27/02/2012 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. No Oscars for us sadly but


congratulations to Terry George and while our MLAs know how to bask in


reflected glory, one member had strong words of criticism.


What was done about this Assembly to make the best of this success?


What plans were put in place by the Department?


And learning about our shared history - it could be a steep


learning curve for some. Signing of the Ulster Covenant


coming up next year is an opportunity but there are other


issues. Remember, the covenant was signed 100 years ago.


Keeping me right tonight, historian Jonathan Bardon.


There's always a lot of talk about the past up here at Stormont but


today's debate took us way back to the Ulster Covenant and the Easter


Rising and how they should be commemorated. Jonathan Bardon is


here to give us some context. There may be one school of thought that


we should just ignore them? I don't think we should ignore these events


that were so momentous and did so much to shape our present that I


think they have to be marked in some way or other. I think the


danger is that you could cherry- pick and just choose one or two


events and the triumphalist about them. These events all connect with


each other up. We are is a sense of them and us but you get the


impression from the MLAs that they are trying to move away from that?


I hope so. For example, he Ulster day or the day that the covenant


was signed in September of 1912, that took place because of another


momentous event when the British Government got the day in April


1912 when the Titanic went down, introduce the third Home Rule Bill


to give the whole of Ireland a vote of devolution. Of course the


government was a reaction against that. The Easter Rising coming up


in a few years' time, balances things out? I have a problem with


that. The Easter rising was in 1916. The covenant was in 1912 so that


gives you a four-year gap. Again, it is cherry picking. One thing


leads on to another. At the Easter Rising would not have taken place


without the First World War or and of course of 1916 is important, not


just for the Easter Rising, but for the great offensive along the


western front in which so many people from Ulster and the whole of


Ireland died. More people were fighting on the Western Front, were


Catholics indeed were fighting on the Western Front, and fought in


the Easter Rising. The Alliance Party motion called


for a co-ordinated approach to the commemoration of these events.


The challenge is, can explore this past together in a way that both


aids understanding through education and discussion in order


to learn from our past and help us informed the possibility of a


better future. Should we feel this challenge, there is potential for a


divisive period rather than one focused on the future progress and


the degree of maturity displayed over the coming 10 years in how we


look at the past will ship how we live in the future. The signing of


the Ulster Covenant, coming up next year is an opportunity. But there


are other issues. The covenant was signed this year, 100 years ago.


That demonstrates my point because I think we have a lot to learn


about each other. My understanding of the covenant is that it was


signed in September of this year. Is that correct? That is the date I


had in mind so the point I would like to make his, we would in fact


learn from each other and we should because I do think that perhaps the


hard words we normally here and perhaps the noise and clamour of


that was because people didn't have the confidence that what they would


say it would be heard. I think we all have a responsibility, perhaps


not just for the past, but to take this opportunity, it is a


responsibility in my view and I want to make it clear, I want to


make this commitment on behalf of my party, we will participate in


these events and as many of these events, including those that


reflect the Unionist tradition as it is possible for us to do so.


SDLP believes it is vitally important that we don't just


remember the past but we ask almost critical questions of it and that


articulating a vision of the future is as much a part of the process as


looking back. But also offers us a picture of two to record and teach


our people and particularly our young people who the history, and I


mean the history, not our history or their history, which I have even


heard today in this chamber. I think to say our history or their


history is something that shouldn't be talked about. It is the history


of Northern Ireland and the people within it. I think it does a great


disservice to the people who were involved in these events when they


are labelled as our history for their history or one section of our


history for one section of our people or one section but we ignore


that part of history. That is their history, the history of Northern


Ireland and the people within it. Interesting to hear some of the


thoughts there but we have great difficulty with dealing in our


recent past, can we deal with the past 100 years ago? I think we can.


There are many experts who are extremely well versed in this who


could tell us about this. The BBC has a great archive of film. The


newspapers are full of useful material. Actually, the Ulster


Unionists in particular in 1912 were superb publicists and produced


lots of wonderful postcards and propaganda at the time and the


nationalists responded. Is there anything we can learn from it in


terms of killing? I think so. We learn by discovering that it is


more complex and we thought it was, it is not the kind of history that


you get in ballads more on gable walls or on banners. I think that


is what is so important and the more we know about it, the better.


The more capable we are a standing back and understanding each other


and opposite points of view. Emigration is a big issue in the


Republic, but here? It turns out no one really knows what the situation


is here as the Employment and Learning minister revealed during


questions. There were feisty moments when Arlene Foster dealt


with that hoary old topic, fracking. More on that in a second but first,


here's the chair of the DEL committee casting up to the past to


his minister on the issue of youth unemployment.


