28/06/2011 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Martina Purdy is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Hello and welcome to our final programme of Stormont Today before


the summer recess. We'll have a sprinkling of MLAs from the


Executive parties on the programme tonight, plus the Ulster Unionist


leader, Tom Elliott, having another go at Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy.


Mr Molloy is unfit to hold this position of Principal Deputy


Speaker. Mothers bring their demand for nursery places to Stormont.


Everyone knows a nursery close to home is noting to be sneezed at.


Why are you here today? We are here, primarily because... Do you want to


do that again? Sorry. At least baby -- the baby didn't yawn! Our


regular viewers will know our MLAs can talk for hours about the driest


of subjects. So, no surprise that most of the day was taken up


debating the possible reduction in corporation tax. It seems many


members are in the mood to gamble, view lower corporation tax, as a


safe bet. Also, today there were questions to the Culture and


Education Ministers. First, that tax discussion. By itself a


competitive rate of corporation tax will not be enough to rebalance the


local economy. It is one strand in a strategy which should include


investment in research and development, invasion, education


and skills. It should be accepted now however that a strong case


existss for the devolution of corporation tax powers. There is


much more detailed work to be done. Much will depend on the outcome of


ongoing negotiations with the Treasury in terms of how attractive


it will be in process. I believe it is important that this Assembly


sends a strong message to the British government. Of course, the


cynical amongst us will say that asking a business owner, do they


want to pay less tax, is not going to receive an entirely surprising


response. What we must remember is, the vast majority of small


businesses, if we choose to reduce corporation tax, will not benefit


directly from this. But even they support it because they know that


the secondary spend, that comes from jobs created through foreign


direct investment, will benefit small retailers also. I think, of


some of the people who started small in this country, and have


gone on to great things, I think of Alan McClay who started his


business in Portadown, as a one-man band, where it led. To I think of


Fred Wilson, Cad pillar. I don't think the corporation tax was a big


factor to them when they started those businesses. I was asked, as a


young insurance man, to insure NorBrook, the company I worked for


decided they didn't like the look of it and it wouldn't go anywhere.


The wrong decision would be to do nothing because the world is moving


on. The Minister for Finance will tell us all the models and


predictions are based on the assumption that other things being


equal. I know he can tell us that in English and also in the original


Latin. There is another Latin phrase that I think is appropriate


in English, it is, "buyer beware" as we consider taking the power to


set our own rate of corporation tax there are uncertanties to be


resolved. Will Europe support us? Will we end newspaper the European


Court of Justice? Although some of the trade unions and the MP for


North Down are opposed to lower corporation tax, I am particularly


concerned about one politician, that is our Finance Minister, Mr


Wilson, not only has he stated his scepticism on numerous occasions,


he made it clear that he does not share his party's enthusiasm for


lower corporation tax. It's hardly a surprise, but that motion went


through on the nod. Tonne Question Time and there was talk about the


Irish language. I'm clear of what the St Andrews Agreement means. It


is in the St Andrew's Agreement I can take strategies separately.


That is what I intend to do. I have had some discussions with the stake


holders, not all, they will increase over the summer. I met


some in Derry on Saturday who are affiliated to the app apprentice


Boys. It is within my gift to take forward separate strategies. That


is what I intend to do. No later than this morning, the Minister's


colleague regaled the house on the corporation tax debate with the


benefits of the English language as an attraction for inwand ward


investment. Why, therefore, does the Minister want to waste valuable


resources on promoting a language which will disadvantage young


people in seeking employment in these hard economic times, instead


of better quipping them through the even better profishent si in


English? I have no comment to make on what the Member alleges my


colleague said. That is his opinion. There is document agencies around


having more than one language helps people in terms of their economic


development and helps constituency and communities on their economic


development. I suspect the economic development and economic wellbeing


isn't what the Member is hinting out. I hope that answered whatever


sort of question he had. Next, Education Minister, who revealed


the tough questions he has phase facing him in the coming months.


am looking closely at how best the - I'm looking closely at how to


make best use of the capital funds to maximise educational benefits


for children and young people. This work will be a priority for me and


my officials. I wish to be in a position to make a statement in the


autumn to the Assembly on the way forward when I've considered the


options available to me. There will be - it will arise I will not be


able to bring forward all projects which are currently planned or in


the early stages of planning due to the budget. This is a very


difficult position for any Minister to be in, the reality is, the


capital funds available to me simply will not build the number of


schools that are, quiegt rightly, seeking new builds at this time.


it's time for reflection, the summer break is just days away,


MLAs are already packing their trunks and getting ready to head


off. What sort of year has it been? With me now recently elected UUP


MLA Robin Swann and DUP stalwart Jim Wells. Has Stormont lived up to


all your dreams? Certainly. Robert Kop Coulter did a great job during


his time here. It was big shoes to fill. He has been there to guide me.


