing wrong or not doing their job properly. But it doesn't come


out at one person. I am not looking for a head on a platter, but what I


am saying is it's difficult to find one person responsible in an


organisation for anything. If someone escapes from custody, for


example, from the prison vans or whatever, there's a number of


people. It's the organisation. Again, it's not... On one person.


Thank you. The controversial gas extraction


process known as frocking has seen angry exchanges in the chamber.


Last Thursday members of the enterprise committee heard evidence


on the topic and there was a lot of interest from one Fermanagh MLA.


the evidence just isn't there why are we rushing into this in that


gas has been there for thousands of years. It's not going anywhere.


are not rushing. An application put in 15 months, that's rushing.


will be considered in context of the existing sites. Surely these


issues should have been considered before a licence was given? It's


not a licence for fracking. It's a licence to explore. All we are


doing is having a look to see what's down there. If you are


having a look to see what's down there, how come they've published


figures telling us exactly what's down there. How many jobs it will


create, thoug will give us security of supply for F we don't know


what's down there how can they publish figures and you haven't


said those figures aren't correct? That's the whole point of


exploration. They've made estimates based on geological knowledge that


we have, which is limited to a few bore holes and data. That's the


point of the exploration, the first phase of the programme for them to


to collect the information. If that information is not correct, why


bother put it out? That's a decision for the company. I think


you and I would understand why... We would understand that there are


commercial reasons why they're suggesting that. They're coming to


give evidence next week and obviously an opportunity to talk to


the company there. But we reckon there is limited knowledge, there


is some knowledge about what is there. There is limited knowledge,


that's why this licence has been granted to do this exploratory work


to find out much more definitively what is there, how much is there,


whether it can be extracted. Then those sort of of figures and


they're guess estimates at the present minute from the company


would start to get firmed up. But they're at this stage, and they can


only be at this stage guess estimates because the work has not


been done. Well, sorry, and I did tell you I


was finished, but if we were relying on... That was four


questions ago! If we are relying on them giving guess estimates as to


what's there to attract investors how can we be sure the information


they're giving us on the environmental impact of this, on


the fact they've said they they won't use chemicals. How can you


trust them on that? That's really rather here nor there. The issue


will be what the plan - if the planning authorities decide f the


planning permission is given on a basis they don't use khaerpls --


chemicals, then they won't use chemicals. Can it be done without


chemicals? Well, Derek will have more information about this. But I


understand that because we are talking about shallow of depth, the


pressures are much lower, chemicals are needed where fracking is done


at great depth and chemicals are required to facilitate the process.


First of all, Wye like to say that we are all local people. We are


concerned citizens we are all professionals in our own right, but


not professional oil and gas industry people so we have had to


do a lot of research because the research we needed didn't come to


us. There is a huge sense in County Fermanagh people are being kept in


the dark. The whole issue of community engagement, there was one


single meeting held in County Fermanagh by the company and that


was held in Enniskillen, which is outside the licence area. Along


with lots of Government agencies, if you want to engage rural


communities you have to meet, not just in the local County town, but


try and get down local. The big issues are health and water,


economics, farming, tourism, it's a nationwide issue this, it's going


to affect everybody in Northern Ireland. There is the reputation


and perception of our country. So we need to be very much aware it's


not just one part of a small piece of Northern Ireland.


The inquiry into historical institutional abuse will take three


years to complete members were told today. The bill to set up the


inquiry was debated in the chamber this afternoon. Here is the DUP


Junior Minister Jonathan Bell outlining how the inquiry will deal


with witnesses. The inquiry will wish to call


witnesses to answer questions about the events of the time, or to hand


over evidence and it is anticipated that they will do so. However, some


may be unwilling to. Others may feel unable to because of


confidentiality issues. Clause 9 therefore enables the presiding


member to issue notices compelling witnesses to come before the


inquiry or compelling evidence to be given to it. Often when we talk


of victims and survivors we talk of the benefits and the advantages of


story-telling. There is no doubt that an individual can take great


comfort from being able in a safe and secure environment, perhaps for


the first time in ten, 20, 30 or 40 years, to have the facility to tell


their story. To get it off their chest. Wye put it to you, that


that's not really the full benefit. Story-telling is only of real


advantage to a victim or a survivor if there is somebody listening.


