25/11/2013 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.

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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme tonight,


the failed tactics of the past. United condemnation of a car bomb


left in Belfast city centre last night. It could have caused death


and misery and mayhem in our city centre. Of that, there is no


question. A man who kept his faith with


politics - MLAs reflect on the life of Father Alec Reid. An


extraordinary individual who made an incredible contribution to the peace


process. Someone who was a friend of all of us in this chamber.


And here to cast his eye over proceedings is our political


reporter, Stephen Walker. Proceedings today were dominated


with fresh condemnation of a terrorist attack. This time Members


focussed their anger on last night's partially exploded bomb at the


entrance to the Victoria Square car park in Belfast. The attack has been


blamed on dissident republicans. The DUP's Jonathan Craig brought the


motion to the Assembly. On Sunday night at nine o'clock


approximately, and individual returning to his own home was


confronted by three masked men, the car hijacked, a bomb put in it and


he was forced to drive to the entrance at the Tahrir Square,


Musgrave Street police station. -- Victoria Square. Those are the


failed tactics of the past. A bomb with over 60 kilograms, of


explosives, it could have caused death, misery and mayhem in our city


centre. Of that, there is no question. These people need to know


they have no support whatsoever in the community, that the vast


majority of the people throughout Ireland -9 in the vast, vast


majority, to move the whole process forward, there is a democratic way


forward to pursue a united Ireland. So my message is simple. They need


to stop and they need to stop now. And there is no way that we are


going back to those days of conflict. Only politics works and


those that have carried out this act, which involved, incidentally, a


constituent, a man who was terrorised by this event. The fact


is we should be saying to those people that carried it out, yes, you


have carried out the failed tactics of the past. Politics works, nothing


else will work in terms of bringing about change and peace and stability


to our community. There is no point me using the word conned them. We


use it ad nauseam. What we must do is to identify those who are


responsible, track them down and make them subject to the rule of


law. In the absence of that, the public will conclude that these


people are, in essence, free to do what they want will stop I have said


before. People seem more wedded to the struggle than any possible


outcome because they must know that what they are carrying out can


achieve no political outcome. We stand here today as representatives


of Northern Ireland showing that democracy is what changes the way


things are managed. Should we not, and not just as a gesture but as a


body of all 108 of us, walk from this building together to this city


and make that statement a statement of solidarity by the people's


elected representatives against these people's and, not by doing


that showed to these people that there is a better way?


Our political reporter, Stephen Walker, is with me. Political


reaction to the bombing was not just confined to the Stormont chamber.


That's right. The first and deputy first ministers, Peter Robinson and


Martin McGuinness talking about jobs with which Telecom and in many ways


they were saying that the launch of these jobs was the symbol of the new


Northern Ireland and then we had the bomb attack in the headlines was not


as far as that was concerned, that was a sign of the old Northern


Ireland. They were asked about the bomb attack and this is what they


have to say. We are community. We cannot handed over to the police and


say solve that problem, it has to be the community which gets engaged in


dealing with this issue and that means providing information which


means making it clear to the people that we will not change course


because of it. The vast majority of people want to live normal lives and


they who find themselves in this little cocoon from a bygone age will


at some stage wake up and recognise that they are totally disengaged


from the community and that does absolutely nothing whatsoever for


the community. The Secretary of State has also been talking about


what happened. Yes, to Reza Villa said this was a reckless and callous


attack -- to Reza billions. She said families were forced and commuters


disrupted and businesses were disrupted. She said this was


ordinary people going about their daily business. She said the economy


was being held to ransom by this and she said it had to stop. Reaction


from Dublin as well? Some reaction, one said it was nothing short of


attempted murder and it comes in the way of recent incidents will stop he


said all of this had been perpetrated by people who have no


political support. He said it has to stop and likes of the other people


we have been hearing today, he said anybody with information should come


forward and contact the PSNI. Stephen, for now, thank you. Rural


crime and how to deal with severe weather were issues dealt with by


the Agriculture Minister at Question Time today. First, though, helping


the farming community with literacy problems.


I am aware that the level of literacy can cause some members of


the rule community to encounter difficulties when completing forms.