I have enjoyed every minute I have been here. I look forward to the


challenges. You were upset by what the Culture Minister said about an


Irish language strategy, what is your problem? St Andrew's set


forward a minority language strategy, the implications of that.


The Minister said today - Andrew's promised an Irish Language


Act? Minority languages. An act of Parliament? Yes, to cover all


languages, not just Irish language. That is our problem, is she is


minded now to take forward solely and Irish language strategy. One


that doesn't include Ulster Scots, Chinese, by her taking this forward


an Irish language strategy. She admitted to the committee that she


know it is won't through the House. She is wasting the House's time and


resources. We don't have the noun fund fancyful, political agendas


that the Minister is solely pursuing through the committee.


Your party returned from the election riding high. Your party


leaders wants to attract more Catholics into the DUP. Would you


be minded to allow an Irish language strategy? I think it has


absolutely no hope. It will be vetoed on the Executive and on the


floor of the Assembly through a petition of concern. A language


which has little relevance to the vast majority of people in Northern


Ireland. It's a waste of money. It's a dead issue and will go


nowhere. I agree with Robin entirely. You are the Health


Minister in waiting. How is that waiting around for this big job?


feel like Prince Charles. It's an unusual situation. I hope Edwin


Poots doesn't have to passe way could go on for a long time. It's


unusual to be publicly announced as being the Minister-in-waiting. You


get two years to get into the portfolio and read into the


extremely complex department. There are advantages and disadvantages.


The disadvantages, if I complain about anything, backbenchers will


say, you will fix it in two years time, we wait with interest.


current minister has been accused of switching positions. Everything


was black-and-white before the election, now things are greyer. Do


you expect him to make all the hard decisions and you come in later and


get the rewards? Chance would be the fine thing. Ed has difficult


decisions to make. He has experience on the Executive. He has


shown he is prepared to dig big into the issues and take difficult


decisions. There are inefirbtent cyst that have to be dealt with.


Whether it's Edwin or myself we can't escape the issues. People


have admired the openness he has adopted really. Do you feel the DUP


have been honest and open with the public about health? Definitely not.


The way they atracked the Ulster Unionist party for being open and


honest. The changes in mind set and position that the DUP have taken


forward. This - the position we took before the election, with


budgets, the finite resources we were lambasted for challenging


making difficult decisions. The DUP are finding what it's like to be in


that position. They also control the budget as well. They are using


health to atact the Ulster Unionist as a political football rather than


actually... Your party is done to one and lots of people writing off


the Ulster Unionist that this is a party in decline? Definitely not.


When you look through across our current Assembly team, we have six


new members with new ideas, fresh talent and new ideas coming forward.


We will bring them forward in September. And hopefully make a


difference to this place and Northern Ireland. The reason we are


down to one minister because of the hunt and configuration of numbers.


That could be debatable. How will you spend the restful weeks before


the autumn term begins, will you get a break? 123450 I don't think


so. There is a vast amount of paperwork that accumulated after


the election. A busy few weeks. I will have to spend several weeks in


a dark room getting ready of it. Vast quantities of e-mails at 100 a


day, difficult to keep up with. It sounds exhausting. Robin I hope you


get a break before the autumn returns. Francie Molloy you saw him


last night storing things up at a committee meeting and being brought


I don't care what he said... That was a rather exercise Tom Eliot


struggling to control the meeting. He is not over the experience and


was in no mood to celebrate when Molloy was executed -- elected as


the new principal deputy Speaker. Are you aware of Mr Molloy's


conducts in the committee last week? He towed to lead his record -


- disregarded and ignored the ruling of the chair. That is why I


believe Mr Molloy is not fit to hold this position of principle


Deputy Speaker. Therefore I look forward to establishing and


witnessing how Mr Molloy will carry out that role, because I am sure it


will go through with a cross- community vote by the two main


parties supporting each other, but I will wait some judging his


performance in days to come. But clearly in the perspective of


holding that office, I think, Mr Speaker, you would not have allowed


people to stray off the mark and the position that has been


discussed in such a weight as Mr Molloy has shown he is capable of


doing and has done in the committee last week, and therefore we will


oppose this. Our politicians are sometimes


accused of arguing like children - unfair, I know, to be children!


