25/11/2013 Stormont Today


25/11/2013

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. Coming up on the programme tonight,

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

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

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

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question. A man who kept his faith with

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

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extraordinary individual who made an incredible contribution to the peace

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

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And here to cast his eye over proceedings is our political

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reporter, Stephen Walker. Proceedings today were dominated

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with fresh condemnation of a terrorist attack. This time Members

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

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

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

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

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approximately, and individual returning to his own home was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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achieve no political outcome. We stand here today as representatives

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of Northern Ireland showing that democracy is what changes the way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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dealing with this issue and that means providing information which

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

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

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

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

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from the community and that does absolutely nothing whatsoever for

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

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

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

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disrupted and businesses were disrupted. She said this was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the farming community with literacy problems.

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

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the rule community to encounter difficulties when completing forms.

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Many interactions with customers involve the completion of such forms

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

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can explain these and the information needed, they are unable

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

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charity is well placed to support rural areas where anxieties and

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difficulties are faced. This organisation receives funding

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through the tackling rural poverty programme. And my depart provides

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

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the organisation can provide assistance to those with learning or

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literacy issues. Appropriate guidance will be put in place to

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

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

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

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

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

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open days and attendees receive training on livestock management

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topics including for the assessment and stock take. Grassland and

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measurement, increasing efficiency and soil improvement. I am pleased

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

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

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

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projections. Livestock farmers are well prepared going into this

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winter. Will be minister condemned the scurrilous accusations of

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

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for another bad winter because the compensation they received was an

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

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

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Rural crime is a worrying and escalating problem. What new

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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appointed Mr no plans to announce any cultural

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

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

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language and offers opportunity irrespective of traditions

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backgrounds for eligible applicants to have a chance of attending an

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Irish language summer course. The scheme also helps participants and

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

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

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could be encouraged among the Unionist community? The leaflet

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

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

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across Fermanagh organised by the grand Lodge of Ireland to bring

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young people from Protestant Catholic backgrounds to explore our

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cultural richness and ensuring learning through music and language

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

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Another celebration will allow people across the community to

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celebrate our cultural heritage. Following on from the previous

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

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

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

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political tool by politicians? You have dished deliberately just done

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

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

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

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

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

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have been promoted during the year as City of Culture?

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There are always complaints and concerns at times where I thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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report by the Employment and Learning committee on careers

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education here. Work experience should be used in a

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very meaningful way by introducing students to the work environment.

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

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

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picking litter from the school grounds. An information gap does

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

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

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Young people pursue educational journeys where they do not find

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works relevant to their qualifications when they leave

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

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

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development for these teachers. Secondly create better school and

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business links where there are opportunities for teachers to

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

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welcome the recommendation to place a requirement on schools to inform

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

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

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

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delivering on that responsibility will be adequate resources. One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the employment and learning committee enquiry report. I cannot

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overstate the importance to the transformation of our economy of

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effectively investing in our people and developing their skills. I

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believe that good careers policy and delivery structures should be

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

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ensuring a good match between supply and demand.

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

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

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the Minister and the education minister involved in making sure our

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

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

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

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with no prospect of employment but we have employers and business

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

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

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

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

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enquiry where we saw systemic and other examples of poor careers

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

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become a statutory requirement in the schools provision so that

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

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

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most careers teachers are actually the history teacher or the PE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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education system so that young people have the opportunity to make

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sure that their careers prospects and careers guidance are the best

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

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

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

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

:19:28.:19:32.

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

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

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

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

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professional professions that the parents want their children to go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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there. Robin Swann, thank you.

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

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to answer a motion concerning the transferring of broadcasting powers

:20:30.:20:32.

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

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

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also called for Irish language and Ulster Scots funding to be

:20:39.:20:45.

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

:20:46.:20:48.

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

:20:49.:20:53.

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

:20:54.:20:57.

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

:20:58.:21:02.

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

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result of a local decision making process. The Irish language

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community makes up a sizeable section of our community. Those

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

:21:17.:21:20.

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

:21:21.:21:23.

improvements in recent years and there is absolutely no doubt about

:21:24.:21:28.

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

:21:29.:21:33.

