25/09/2012 Stormont Today


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.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 25/09/2012. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Welcome to Stormont Today. On the programme tonight, the protection


of victims or discrimination? MLAs debate a bill which will make it


illegal for a certain with a criminal conviction to serve as a


advisor. The Mary McArdle pinement highlighted a significant gap in


our law and as legislators, we either face up to it, or we ignore


it. Also on the programme, concerns over the future of children's heart


surgery in Northern Ireland. The health Minister says he prefers an


all-island solution and rules out a stand alone service in Belfast.


There's no realistic option which would permit a stand alone


paediatric, cardiac surgery in Belfast. People might not like that,


they might find it hard to accept. But that is just a factual


situation. Later we will hear from one mother who is campaigning on


the issue. Now an attempt by the TUV to


prevent some former prisoners from becoming Ministerial special


advisers took another step closer to becoming law after a private


members bill passed its second reading in the House this evening.


The bill was introduced by Jim Allister following the


controversial appointment of the convicted killer Mary McArdle as a


special advise tore the culture Minister. She was sentenced to life


in prison for the murder of Mary Trafrs in 1984. Young Mary Travers,


22 years of age, embarking on a career, full of life, and


enthusiasm and from everything I have heard about her, carrying with


her those same characteristics of compassion and humanity and great


gentleness. She was broughtly -- brutally shot in the back. Estate


agents cannot by law be estate agents if they hold certain


convictions. Solicitors clerks cannot be solicitors clerks if they


hold certain convictions. So why not special advisors? I say


that the Mary McArdle appointment highlighted a significant gap in


our law and as legislators, we either face up to it, or we ignore


it. People have a lot of difficulty with people - we have to move on.


Prisoners have to be reintegrated within the community, within


society. We can't turn back the clock. There should be no return to


discrimination. There should be no return to the days before the Good


Friday Agreement and we should really stop bringing legislation to


this House and debates to this House which are sitting uneasily


with members of the public and we should show leadership on these


issues and members of the exprisoners community, regardless


of where they came from, steps need to be taken to ensure they


reintegrate into society and play a positive role in our communities.


We as a party are sympathetic to the declared aim of this bill,


which is to tackle the issue of the appointment of Ministerial advisors.


In particular, the protection of victims of paramilitary violence


from appointment to office, of those who have caused death and


injury to their loved ones. However, Mr Speaker, that does not mean that


we give unqualified support to the bill. Sinn Fein appointed the only


person convicted of this murder to be a special Ministerial advisor.


That appointment was both insensitive and provocative. Some


may on first sighting perceive there is potential pher knit some


aspects of the bill. If indeed there is merit then it would


probably be more appropriate that the department itself would bring


forward such legislation as it would be more considered and


balanced and reflect policy elsewhere. Why I am supportive of


this bill is I do not want to have another victim suffer in the same


way. Undoubtedly, if someone else who had been involved in a


murderous act were to be appointed, they will come into the public


domain. The issue will be forced upon those victims' families to


relive the incident. Every time that advisor, because the advisors


are always close to their Minister might be caught on camera, or on TV,


they will relive that incident. think that this is an issue of


equality and it's an issue of fairness. I think if people are in


any way bringing any sense of honesty or integrity to this debate,


then they should state it for what it is. This is an attempt to


prevent Republican ex-prisoners from fulfilling the role of special


advisors and indeed the proposal of the bill -- proposer of the bill


has a long history of saying Republican ex-prisoners shouldn't


have any sense of ekwult and fairness -- ekwult and fairness and


this is part of that particular process. The way in which Sinn Fein


did deal with the appointment of the advisor to the Minister for the


department of culture, arts and leisure, great hurt was caused to


an individual. However, great anger was also caused in the general


community and I think that it was the way in which Sinn Fein


themselves handled the reaction to that that highlighted that they


really didn't get where the community was on these things.


finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, and Jim list Jim -- Allister is with me


here. Can we pick up on Sammy Wilson first of all, the finance


Minister, of course, put measures, guidelines in place to deal with


this issue sometime ago. Why do you think legislation is necessary?


Well, his guidelines so far as they went, have not been implemented in


the sense that Sinn Fein are refusing to operate them. Therefore,


since those guidelines came in last September, we have had two Sinn


Fein special advisors appointed who have refused to go through the


vetting procedures set out in Mr Wilson's guidelines and there is


now a standoff about that and consequence they're not being paid.