It's my personal opinion that the costs of this investigation should


at least in part be met by the Catholic Church. Because it is


clergy and lay people within the Catholic Church on this one who are


responsible, at least in part, and the leadership of the Church


culpable in terms of dealing with it and those costs should be met


therefore appropriately. I think the legislation that will pass this


House must include measures to control costs and minimise costs to


the taxpayer, but at the same time ensure that the investigation and


the report that will come from the investigation are clearly robust


and will provide that surety to people who are victims.


Martin McGuinness spoke today about his planned meeting with the Queen.


He was asked if there is a role for the monarchy in any possible united


Ireland. I think all of these things are


obviously up there for discussion. I want to see a reunited Ireland


and I am very determined, through my involvement in politics, to try


and bring that about. I think we have made massive strides forward


through the peace process in recent times. Power-sharing rules, all-


Ireland institutions, east-west institutions rule, so we have to


continue to move forward. The unthinkable in the past has come to


pass. So, other things that may be unthinkable now I believe will come


to pass in the future. But the next phase of this has to be a phase of


reconciliation and I think that debate has commenced and I think it


will gather speed over the course of coming times and I would like to


think that what will happen on Wednesday morning will be a further


impetus, a further spur on the road to national reconciliation in


Ireland. Should Ireland, for example, consider joining the


Commonwealth as part of this new phase? Well, I wouldn't be in


favour of that and I don't think it's really necessary even to get


into that at this stage. I do believe that as we evolve and as


time moves forward we will become involved in very important dialogue


and discussions about how everybody can feel safe and secure and


comfortable on the island of Ireland. I want to be involved in


showing a spirit of generosity to the unionist people and to ask in a


sizable percentage, if not all, of the unionist community to recognise


that in terms of economic prosperity, in terms of social


stapblt, -- stability, in terms of political stability, in terms of


the affinity that we all need to have with each other, we are much


better working on the basis that we can collectively take take


decisions that make this island a far better place for all of to us


live in. Well, the grounds of Stormont have


been a hive of activity today. Gareth Gordon filled me in on the


preparations for this week's Jubilee party.


Well, in case anyone is confused, politics is still the main business


here at Stormont, even if the grounds have been turned into


something like the days before Glastonbury or something. Something


going on here that you couldn't help but notice it. Lots of crash


barriers, they're appearing because the population of Northern Ireland


have suddenly become interested in what MLAs are doing. Rather it's


all to do with the visit on Wednesday by the Queen. And not


inconsiderable crowd of 22,000 people here to see her. You cannot


bring as many people as that on to the grounds of the estate without


some facilities in place, we have a marquee going up behind, we have


portaloos, two stages as well and rumours of some pretty big name


acts to play on those stages. But of course they'll not steal the top


billing from the Queen. This is one of only two places in Northern


Ireland during her two-day visit where she will be doing a walkabout.


But remember this, it will be a very short time. The organisers are


aware you cannot bring a big crowd without giving them something else


to do while waiting for the Queen, hence this activity. A non-


appearance of a portrait of the Queen has roughlied a few feathers.


This is a portrait of the Queen painted by the late artist Lydia


deBerg who happens to have been an aunt of an unionist MLA. It's on


loan to Hillsborough Castle. He's used colourful language to


express his annoyance of the fact it hasn't been brought here. He


says Stormont is an almost a venue for constant exhibition - he


singles out the current one for crit criticism, he says it's a


bizarre set of fish skins, technically I think he is right.


This is an exhibition by an artist, The Screaming Silence of the Wind


and uses fish leather. Jim Allister has a point about fish skins. He is


unimpressed saying authorities are quite happy to bedeck Stormont like


a Middle Eastern bazarr but cannot find room for a portrait of the


Queen. Something that's been debated recent shreu whether or not


to allow television cameras into court, are you for or against?


think there is an argument for and against. It depends on what aspect


they're going to televise. Sometimes there's a pilot running


where they're televising the junk giving -- judge giving out the


verdict, that type of thing, or sentencing. But I spent time last


summer in America where the Casey Anthony trial, a child that was


murdered, went on and it was really horrendous, it was a circus. It


really was. The prosecution and the defence were just acting and Wye


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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