On 8th June, you stated that we recognise the committee has an


important role to play, not just in scrutinising policy. Can you


explain why you have not brought these issues to the Committee for


discussion and can you tell us if you proposals that you have shared


with colleagues, if they will be a rehash of what is going on in the


rest of the UK or if you have something a bit of thinking to


bring to this matter? First of all, he raises a couple of questions and


I will try to address those. If the chair of the committee wants to


invite officials to break the Committee on this matter of


importance, I am more than happy to make my officials available to them.


At times the committee has asked for a whole host of briefings to be


made to the committee on matters small and occasionally on matters


large and certainly in this large matter, I would welcome the


committee having a discussion around the matters. Of course the


committee will appropriate that it is for the Executive to determine


the policy and that is where agreement has to be found. After


that, we look to the finance minister in terms of resourcing


mess. Secondly, while we are mindful of the policies being


developed in the rest of the UK, we are devolved region and we do not


follow what happens in other jurisdictions. However we will take


on board the lessons of what is working in the rest of the UK and


indeed I am keen to add a premium up with the Northern Ireland of a


dish nullity that is linked to our own economy and the proposal I'd


put forward towards skill areas we have a Northern Ireland so we


insure this is not simply about dealing with unemployment but also


about an investment in the future of our economy by ensuring we are


investigating -- investing in the right areas. He could I asked the


Minister said his department has carried out any assessment of the


number of young people who have emigrated particularly from rural


areas in search of work and does the Department have a strategy for


tackling youth unemployment in rural areas? I am very much aware


of the issues he is raising but it is difficult to give a precise


figure for emigration at this stage. It is not something for which the


Executive is responsible and terms of monitoring those issues. He but


we are aware of the issues. I am mindful of making sure there is a


range of policies across Northern Ireland both for urban and rural


areas. He will be aware for example that we have ruled out a project


into areas like Cookstown and more oil recently so we are recognising


that there are rock pockets of disadvantage where we need to make


some particular interventions. Arlene Foster next and the possible


income -- impact on tourism. With the Minister agree that there is a


danger to tourism because of for a king. Was she assure me that


stakeholders will be consulted before any input into the decision


process. Also when the Minister agree that the other form of


alternative energy, especially around the Ballycastle area. I have


already indicated that there are no plans in place for hydraulic


fracturing in the north Antrim area. Neither Rathlin energy or or


singleton intense to use that but I do say this to remember, I was then


an area last week which provides 80% of gas to the UK. That is the


same state that is hosting the 2022 World Cup, it doesn't seem to have


done any damage to their tourism infrastructure and indeed their


bedding for the 2020 Olympics so the benefits which the production


of gas can bring to a particular part of the world are huge. In


answer to his first of many questions, do I see that fracturing


damages tourism? Not if it is carried out in the way in which


will comply with planning permissions, environmental impact


assessments. I do not see a direct lineage between tourism and


hydraulic fracturing and there has been whipped up, in certain parts


of our country, quite disgraceful at putting it stories which are a


disgrace of instead of looking at the facts. We are at a stage where


a planning application needs to put in place, where an environmental


impact is to be put in place and people would do well to wait until


those are in place before getting I would thank the minister for


reminding us for the position and exploration of gas. Cot minister


explain to the House what it will mean to Northern Ireland if there


is gas there and if it would be feasible to do so, what it will


mean for Northern Ireland. Well, the work that has been taken on at


present by the particular company, a company which has now met with


both myself and the minister of environment, are really carrying


out work to see whether it is feasible to take shail gas out of


the basin and in and around Fermanagh. That work is ongoing.


They will carry out more work and then put in a planning application


and a strategic environmental impact assessment. If they can take


gas out of county Fermanagh in a safe way, which respects the


environment and respects what happens in county Fermanagh, and


can I say, I find it quite offensive for people to say that I


would in some way damage county Fermanagh, Mr Speaker, as if.


to the issue of some of these commemorations. There's the Ulster


covenant, Easter rising, Titanic. There's the sufferage movement that


we don't hear much about. Tem us about that. Ulster played its part


in the campaign for vote for women. There were some very active


suffragettes coming up towards to the First World War, for example,


making an attack, I think, burning down the cave hill tennis Pavilion.


There were teachers in Victoria College on a Friday would then take


the boat to Britain and go down to London and join other suffragettes


in throwing rocks through plate glass windows in Oxford Street and


be back in the class on Monday morning. They certainly took things


into their own hands a lot of it was quite violent. Yes it was the.