What I am saying is that we need to put on a statutory footing issues


like vetting so that rather than guidelines we have it in law what


is required, and therefore, there's no wriggle room for anyone and


these are special advisors who equate to senior civil servants,


they're vetted, so why not special advisors, that's one part of the


the bill. The hrepbl hraeugs you want to see -- legislation you want


to see would include a vetting procedure which is mandatory and


the current system couldn't be the case in a future scenario? Yes,


because the past year proves that Sinn Fein can thumb its nose at


those proposals and carry on with people with access to highest level


Government papers as special advisors and the guidance on the


vetting has not been implemented because they refuse co-operate on


it. I am saying they've brought this on themselves in that regard.


Let's get it on a statutory basis and do the other things that need


to be done on the bill. difficulty is that you got the


legislation, the proposed legislation through today 2-1,


majority of about 30 votes in the House. With DUP support, Ulster


Unionist support, and SDLP support. It's going to become mired in


committee stage now and there will be all sorts of horse-trading and


compromises and it may bear little resemblance if it comes out the


other end to what you put on the table today. Let's wait and see. It


has certain core principles in the bill. I am not hard and fast on the


exact detail. I can negotiate about minuteua but the principles are


important and the principles I hope will emerge the other side in tact.


Are you confident the DUP will continue to support new future?


Well, I can only judge by today, I had support from across the chamber.


I think the DUP has been using my bill as an attempt to trade-off for


Sinn Fein the threat of the bill to get Sinn Fein to sign up to the


guidance. It hasn't worked. If Sinn Fein did, would they back away from


my bill? I can't say that but if they did they would be backing away


from rectifying the situation which was created by the Mary McArdle


appointment and not creating a situation-- where that could never


happen again. I want a situation where an instoult a victim's party


that was perpetrated by the can never happen again. OK. There


are bigger issues potentially as well. The Attorney General


expressed concerns at a hearing last week the legislation could


contravene the European Convention on Human Rights because it would be


like a second punishment for an original crime. It's not a second


punishment. He He expressed some concerns about maybe Article 7 of


the convention which proheub its -- prohibits secondary criminal


penalties. This is simply establishing as a disqualification


from holding a post the fact there is a previous conviction. I am


quite happy with my situation because the bill is only on the


floor of the House. Not just because I say it's competent, not


just just because those who advise me, but the Speaker has been


advised by lawyers of legal service in the Assembly that it's kpe tent


and human rights compliant. other issue, your reaction to the


news that the newly appointed chair of the Maze development board sat


on the panel that conducted the first trawl for board members?


astounded that anyone could sit on a panel, fail to select anyone to


appoint anyone, then think they can resign from the panel, apply


themselves, and be appointed. You know, I do think there's an issue


here that the commissioner for public appointments needs to


examine. It seems incredible that arrangement could have been allowed


to pass. And we arrive with a board appointed in that fashion. There is


no suggestion that the two processes weren't entirely separate,


though, and that best practice was not followed. Let's hear what the


commissioner says. But I have to say, it does not bode public


confidence in the process if someone is sitting on a panel, a


panel doesn't appoint and then they themselves apply, come off the


panel and are appointed. You know, who advised him to apply? There are


all sorts of issues that just leave this wholly unsatisfactory


situation. Would you like to see the matter taken further?


certainly like to see the matter taken further and I think the


commissioner should have a say on this. We will see what happens.


Thank you very much. Now, after standing in for Carole


ne Killen at questions yesterday John O'Dowd was back this afternoon


for questions. As well as The Minister gave details of the new


Education Bill. He also responded to questions about a school in


Omagh which was destroyed in a fire It is hoped that the pupils will be


able to return to the school in January 2013. I have instructed


officials to investigate all possible options to allow for the


provision of new school buildings on the site as a matter of urgency.