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

:21:34.:21:37.

to make provision for what is a significant section of the

:21:38.:21:42.

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

:21:43.:21:46.

movement on promoting the Irish language and the Ulster Scots

:21:47.:21:52.

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

:21:53.:21:54.

promoting languages but they have failed to deliver the changes we

:21:55.:21:57.

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

:21:58.:22:04.

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

:22:05.:22:07.

considered carefully by the executive before any proposals are

:22:08.:22:12.

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

:22:13.:22:16.

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

:22:17.:22:19.

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

:22:20.:22:25.

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

:22:26.:22:28.

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

:22:29.:22:33.

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

:22:34.:22:37.

deputy first ministers to negotiate with the UK Government. An

:22:38.:22:42.

independent panel would need to fully scrutinised by ability of this

:22:43.:22:48.

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

:22:49.:22:51.

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

:22:52.:22:57.

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

:22:58.:23:03.

in devolving broadcasting into a situation where decision-making can

:23:04.:23:09.

be slow or indeed characterised by total deadlock. Our overarching

:23:10.:23:14.

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

:23:15.:23:18.

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

:23:19.:23:23.

referred to in the opening statement. There is the disparity

:23:24.:23:26.

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

:23:27.:23:32.

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

:23:33.:23:37.

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

:23:38.:23:43.

Northern Ireland is of enormous economic importance and the content

:23:44.:23:50.

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

:23:51.:23:56.

on international and national subjects. Broadcasting policies and

:23:57.:23:59.

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

:24:00.:24:08.

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

:24:09.:24:12.

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

:24:13.:24:15.

that the North is properly represented and valued across the

:24:16.:24:17.

whole networks. Caral ni Chuilin.

:24:18.:24:20.

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

:24:21.:24:24.

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

:24:25.:24:27.

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

:24:28.:24:33.

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

:24:34.:24:36.

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

:24:37.:24:46.

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

:24:47.:24:51.

Tipperary to the disadvantaged streets of West Belfast but for over

:24:52.:25:00.

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

:25:01.:25:07.

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

:25:08.:25:12.

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

:25:13.:25:17.

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

:25:18.:25:26.

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

:25:27.:25:30.

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

:25:31.:25:37.

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

:25:38.:25:41.

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

:25:42.:25:47.

there may be a documentary broadcast tonight which will include comments

:25:48.:25:52.

which I imagine the Unionist community will find utterly

:25:53.:25:57.

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

:25:58.:26:01.

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

:26:02.:26:04.

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

:26:05.:26:08.

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

:26:09.:26:13.

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

:26:14.:26:16.

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

:26:17.:26:22.

political limelight to deserve much of the praise and whose contribution

:26:23.:26:28.

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

:26:29.:26:32.

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

:26:33.:26:37.

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

:26:38.:26:40.

politics that there was another way of bringing real change.

:26:41.:26:42.

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

:26:43.:26:44.

Reid. And I'm joined again by our

:26:45.:26:49.

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

:26:50.:26:53.

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

:26:54.:26:57.

occasions when unionists and nationalists and the Alliance and

:26:58.:27:00.

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

:27:01.:27:05.

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

:27:06.:27:09.

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

:27:10.:27:13.

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

:27:14.:27:17.

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

:27:18.:27:22.

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

:27:23.:27:25.

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

:27:26.:27:30.

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

:27:31.:27:34.

talking about education. Danny Kennedy will talk about road racing

:27:35.:27:39.

and after lunch question Time with Martin McGuinness and the employment

:27:40.:27:44.

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

:27:45.:27:48.

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

:27:49.:27:53.

at standing orders, talking about the Attorney General and the

:27:54.:27:56.

Attorney General's right to participate in proceedings. In

:27:57.:28:00.

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

:28:01.:28:04.

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

:28:05.:28:08.

emergence of political parties during this mandate. Obviously big

:28:09.:28:15.

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

:28:16.:28:19.

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

:28:20.:28:22.

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

:28:23.:28:27.

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

:28:28.:28:32.

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

:28:33.:28:37.

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

:28:38.:28:41.

agreement by Christmas. Thank you very much indeed.

:28:42.:28:44.

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

:28:45.:28:48.

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

:28:49.:28:54.

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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