28/05/2013 Stormont Today


28/05/2013

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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Today. On the programme, the SDLP feel the heat of Special Advisors

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even though they did not start the fire. We will not be supporting a

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petition of concern over the SPAD bill. There was one kind of bridge

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building announced today. As a well-known builder of bridges I am

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happy to say that as a result of the work which has been carried out in

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assessing the Narrow Water Bridge project, that has now been completed

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by my department. Commentator Alex Kane gives us his perspective on the

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agenda of today. On last week's programme the SDLP's

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Dominic Bradley suggested his party would try to beat of the Special

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Advisors Bill. But the row that followed not least the reaction from

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Ann Travers, the sister of an IRA bit, has prompted a change of heart.

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TUV introduced the bill aimed at trying to prevent former prisoners

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convicted of serious offences from taking advisory posts. Here is what

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Dominic Bradley told Mark Carruthers. We are considering using

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the option of a petition of concern. That is a nuclear option.

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We have tried other options are available and they have not

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unsuccessful and we have to consider a petition of success -- a petition

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of concern. Could you be persuaded to live with the legislation? I do

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not think we can be persuaded to live with the bear -- love with the

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legislation. We have made every attempt that we could to shape it

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into law and that has not unsuccessful. We are considering

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supporting a petition of concern. Are you going to do it? We probably

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will do it. Today the SDLP leader backed off any attempt to formally

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block the bill. We had lengthy discussions this morning and we will

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not be supporting a petition of concern over the SPAD bill. We are

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concerned about the floors and the fact that it has not been possible

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and our amendments have not been accepted, we field that the victims

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concerns and issues take priority and we have had lengthy discussions

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with a number of groups and with our own wider party over the last week.

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That is the line we are taking at this stage. We believe, going

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forward, there is a need for a greater focus on victims issues and

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we will be taking that up and finding mechanisms to ensure that

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victims do not remain in the shadows and there are issues are put to the

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forefront. We hope that satisfied some of the questions people are

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asking. Will you vote for the bill? We have difficulty with the bill and

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it is flawed and the proposer of the bill has not shown himself willing

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to accept amendments. We are unlikely to vote for the bill at

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this stage. We will not vote for the bill unless the proposer shows some

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commitment to making it functional. He is death to alarming the

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amendments that we believe would have been good law. -- he is death

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to allowing. We will not be signing a petition of concern. The affair

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has not, it has been good for victims and has put their issues top

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of the bill. Victims have been left stranded for 15 years, nothing has

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happened and the present government of the Sinn Fein and the DUP have

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not shown the commitment that is required to get to reconciliation

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and the truth. We need a truth and reconciliation process. That is not

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happening. We are happy that this issue is now top of the agenda and

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we intend to keep it there. Alex Kane, in your previous job you

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advise the Ulster Unionist Party on media matters. What would you have

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been advising the SDLP? This was a mess in the terms of the media and

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their own internal message. I do not know whether what Dominic Catt --

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Dominic Bradley -- Dominic Bradley said was a kite flying exercise. It

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was not stamped down immediately after the original interview. They

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left it open and it must have been a leadership decision to do that. It

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panned out disastrously. They ended up having to admit they cannot do

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the petition of concern. They will now have to abstain and they were

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always going to. I said that three weeks ago, that they would always do

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that so I do not know why they went through this entire mess. It is

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interesting in terms of the party and how much control Alistair

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McDonnell has. There seems to be a breakdown in what people thought.

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ties into a wider view within the party. Alistair MacDonald does not

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have as huge degree of support inside the party. Many people field

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they should go to our stronger position, to the right of Sinn Fein.

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What they should do is talk quietly with a variety of groups and now it

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just looks as if abstention is an option that they were forced into, I

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humiliated climb-down. Alistair McDonnell has said that he did not

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think it was damaging and obviously he would say that. What message does

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it send out? It highlights the irrelevance of the SDLP at this

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stage. They are clearly a group who would like to get out of the

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Executive altogether. You need to set yourself in opposition and say

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here is something different about us. This nonsense of trying to be

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all things to all men, it is the same as the Ulster Unionist Party.

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Either you are in the Executive as opposition or you are in as

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ministers, you cannot be both. will hear more from you.

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It was granted planning permission and EU funding of over 17 million

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euros last October but the Narrow Water Bridge project had failed to

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get the nod for Stormont financing until today. Sammy Wilson gave

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details when he briefed the Assembly on a recent North South Ministerial

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Council meeting. As well-known builder of bridges in this Assembly

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I am happy to say that as our result of work which has been carried out

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in assessing the Narrow Water Bridge project, that has been completed by

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my apartment. Members will know there was considerable G interest in

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this Assembly and it was important, especially of -- because of the low

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score the project had, and that was about concerns regarding the ability

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to deliver, that we had proper scrutiny of the project, there are

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number of conditions attached. We would expect that to be put in place

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to safeguard public money. The first one is if there are any cost

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overruns on the project, or delays, that the local county council has

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given a guarantee that it will fund any shortfall. As far as the

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maintenance of the bridge is concerned, that will be the

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responsibility of the local county council and the operation of the

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bridge will be left to one of the northern Ireland local government.