The Government was very concerned about it. The Prime Minister who


introduced the third home rule bill, Herbert Henry Asquith was in Dublin.


He was cheered by great numbers of Nationalists when suffragettes


attacked him. Our MLAs love a bit of reflected glory and what could


be better than Hollywood glamour and razzmatazz. They were queuing


up at the start of business to praise local director and


screenwriter Terry George, whose short film The Shore won its


category at the Oscars. This is a fantastic achievement given the


prominence of the Oscars as being the highest accolade possible in


the film industry. Whilst we have a number of nominees from Northern


Ireland in the past, including Liam knee son, Keneth brana, to win this


year in this category is outstanding. What was done by this


Assembly to make the best of this success, what plans were put in


place by the department ofent price, or the department of leisure to


mark such a significant occasion on the winning of this occasion? Where


was invest NI for example. Over recent years film making in


Northern Ireland has been growing dramatically. This is helped in no


small part not only bit funding given to Northern Ireland screen


but also the ability of Northern Ireland to attract film makers to


our shores, through the work of the Northern Ireland executive. With


major television shows like game of thrones and movies like your


Highness and killing Bono, we're developing the technical skills to


go with the artistic talent to go with directors such as Terry George.


I was fortunate enough some years ago to be one of the first trainees


on the Irish broadcasting fund. From that fund we have accepted a


number of companies which are currently producing film and


television. So when we get an achievement of this world standing


nature, it's something that we should shout about. I'm sure it's a


great celebration in County Down and of Coney Island as well, which


was made so famous by van Morrison. The former Chief Operating Officer


of loch shore investments said the main reason she invested in The


Shore was the impact it could have on the branding of Northern Ireland


to the world as, and Terry George in his speech said we negotiated a


peace and proved to the world that the Irish are great talkers. The


film itself, Mr Speaker, is about someone who fled to America because


of the Troubles. What a different peace when people leave for totally


different reasons. Robin Swan joins me now. You waste nod time on


getting this onto the agenda today. It's a fantastic achievement for


Terry George and the film industry, especially when we're promoting the


creative industries. Fantastic opportunity to put Northern Ireland


on the world stage. You sounded a note of criticism. Of missed


opportunity. The world was there, the world was watching, Terry


George had no support from the Northern Ireland executive, there


was nobody there to say this is a Northern Ireland product ah, part


from Terry himself. He finished up with the Irish film boards after


awards party. There was nothing there to celebrate Northern


Ireland's achievement. Does the film not speak for itself. The film


was a great reflection on Northern Ireland and what had happened,


especially the story behind the entire film and the production


itself. I think we're missing opportunities like this. We have


Rory McIlroy in the world of golf, and nobody supporting him as the


Northern Ireland executive. More need to be there to capture that


spirit and the opportunity there to promote Northern Ireland. Would


that not lead to criticism of MLAs only need to plan a trip to San


Diego and there's shout of junkets, would that not lead to people


accusing them of wasting money. it's industry based, I'm not


talking about MLA junkets, this is serious contributions and support


of the creative industries in Northern Ireland and being there on


the world stage and making ourself known as a world player. We have


the game of throne world wide series, let's maximise the


potential and maximise all that is good about Northern Ireland. It's a


fantastic achievement and not to take away from it, we've had short


films nominated in the past, can you see a time when we would have a


full length, feature film nominated or winning an Oscar? Certainly.


We've had previous actors nominated from Northern Ireland Liam Neeson,


we have the ability there. If we put enough investment into the


creative industries into screen NI and into all the creative


individuals who are out there, surely, before long, we will


produce full length films here that will take the Oscars no, problem,


same as Terry George did. Thank you for joining us. The SDLP's kolum


Eastwood was put in his place earlier. Would he be bold to


criticise the spending plans again. This budget has a lack of any real


focus on job creation. There's a weakness in dealing with the


threats to people amongst the poorest in our society and


threatened by the oncoming onslaught of welfare reform. The


devolution of corporation tax is moving at a far too slow pace. Mr


Deputy Speaker, the politics of this budget is equivalent to a


splash of bright paint on a distinctly grey canvas. Political


choreography cannot distract from the reality of the defishcy of good


Government. How can we convince anyone that the leadership is


capable of dealing with more fiscal powers, when it hasn't fully


utilised the block expenditure in its possession. It's sad to see for


someone so young, he has got himself into a state of despair,


which, I mean, usually, the youth are the people who have got


idealism that lifts them beyond the circumstances in which they find


themselves, help to pull themselves out of the mud an the mire and look


to rise for a brighter future. I'm afraid that the young people in the


SDLP have got their eyes as firmly on the ground in front of them as


some of the older members who have had the batterings and beatings of


electoral defeat after electoral defeat and therefore, have got into


this kind of negative attitude. Well that's him told. Now, Stormont


committees cover all sorts of topics, but sometimes MLAs can


wonder off down unexpected avenues, leaving guests a little bewildered.