Today the junior members of society came to Stormont with their parents,


frustrated over failure to get nursery places close to home. A


mother-of-three from the Antrim Road in Belfast, Sinead Steele, was


among those visiting the Long Gallery. All parents of children


from three downwards who applied in January passed for a place at pre-


school, IMI's offer pride for several nurseries in the local area


and was refused all. My personal circumstances are I have a three-


year-old are now travelling to Glencore way to go to pre-school, a


two-year-old who I am applying for nursery come January, and then I


have a youngest. The issues that I have far there are two statutory


criteria which mitigate against my eyes off and my husband, primarily


against our children access to nursery education. All nursery


education in our local area. They are the July and August criteria


and that children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds take


precedence over all other children. When we are looking at this issue


it is not a them and us scenario, it is primarily social inclusion


and a diversity and equity for children entering into the


education system. How did you manage to get your eldest end to a


nursery, and how are you getting him to and from the nursery?


applied and there was one place left, fortunately he met the


criteria for that particular place. That said, that was out of 32


places. My sister has moved to work in that area, that is the only


reason she can access nursery at this time. How close to your home


is the nursery? -- is the nearest nursery? Less than 100 metres. The


system seems very fragmented. There are parents here today, one of whom


has twins, one child got in and the other did not. Another mother is


due in September at, she has a child going to primary school


beside her home, she has no car and she has another child going three


miles away to the only available place. Children are being


shoehorned into places where, realistically, it is impractical


for them, not with an area, they will not be going on to school with


the children they are going to nursery with, the system is not


ideal. It should be very child focused as opposed to focusing on


what the parents do or don't do. That was my colleague Judith


Cummings asking the questions. Just six weeks into the new term


and it is time for a break. Politicians are battle-weary after


Assembly and council elections and will rest their voices before


debate resume in the autumn, where the workload will be piled high. I


am joined by two members, from Sinn Fein Paul Maskey, and Dolores Kelly


of the SDLP. Paul Maskey, you might be more tired than the rest of us,


you had an extra Westminster by- election to win, west Belfast. How


will you juggle your role as an MLA and committee chairmen with the


challenge of rebuilding the economy of West Belfast? It works hand in


hand. I was in Westminster last Thursday, I left the house at 5am


and was home at midnight. We might need your prayers to rebuild the


economy, lots of jobs to be created. I used the opportunity in


Westminster to lobby and to explain to the Labour and Conservative


politicians that they need to support to the north of Ireland. I


work very hard for my constituents in West Belfast. Do you think that


some point there will be legislation and you will have to


choose and become a full-time MP? Yes, that is coming in 2015, we


have supported that you can I do the double job. A big day tomorrow,


you are chairing the Public Accounts Committee, you have


summoned the head of the Civil Service to talk about the Paul


Priestley situation. He was demoted us a permanent secretary when he


was found to have drafted a letter of complaint to your committee at


the time it was investigating the handling of Northern Ireland 4-.


There are many questions being asked, there are 11 committee


members. Some of the questions we will meet again prior to that. It


is very important that when a permanent secretary or anybody else


messes about with anything, we have to hold people to account. If we


want people to respect and have faith in the mechanisms and the


Assembly, we need to step up to the mark can do that, which is why the


head of the civil service is coming. We need to hold people to account


and make sure people have so -- have faith and trust. Will it be an


open or closed session? Open. Dolores Kelly, your party had a


bruising election, you made it back, but there was a post-election row


over a ministerial post and a lot of speculation the leader could


change. Will we see a leadership contest in the autumn? Margaret


Ritchie has made it clear she wishes to remain as leader, and as


yet I have not heard of anyone else throwing that hat into the ring.


The SDLP is very democratic. All positions are voted on by the


people attending the conference. There is certainly no vacancy, I


have not heard of any competition. What is the SDLP hoped to achieve


in its term, and will it stay in the role we see or will it move


towards opposition? We will have to see how things evolve. We were very


disappointed today that Sinn Fein and the DUP were not more vexed


about the creation of the principal deputy Speaker post rather than


bringing forward a programme for government for this term. We're the


only devolved institution and probably the only government in a


Western democracy without a programme for government, even


though the budget was approved by Sinn Fein, the DUP and the Alliance


Party yesterday. I am sure that constituents and West Belfast are


Becks they have no jobs, but we have a new job, the principal Paul


Maskey, when will we see the programme? That was a half-hour


debate. To our dismay think she has been smart by saying about people


having extra jobs. -- Dolores Kelly may think she is being smart. All


of our members give most of the money back to the party, and she


knows that. There is no additional money. Is there not a new office


already kitted out? Is it not the case that there are eight special


advisers in the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister,


more than in the British cabinet or the day oil? The special adviser


for junior ministers was created. Your party created the junior


ministers and the special advisers. It is OK for her to come on and try


to play silly games. Her party in the last term had a negative


campaign which cost them in the election. The DUP run the same type


of campaign commanded cost them. People want to see positivity, the


parties working together, that is what people wanted to see. Without


that, that delivery is stymied. Let us work together going forward, it


is too serious an issue to be negative on. I don't think we are


messing about... I am afraid time is up and I did not get the chance


to ask you about your holidays, I assume you are not going to the


same place. With two Executive ministers and an


increased share of the bud it has been a good year for the Alliance


Party, but there is a question of the David Ford's future as Justice


Minister. I asked him how secure he felt his post was. I am fully aware


that as soon as the Assembly comes back in September a motion could be


put down to dismiss me as justice minister, that is the reality.