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The Minister will be glad to know that 50 years ago I was a baby and

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50 years later, we are going to have our bridge. But the Minister agree

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that the local councils on the border regions and the Kilkeel

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Chambers of, is did a wonderful job? It will bring economic and cultural

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tourism to the region. I am sure people who are watching this today

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will be surprised at the statement she has made. I am sure most people

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did not put today day over 30! There we are. Can I just say on the

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project, there has been extensive lobbying, more lobbying than I would

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have liked to have seen. All of these projects, and it is important

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because there are many projects which did not succeed, some very

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good projects, it is important that people have an assurance that these

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projects are chosen purely on an objective basis and not on the

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amount of public lobbying which happens. Could I ask you Minister,

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when you talk about the monitoring and delivery of the bridge, can I

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ask you about that? The timescale is that the money must be spent by the

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EU target of June 2015. There is an extension until December 2015 for

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bills and settlement. That is the timescale we are operating under.

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What does the future hold for GCSE and A-level qualifications here? It

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is a subject the Education Minister John O'Dowd addressed in Question

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Time today. It follows a recent meeting with his Westminster

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counterpart, Michael Gove. Since our meeting I have received a

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letter from Michael Gove which indicated his decision to end

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certain examinations. I was not pleased. In response I it was

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imperative that ministers should meet and have discussions with each

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other and these discussions would remain confidential until ministers

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have the opportunity to discuss the indications. Would the Minister

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agree that no single jurisdiction has the right to dictate how the

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GCSE and A-level brand is used now or in the future? I would be

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concerned about breaking up the ownership of the brand among the sea

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jurisdictions. He is perfectly entitled to do so but I will insure

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members -- as she remembers that the study is ongoing and there will be

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an announcement in the future. The key purpose of eggs as is to ensure

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our young people are tested robustly. There are a small number

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of areas in which there is a shortfall in provision but we will

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be working closely with the boards to address this. In some instances

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this will involve bringing new providers and to address this. In

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some instances this will involve bringing new providers enter the

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programme are encouraging existing providers to run additional

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programmes. More places will be provided for preschool provision.

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Prominent investors pervading places for children from disadvantaged

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backgrounds. While I understand the rationale for this, does the

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Minister agree with me that it is subsequently often much harder for

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parents who are working to find a suitable place even though they need

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a preschool place for their child as much as anyone else? I am glad to

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hear the member understands why the social clauses are involved in this

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because children from disadvantaged backgrounds do have more

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difficulties presenting throughout school. In terms of the social

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clauses, I would like to have reviewed them earlier. I would like

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more lower paid working families to meet the criteria and I have to wait

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on the outcome of the welfare reform Bill and then if it does go

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through, I will look at the social clauses. From education to health

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and the major review of health services transforming your care. It

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dominated headlines yesterday when health trusts moved to close 18

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homes. Ministers insisted there was no Utah and today they stood by the

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policy when the SDLP moved a motion looking for greater protection for

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health services. We appreciate the need for reconfiguration and so we

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have no ideological opposition. The concept is about making services

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more accessible to those who need it the most, and in a more convenient

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way. We support they need to tailor our health and social care system

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around the patient. We are open-minded about the changes that

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might bring. But, we are gravely concerned at the potential

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privatisation of parts of our health and social care service which is

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possible because of the transforming your care proposals. When 75% of

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services are in the private sector, why the sudden outreach? I have no

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hangups whatsoever about whether it is private or started to worry. My

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only aim in life is what is best for the person living in the residential

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or nursing care? That must be the main motivation? If the private

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sector can provide that effectively, and cost effectively,

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that is a good thing. The strategic implementation plan is currently

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being updated to take on board and reflect the conclusions of the

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public consultation. We hope this will be completed by the end of May

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2013. Two or three days. Once it is completed, we will be taking

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evidence from the health and social care borderless and we will want to

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know in detail how they will introduce the changes and who they

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will be consulting with. On the policy, on transforming your care,

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they are no Utah is only policy. There will be no Utah is on it and I

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believe that after I leave office and my party leaves office, there

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will be no U-turns by the programme. In terms of ensuring that patients

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and not profit is at the centre of care provision, that will always be

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the case, but that does not mean that the private sector there is

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always bad, or that it cannot help us or assist us in providing

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healthcare. What we are looking for is not to provide a pure level of

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care in spite of the fact that people do not have as much money,

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but to ensure we provide the level of care that people expect and

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should receive with the lesser amount of money, and in order to do

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that we have to use our money more wisely and investment better than

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deliver better results. Edwin Poots speaking there in the SDLP motion

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was carried narrowly. The Culture Minister came under fire

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during question time as she explained her department's strategy

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for supporting boxing. She updated the assembly on the high-profile

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case of Sandy Row Boxing Club. A new manager has been appointed and

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is directly working with local boxing clubs on the number of

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matters including funding applications, child protection and

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increasing participation. Meetings are also being held between managers

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and individual clubs and local councils to review situations.