Here's what happened when a presentation to the education


committee on preschool places took a slight diversion and listen out


for sometimes torturous similar Liz as we look at the work of the


committees here on the Hill. This is a bit like, this has turned


into the debate about food globally, I mean, I presume you do believe


there's enough food in the world to feed snerch I'm not qualified to


comment on that. You don't have an opinion? I'm not here to answer


question abouts that. I may well be if there is and it's not


necessarily in the right place. That's why we have familiarins and


food shortages. That's why the food of Africa gets thrown up. This


debate is turning into one of these arguments. Yeah we all want to


eliminate global hunger but we can't take the necessary steps to


do it. So we tolerate 10% of kids not getting a place. It's not 10%.


In some areas we're hitting 100%. Some areas it's about 90%. This is


very close. We are looking at the experience from last year. Even the


figures about parents who didn't get placed aren't entirely accurate.


I think areas we need to do a bit more work. We also need to look at


parents who don't apply. There's a number of parents who actually


don't apply for a place for their children. We need to look at that.


We need to look at parents who drop off during the application process


and find out why that is. We need to look at the cohort and if


there's barriers to applications, address those. Once people come


into the application process make sure it works better for them so


they get the places at the end. minister mentioned, I think it's


worth noting, that the DSD is putting in money. It's always been


the view and strongly the view of the MAC that it can't be a stand


alone place. Part of the reason why it was put there was because of the


clustering, the sense of clustering of cultural activity and those two


would feed off each other. The point that we made is that you


can't fund the MAC and strip everything else back. It's like


putting Wayne Rooney out without any other players around them. The


MAC is a focal point for arts and culture activities in the cathedral


quarter. Everything else has to keep going and that includes the


black box, which has become a very important part of what cathedral


quarter is. The other big thing that the minister mentioned was the


managed work space and 50% subsidy and so on. That is a really


important part of clustering. I think we can do that a lot better.


Wod' like to work with the department more on that front.


Every little bit counts. Every little bit counts. Sean will tell


you if you get 5% or 10% from a Government, that leverages another


10% from somewhere else. This is a set of dominoes. You take one piece


out and the rest don't fall. Sean has to cut back, reduce prices or


whatever it might be. The cocktail is important. It's like not putting


gin in a gin sling, I don't know, I've never had a gin cling, I just


thought of that. The cocktail is really important. These numbers


were very important. We're so grateful that they've been restored.


Peter Robinson says the conflict transformation at the former maize


jail could provide a space for people to share their experiences


from the Troubles. But the executive is having difficulty


finding someone to head the development of the site. It's not


great news. The first and deputy First Minister had hoped to


announce shortly the appointment of a chairman of the board, along with


board members. But in weekly answer booklet today, the Ulster Unionists


found out that they weren't able to appoint a chairman because they


didn't get a suitable candidate. The pool will stay but they will


look again at finding a chairman. Some speculation that the first and


deputy First Minister couldn't agree. I spoke with Mike Nesbitt


and asked how concerned he was. very disappointed. But I'm


concerned yes, because you would have thought for such a big and


potentially exciting development, you would have had a queue of


suitably qualified people coming forward. Yet, according to them,


not one. What about the David McNargolery issue and the plans to


discipline him glrb McNarry. understand a date has been set but


the party will not comment, nor will they comment on suggestion


that's other people are also going to appear before the disciplinery


panel. The SDLP now, Alastair McDonald had a baptism of fire when


he took over as leader. But he has reached the 100-day stage. First


the lights, then a party row, public row, over MLAs and salaries.


He got good news, given to us today, that is that he had set a number of


targets for his first 100 days in targets. He's met those targets.


His fundraising target of �20,000 was met before Christmas.


A final word from you. Is there a danger in all these commemorations


of stirring up old wounds from the past. There certainly is and the


Government needs to lead to ensure that doesn't happen, to make sure


it's inclusive, non-triumphalist and brings everybody on board by


looking at the sequence of events from April of 1912 all the way up


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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