Many interactions with customers involve the completion of such forms


for various schemes and grants that are a minister. Where local offices


can explain these and the information needed, they are unable


to provide a level of assistance that would fill in a form. The


charity is well placed to support rural areas where anxieties and


difficulties are faced. This organisation receives funding


through the tackling rural poverty programme. And my depart provides


services -- my department. Staff in the local offices will advise that


the organisation can provide assistance to those with learning or


literacy issues. Appropriate guidance will be put in place to


ensure that the issues are handled with sensitivity. There are many


things that farmers can do to prepare for winter and the charities


have been very active in supporting training. One college embarked on a


programme of workshops, publications and face-to-face advice during


summer and this work will continue throughout the winter. Many attended


open days and attendees receive training on livestock management


topics including for the assessment and stock take. Grassland and


measurement, increasing efficiency and soil improvement. I am pleased


to report that with the support of these colleges and improved weather


in the summer this year, fodder yields have increased significantly.


Stocks on most farms have recovered to levels which are balanced with


projections. Livestock farmers are well prepared going into this


winter. Will be minister condemned the scurrilous accusations of


commerce made in the North Antrim press that some farmers are hoping


for another bad winter because the compensation they received was an


easy way to make money? I have not received a report that I would


absolutely condemn that. People and seeing the distress it is course.


Rural crime is a worrying and escalating problem. What new


initiatives has she taken to tackle this trend? I agree with the member


and we have seen quite a number of cases highlighted recently.


Particularly around cattle theft. I regularly engage with the PSNI and


chief constables and the Department of Justice to talk about how we can


work together because the levels of rural crime are concerning. I


recently met the Minister for Justice on the 14th of October when


we talked about the rural crime unit established and we now have


appointed Mr no plans to announce any cultural


bursaries yet, it is my intention to launch another bursary scheme this


year. The bursary scheme is aimed at broadening the appeal of the Irish


language and offers opportunity irrespective of traditions


backgrounds for eligible applicants to have a chance of attending an


Irish language summer course. The scheme also helps participants and


financial outlays which may occur as a barrier to access. I thank the


Minister. Can the Minister give an assessment of how she thinks it


could be encouraged among the Unionist community? The leaflet


initiative is about making language accessible to all and I think that


the initiative encourages that. This week, leafleting will take place


across Fermanagh organised by the grand Lodge of Ireland to bring


young people from Protestant Catholic backgrounds to explore our


cultural richness and ensuring learning through music and language


and culture and such events provide a good opportunity to promote this.


Another celebration will allow people across the community to


celebrate our cultural heritage. Following on from the previous


question's supplementary question, with the Minister agree that one of


the things that will attract the Unionist community to take part in


Irish line which classes was the Irish language was not used as a


political tool by politicians? You have dished deliberately just done


that! -- you have just done that. And this is experiences like that


where it is truly unhelpful and not very supportive where people from


your constituency are learning the Irish language, it is not giving


good leadership and agree with you are we need to not politicise any


language. If the Minister satisfied that things end Derry-Londonderry


have been promoted during the year as City of Culture?


There are always complaints and concerns at times where I thought


they were passed by but I have met many groups and not just the big


ticket events but many groups within the community who are not only happy


that the have not been involved but to try to strengthen the legacy from


this year and beyond and that is across the community. Can I ask the


Minister what her department has done or is doing for the annual


shutting of the Gates pageant as a major cultural event? I am not aware


of the department giving any specific support for that. They have


been part of the cultural programme and what I can do is chat with them


to see if there are any requests. We are certainly supportive. As a woman


living in north Belfast there are many things we can look towards the


apprentices for as regards what we need to do because up and down the


road it almost becomes a tale of two cities. Caral ni Chuilin.


Current careers advice is failing our young people, that was the


message coming from the floor of the chamber today as MLAs discussed a


report by the Employment and Learning committee on careers


education here. Work experience should be used in a


very meaningful way by introducing students to the work environment.


Currently they are many flaws in the system and students have to find


their own placements and if they are unsuccessful they can spend a week


picking litter from the school grounds. An information gap does


exist and there is a weak understanding of the labour market.


There appears to be little awareness of the different routes to success.