I thank the Minister for his response. Can the Minister give was


more indication as to when the new build will commence on the site for


this school? I think it is important that this new build


commences as soon as possible. the member will appreciate, the


current situation is not of our making. The fire is continuing to


be investigated by the appropriate authorities. We were presented with


a catastrophe on the weekend before the school started back. The


concern was to identify premises for the children and young people


to attend. That has been achieved. We are now looking at the medium-


term plans for the site. Some of the buildings on the site can be


secured but there is a major clearance operation to take place


but a lot of damaged material, including asbestos giving us


concerns that asbestos was broken up and destroyed during the fire


and should be removed by properly qualified contractors. And we


continue to investigate moving the school permanently. I would like to


see the school constructed, and open, by 2015. What cross-border


co-operation is happening as part of this planning? Cross border co-


operation along the border corridor is important and we have passed the


education boards to look at this. Candy might provide education


services to the benefit of young people in the area on a cross-


border basis and will they assess they are rare plans? We will look


at that in detail, as well. We're conducting an attitude are no


survey along the border corridors to see if there is a demand among


parents and pupils to travel across the border. All of that will be


taken on board and we want to provide effective and efficient


access to education for communities along the border and that might


include sure resources on a cross- border basis. Can the minister


agree -- outline what the main benefits of their respect will be?


The main benefits of the Education Bill is that we will be modernising


how we deliver education within society reducing eight bodies done


into one, giving us a more modern, efficient, monitoring structure.


The monitoring of schools will be the responsibility of the boards of


governors, but overall, policy direction that we want to see below


what is that each of us will deliver policies set by the


department. We want to raise standards. There will be an


independent tribunal with the power to stock interference in schools. I


think we have achieved the bill, the bill allows us to continue with


its functions but it will not be the case that we have centralised


control, the boards of governors will continue to run schools. And


there will be a lot of autonomy for schools in their day-to-day affairs.


Workers at if you will son were told 760 of them would lose their


jobs. It was that turn of the implement and learning Minister


Stephen Parry to outline what his depart that order to out -- to help


those facing redundancy to find alternative employment. Officials


have been proactive in identifying up schooling opportunities and


alternative employment. They have worked with the company says it it


avows that was made in June of this year. We were put the Social


Security Agency, further education colleges and other agencies to


provide advice of alternative job opportunities, access to training


courses, careers advice, as well as a range of other issues such as


benefits and taxation. This redundancy advice service is


available to all on site to deliver a package of support to each


employee. It is vital that we not only retain the skills of the


workers, but we also need to formally recognised skills through


accreditation it necessary and, where appropriate to provide up


skilling up to meet the demands of employers. The department is


looking at the skilling staff through the college. The college


has informed me that as well as offering up schooling and training


it is undertaking a skills audit of staff, and likewise, Belfast


Metropolitan coloured has offered a range of support including job


search, careers information and access to training facilities.


Could the minister allow brake on the type of training programme that


could be available so that more of those made redundant will have an


opportunity to get new skills and regain implement? We need to


understand exactly who is going to be made redundant. But is why I am


stressing the point of the skills audit. The further education sector,


which has a very good track record in terms of Engineering, is well


placed to provide refresh your courses and conversion courses for


stocktaking the general skills that people have and the training them


with specific skills that companies wish to take advantage of, of staff


the deploying. What sort of liaison is there to make sure that other


employers looking for the type of school set that exists in the


affected workforce can avail themselves of those people with the


right kind of grinning? We need to have a very smooth set of


communications around all this. We have to make sure we have a number


of different agencies with different specialist functions all


pushing in the one direction or. And we avoid duplication of effort


which adds complication and stress and makes more difficult for if she


wasn't in terms of managing this process. There is an ongoing and


active discussion between all the relevant agencies. Even within my


own organisation we're trying to set up a single liaison point with


the company to make sure we are handling this as smoothly and


efficiently as possible. Minister, can you tell us if you are


satisfied with the Northern Regional College and other


education providers that they will have sufficient resources made


available to them to deliver on the promises that have been made to a


significant number of employees who, regrettably, are losing their jobs?


I thank Mr Dixon Bono those comments. This is a very serious


matter when people are losing their jobs, and it is important that we


place people with the right skills in companies and to encourage those


companies to crawl, and to flourish, and just to stress that Northern


Ireland has a real future in terms of manufacturing. Talks with


Northern Regional College are ongoing and those issues to be


ironed out are about how we take forward training. I give the House


a commitment that the wall out of these programmes will not flounder


on the issue of money and argument over the sources. And unambiguous


commitment from their employment and learning Minister, Stephen


Parry. Child heart surgery has been discussed on an All-Ireland basis


but before a final decision is made the minister wants to consider all


the options. Here is the motion's proposer. Each year 140 children


require surgery. Most of it is done at the Royal Hospital. Another -- a


number of others are referred to other sectors in Dublin and England.