Unlike every other minister I am elected by the minister, -- by the


Assembly, which is a strength but a potential weakness. I hope there


will be discussions in the autumn time about the new structures from


a 2012 onwards. In my first year I said I wanted to do the best job


possible to get the reforms started. I said for the second year the


essential thing is to carry forward and start to see delivery. If


people like the current system and me as minister after that, I will


stay in post, if they want somebody else, they can have that. You are


demob happy, you will not have much piece this summer if you do not


have the Legal Aid resort? The deed -- the legal-aid dispute is being


dealt with, I am hoping that we will find a compromise that will


see the lawyers going back to work under the rates which are now in


statute with the offer we have given them of a review. If they are


not prepared for that, I am determined that by the autumn we


will see what other ways they it -- they are at providing justice,


because my key aim is to see those on charges getting access to


justice and proper representation, and victims C in court case is


going ahead. Will you be able to take time this summer to relax


after a pretty challenging few months? I think there will be a few


challenging weeks, unfortunately, but I am looking forward to a bit


of relaxation. While some members are preparing to


fly to exotic destinations, because the then Deputy Prime Minister was


at Stormont today. Slobodan Petrovic led a delegation of 15


Albanian and Serbian mayors keen to learn from the peace process. They


met the SDLP minister responsible for local government, Alex Atwood.


I spoke to Mr Petrovic about his impressions of Northern Ireland.


TRANSLATION: Obviously both countries have had a terrible past,


Kosovo and Northern Ireland have decades of the turbulent past and


violence on the streets and everywhere else. What I am very


impressed to see is that Belfast house left the past behind and is


living a normal life at this stage. It is difficult to deal with the


past, your country is coming out of conflict, Wotton at -- lessons do


you think Northern Ireland can teach you? TRANSLATION: All the


people I have spoken to have the same will and energy to deal with


the problem, they are not just passively sitting listening about


the problem, they are dealing with it and making the best possible


solution for the country. The issue at Short Strand, the violence in


Belfast just last week, is that something you were aware of and


what impression did it leave? TRANSLATION: I am very well aware


of the violence that was happening on the streets of Belfast in the


past week for three days. I have to say that I am very happy to see


that the problems as such are non- existent at the moment and


everything looks so peaceful. I am happy to see that the country was


back to normal in such a short period of time and that for the


untrained eye its people would not be able to see that such violence


even was taking place in Belfast. The debating chamber may have


closed for the summer, but cafe recess is still open. I caught up


with my colleague Gareth Gordon, who has assessed the mood which, to


be from, his demob -- demob-happy. Today was the last full sitting of


the Assembly before the summer recess. It has been a very short


term, just six weeks since the Assembly, lots of but time spent


getting the new Assembly win, debating private members' notions,


not much business of substance. But there has been some business. Today


they finally passed the Budget and their elected Francie Molloy to the


new post of principal deputy Speaker. It does not mean MLAs can


get the deck chairs out yet? Some can, but the Executive will


continue to meet at least until the end of July. There are some


potentially interesting committee meetings before the end of the week.


The Public Accounts Committee will tomorrow hear a briefing from the


head of the civil service, who may well face a more awkward questions


on a story I know you have covered. That is the demotion of the former


permanent secretary Paul Priestley, which happened because he was found


to have helped draft a letter to the committee looking at the


running of his department. There may be some interesting questions


and perhaps some interesting answers. There could still be fun


at the other committee? I don't know if everyone would agree it was


found last week, sparks flew at last Wednesday's meeting when the


chairman of the Ulster Unionists Tom Eliot suspended the meeting


after failing to shut up Francie Molloy. He had made allegations


about a well-known Irish League manager. Afterwards, a letter of


complaint was written to the Speaker. From C Molloy was elected


to the post today. -- from Sue Molloy. We will have to see if


there any more after his, I don't think that is it. But that will be


it until September when we are all back to do it again.


Maybe the time out will do everyone some good after months and the


basement at Stormont, I am heading for the Sun.


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Martina Purdy 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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