Young people pursue educational journeys where they do not find


works relevant to their qualifications when they leave


school. What makes a good careers service? This has been alluded to by


other people. A motivated careers teacher and we need ongoing careers


development for these teachers. Secondly create better school and


business links where there are opportunities for teachers to


experience the world of the work environment and vice versa. I


welcome the recommendation to place a requirement on schools to inform


students in the years ten, 11 and 12 of the variety of opportunities that


exist, academic and vocational routes. This is a key recommendation


of the report. As the committee chair has recommended, crucial to


delivering on that responsibility will be adequate resources. One


thing we heard last week is that the majority of young people currently


going through education will be employed in jobs that have not yet


been invented. It is hard to get our heads around that but it highlights


the fact that the jobs market is changing and young people need to be


equipped for that market. We do not want to limit the horizons of our


students in Northern Ireland. We should look at it from a global


point of view. It is not just Northern Ireland, it is not just


Scotland and the UK, it is the whole world and we must find our place


there. We have decided to begin a formal review of careers strategy


and careers provision. It will take into account the recommendations of


the employment and learning committee enquiry report. I cannot


overstate the importance to the transformation of our economy of


effectively investing in our people and developing their skills. I


believe that good careers policy and delivery structures should be


considered a foundation stone of a strong economy. Key to this is


ensuring a good match between supply and demand.


A new focus on careers advice. Now, Robin Swann is with be now. Are you


pleased at this outcome? I am pleased. Our main agenda was to get


the Minister and the education minister involved in making sure our


careers service is fit for purpose. In those closing comments he talked


about supply and demand and that was the thrust of why we started the


enquiry. We see a number of young people leaving our education system


with no prospect of employment but we have employers and business


crying out because of a skills shortage so it is important to get


those two things matched up. For many of us careers advice was


limited. What changes do you think need to happen? Ltd, I think, would


be a benefit or even a step up from some of the evidence we saw in the


enquiry where we saw systemic and other examples of poor careers


advice. There was also very good examples. We want careers advice to


become a statutory requirement in the schools provision so that


schools must require -- must provide it. Careers teachers should have a


qualification in careers teaching. We found it a surprise that actually


most careers teachers are actually the history teacher or the PE


teacher who has a spare period in the week rather than a specifically


trained teacher. It varies from school to school, obviously, but in


many it is a bit of an adjunct. Would you like a focused approach


where it is taught as a core subject. That is one of the


recommendations in the report. We would like it to be part of the


curriculum because that is the only way we feel we can embed it in the


education system so that young people have the opportunity to make


sure that their careers prospects and careers guidance are the best


they had to offer. The whole work landscape has what just -- has


changed so much. One criticism often levelled at schools is that they


encourage children to take the wrong subjects and pursue wrong subjects.


Subjects that might have been appropriate ten or 20 or 30 years


ago but may not be appropriate now. It is one of the things that we did


find as well, the jobs that our young people will be looking for are


jobs that have not been created. It will not be the jobs in medicine and


law that have always been seen as the safe and reliable jobs and


professional professions that the parents want their children to go


into so we have two look into the future and that is what we have been


getting from the industry as well, to make sure we're giving children


and young people the skills to go into the future job market. We have


recently got back from the future employment forum where we had that


90% of jobs in the next ten years will require a basic qualification


in ICT and we should be investing in our young people to make sure those


qualifications are in place. Very interesting to see that does indeed


happen and if the ministers take on the advice that you are giving


there. Robin Swann, thank you.