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Looking ahead, an independent team is due to be appointed in July and

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they work will be informed by these meetings that are being held at the

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moment in the Lee for the individual premises. The state of the boxing

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clubs across the North are not good. In view of the comments just made

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about Sandy Row Boxing Club and be very reasonable recommendations put

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forward in the report on sectarian and racial abuse, as the Minister

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spills saying that unless they meet hard she is not prepared to look at

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the issues of fair treatment three sectarian and racial abuse that

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Sandy Row Boxing Club has been subject to and continues to refuse

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to be brought forward? Again, he is consistent with his inaccuracies.

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have never said in this house or anywhere else that it will not

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receive funding because it refused to meet me. Any boxing club will

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only receive money once they are affiliated that that is the

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criteria. If it is good enough for others, it is good enough for Sandy

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Row Boxing Club. I am delighted they have agreed to meet the independent

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panel and they believe it is a positive step. I hope they receive a

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fair hearing and I believe me well and I hope they decide to the

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affiliate because I am concerned that the children are affected

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because of the stands of a fuel of the officers of the club.

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ministers position is that unless a club which has been discriminated

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against by those to whom they are affiliated, there will be no funding

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for them? I know you like to dodge the issue but what advice are you

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getting to help address the SU of sectarianism? I met with the various

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panel members just last month and offered them support without

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conditions, so I think in fairness to that, I reject the assertion

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about myself and my department being involved in discrimination. I think

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it has a scurrilous remarks to make. I will repeat myself again. Like any

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other club, they have to be affiliated. I would appeal again to

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Sandy Row Boxing Club to step back and think about the actions because

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it is at the end of the day about children and young people who are

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going to be left behind because of the actions of some of them.

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assembly managed to fit them for questioning times today with Nelson

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McCausland discussing shared housing but first up was the agriculture

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minister answering questions about the Agri-Food strategy. I intend to

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talk about all the departments implicated because obviously there

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are implications for others. We intend to bring in executive people

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for discussion and they plan to do that over the next three months

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because that is one thing they are looking for. We do not want to take

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a fantastic piece of work and not take action quickly. Some of the

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targets are very achievable before the timeframe. The agri- food

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industry would say these are exciting times but the farming

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industry would say that the Minister is providing or what could be the

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biggest crisis in living memory and it goes across all sectors. What are

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you doing to bridge the gap between farming and Agri-Food to make sure

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this report will more directly benefit the farming community?

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of the key results of the report is the recognition for industry, to say

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that the processors and retailers are involved in the supply chain.

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The farming sector can be an equal partner and can be treated as such.

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They are crucial to the success of this and all stages have been looked

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at by the farming industry. I intend to continue working with the farming

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industry and the executive has come on board to recognise the need to

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support the farming industry and what has been a uniquely horrendous

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time. All new housing developments are deemed to have shared potential.

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They currently undertake a screening exercise for all shared development

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proposals within the context of the religious make-up of the local

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community. Where there is a history of good relations, local political

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views and the proximity of integrated schools. If subject to a

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screening exercise, a new bills scheme can be considered as a shared

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scheme. They can sign up to the involuntary neighbourhood charter

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which secures the agreement any manner which will not accept --

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aspect the peace and enjoyment of their neighbours. I and my officials

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are currently considering whether to take forward proposals for an

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additional new ten shared housing developments in light of recent

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statements by the first Minister and Deputy first Minister. Despite the

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challenging environment, do you acknowledge and Wellcome the work

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carried out in areas of south Belfast? Yes, indeed. The cohesion

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unit within the housing sector is very much supportive of those

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particular areas where you have a mixed community they are already. I

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am aware of a number of projects that they have, having supplied the

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member with details of those over the last couple of years right

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through to the present. Some very good work has been done. Mixed

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communities can come in different forms and for me the key thing is

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not that they are sheer but that they are stable. You can have our

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share of the area and then it goes one direction or another. You can

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have an area that is sheer that the moment but which can transition from

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one identity to another. It is important that they are stable as

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well. Lots discussed in the chamber today but the education story seems

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to stand out in terms of what it means for devolution. The irony of

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this says that Michael Gove complained about how many boards

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they were in that somewhere too simple and too difficult. He wanted

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to bring it down but the impact has been to magnify the differences

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between the various regions of the United Kingdom. It ties in to the

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corporation tax as well because as we move forward we are growing for

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the park, and the further irony is that the consequences of this are

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being debated for certain as Lee. It will be interesting how they go

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forward because it is all important for so many children. Look at the

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whole 11 plus transfer test which we have still not resolved. The A-level

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situation could go on and on and the schools themselves in Northern

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Ireland will not be able to agree. It is not going to be resolved soon.

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Was there that had from Edwin Poots that he might be moving in a

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reshuffle? That was a whopping great sign, I am on my way out! For the

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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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