The review was published in July it will like and it found children


here with congenital heart disease are well served by a dedicated and


experienced team of doctors and nurses. It did not identify any


immediate safety concerns with the current arrangements. But the


report that conclude the surgical element of the service in Belfast


was not sustainable. The review recommended the potential safety


risks be addressed within six months and that would mean a


paediatric cardiac services will have to stop within six months, too.


In England and Wales there are criteria that paediatric Kardex


surgery centres should be within three years troubling time by


ambulance. Clearly that is never going to be the case with children


from here travelling to England. Firstly they cannot travel by land,


it would need to be air transport, but in English review they state


that travel cannot be relied upon because opera whether, as we have


seen this, today. Our Travel is seen as acceptable, or unacceptable


for children in my England and Wales but is suggested as suitable


for children here - what is the difference? Children and families


would not need to travel by air, but would be within a reasonable


distance of their own home and families. He would have thought


they would give more time to understand the needs of this region


and, given that this region is part of an island, it is not a political


point I am making, it is an geographic fact, and best nation


has clinical collaborative networks in this area of medicine that they


would have thought about talking to hospitals in Dublin. Is this the


way to seriously review such a critical clinical service? The safe


and sustainable quality standards suggests the criteria to maintain a


centre in Northern Ireland would mean the service should be staffed


by four full-time consultant congenital cardiac surgeons. The


service should perform a minimum of 400 surgical procedures a year with


the recommended number being 500 and that the service must provide


enough staff to provide a cool 24 hour emergency service. What


legally can plight rotas including cover by a consultant paediatric


cardiologist. It is clear that with such small demand a region this


size cannot hope to sustain such a centre and it should be clear that


safety concerns have not been raised about the quality of care


that patients currently get. The issue is on sustainability and


future safety of the services to be left -- have it is to be left as it


is. I cannot ignore the views of imminent officials as some members


of the sow's wish me to do and that would be a very bullish


recommendation to make. It is incumbent upon me, as minister, to


take appropriate steps to address the concerns. And in so doing, I


want to have a clear appreciation of all the options available for


the delivery of this service to children in Northern Ireland


including an All-Ireland solution, with the Republic of Ireland, but


it is necessary and appropriate that I acknowledge that there is no


realistic option which would permit a stand-alone paediatric cardiac


surgery in Belfast. That is the clear analysis by the relevant


experts and is the view of the service commissioners. People might


not like that and find it hard to accept but that is the factual


situation. The Health Minister. Listening to that is the chair of


the heartbeat trust parents group, Katie Boyd. The minister was clear


about that. He does not think the stand-alone service in Belfast is


an option. Do you accept that? do. The preferred option is an All-


Ireland solution. We would like to protect and enhance surgery in


Belfast so that we have some form of surgery in this country and also


increased links with our Lady's Hospital in Dublin. From your point


of view, what the minister says is good news. The worst-case scenario


for us would be cardiac children having to have been a sort of air


travel. Because this review suggests that that is not a good


option because there is this magic three hour period, and that is


usually problematic for children from Northern Ireland, specifically.


Surgical centres must be able to insure an ambulance with suitably


qualified staff that can travel within three goals and that cannot


be guaranteed if the ambulance is coming from a centre in England


because there has the Irish Sea to contend with. And air travel itself


is not 100% reliable. Absolutely. In document it states that air


travel is not consider as an option for children in England and Wales


because it is not reliable. Why should it be considered for


children here? The worst-case scenario is that the minister would


try to impose an English solution to Northern Ireland, but he seems


to not to want to go down that road. He seems to want to create a


completely new solution to this problem on an All-Ireland basis.


Absolutely. Sir Ian Kennedy and his team in this report were working


from the criteria set for England and Wales, so England with its


population of 60 million, Northern Ireland with its population of 1.8


million, we need the minister to address this situation in the


Northern Irish context. You are satisfied at the moment? At present.


Thank you for joining us. That Ms early story concerning Terence


Brannigan as chairman of the knees long case development corporation,


a statement has been released on that saying that was a Brannigan


was a member of the initial competition for the post and it was


we run and he applied for the position of cheer himself. The


commissioner for public appointments ruled that he was


entitled to apply and should be treated in the same manner as any


other candidate. The panel insured on the commissioner's advice that


questions were not the same as those posed in the first


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.

Download Subtitles