It was a busy day for the Culture Minister as she was also called upon


to answer a motion concerning the transferring of broadcasting powers


to the Assembly. A DUP petition of concern prevented a vote, but the


Assembly was divided on the issue. Sinn Fein tabled the motion, which


also called for Irish language and Ulster Scots funding to be


transferred to the Assembly. There are a host of practical and


operational reasons why it would be a good thing to have powers over


broadcasting devolved to the north, an idea also being promoted in


Scotland and Wales. The main argument in my view for such a move


is to create an environment where decisions on what is broadcast is a


result of a local decision making process. The Irish language


community makes up a sizeable section of our community. Those


Irish speakers and the Ulster Scots communities have the right to have


their ways of life reflected on the TV screen. While there have been


improvements in recent years and there is absolutely no doubt about


that it has happened in quite a haphazard way and still does not


have secure funding. Surely that cannot be the most appropriate way


to make provision for what is a significant section of the


population. 15 years after the Good Friday agreement we have no real


movement on promoting the Irish language and the Ulster Scots


dialect. The Department of arts and leisure have paid lip service to


promoting languages but they have failed to deliver the changes we


have seen in Scotland and Wales for example. This debate is too


important to be discussed in 90 minutes. These decisions should be


considered carefully by the executive before any proposals are


agreed. I am not to wear that this has even been mentioned at the


executive. In the light of that it would be wholly inappropriate for


decisions such as this to be made on the hoof or on the basis of a short


Assembly debate. Certainly we would be prepared to consider the issue in


the longer term and take into account all of the arguments. In any


event, further devolution issues should be for the first and the


deputy first ministers to negotiate with the UK Government. An


independent panel would need to fully scrutinised by ability of this


proposal, specifically costings. Would we be able to fund this


ourselves without the subsidy from the rest of the UK's licence fee


payers? At the risk of sounding blunt, it strikes me as little point


in devolving broadcasting into a situation where decision-making can


be slow or indeed characterised by total deadlock. Our overarching


policy is to support a multi-language strategy. This motion


continues to measure the subject in orange or green and that was


referred to in the opening statement. There is the disparity


between the Irish language body and the abilities of the Ulster Scots


language body. There is little point in this becoming a Sinn Fein power


game in an attempt to detach Northern Ireland from the UK.


Northern Ireland is of enormous economic importance and the content


on other channels touches all of our lives here and shapes our opinions


on international and national subjects. Broadcasting policies and


funding remain the responsibility of Westminster. The BBC in particular,


but not on its own, should not be able to short-change us. If we had a


role in the credibility of the BBC and other networks we can ensure


that the North is properly represented and valued across the


whole networks. Caral ni Chuilin.


Earlier MLAs marked the passing of Father Alec Reid who died in Dublin


on Friday. He was a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process,


acting as a go-between with the IRA and politicians. The tributes were


led by the Deputy First Minister. An extraordinary individual, who


made an incredible contribution to the peace process. Someone who was a


friend of all of us in this chamber. It is a long way from


Tipperary to the disadvantaged streets of West Belfast but for over


40 years Father Alec Reid laboured on behalf of the community that he


was so much a part of. An image of Father Alec Reid depicted crying


over the bodies of some army corporal 's will live for ever in


our memories. A real act of grace and compassion and images that went


right across the world. He was a man who, when it came to the pursuit of


peace, would not give up on the pursuit of peace and anyone who met


with him and talked with him, especially in the run down to the


cease-fire, knew that he was not going to be derailed. Today we hear


there may be a documentary broadcast tonight which will include comments


which I imagine the Unionist community will find utterly


unacceptable, but I hope that was not the abiding memory of Father


Alec Reid. Through the many decades of the troubles many people were


very critical of organised religion and said that the churches did not


do enough to end the troubles. They did not like to get involved in


controversial issues, they did not like to roll their sleeves up and


get their hands dirty. Father Alec Reid did. Those outside the


political limelight to deserve much of the praise and whose contribution


by its very nature may be -- may never become fully known and Father


Alec Reid was definitely one of those. Father Alec Reid kept the


faith, not only in his Christian witness but kept the faith in


politics that there was another way of bringing real change.


NI21's John McCallister with his tribute to the late Father Alec


Reid. And I'm joined again by our


Political Reporter, Stephen Walker. The house was united in paying


tribute to Father Alec Reid. Yes, I think it was one of those rare


occasions when unionists and nationalists and the Alliance and


independence came together to pay tribute to Father Alec Reid. He was


an individual who, as we heard, he was not just known in Belfast, he


was known right across Ireland and regarded by some as the father of


the peace process and he was an international figure who stood up


for his community. He was sometimes controversial but an individual who


you would say was a Christian to his fingertips and anything that he did


was with Christian intent. A quick look ahead to proceedings. A


few busy things. For ministers will appear tomorrow. John O'Dowd is


talking about education. Danny Kennedy will talk about road racing


and after lunch question Time with Martin McGuinness and the employment


minister. One of the committees tomorrow will be pretty topical.


Yes, the procedures committee has a lot on its plate. They are looking


at standing orders, talking about the Attorney General and the


Attorney General's right to participate in proceedings. In


recent days John Larkin has been in the news every day so he is a figure


that will pop up again tomorrow. The committee is also looking at the


emergence of political parties during this mandate. Obviously big


interest in that. There will be a review of topical questions which is


something that has been introduced in this Assembly term. They will


look at it to see if it is actually working so a lot at -- a lot on


their plate tomorrow. No Richard Hass? No, he has gone back to


America for Thanksgiving and then he will be back in Belfast on the 9th


of December and there will be two weeks of talks and may hope for a


agreement by Christmas. Thank you very much indeed.


That's it for tonight. I'll be back at the same time tomorrow night.


Until then, from everyone on the team, bye bye.


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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