28/06/2011 Stormont Today


28/06/2011

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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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to our final programme of Stormont Today before

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

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Executive parties on the programme tonight, plus the Ulster Unionist

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

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Mr Molloy is unfit to hold this position of Principal Deputy

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

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

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

:01:00.:01:10.
:01:10.:01:11.

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

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

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

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debating the possible reduction in corporation tax. It seems many

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

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

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

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

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

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investment in research and development, invasion, education

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

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existss for the devolution of corporation tax powers. There is

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

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ongoing negotiations with the Treasury in terms of how attractive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the secondary spend, that comes from jobs created through foreign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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predictions are based on the assumption that other things being

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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colleague regaled the house on the corporation tax debate with the

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benefits of the English language as an attraction for inwand ward

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

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resources on promoting a language which will disadvantage young

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people in seeking employment in these hard economic times, instead

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of better quipping them through the even better profishent si in

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

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

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

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development and helps constituency and communities on their economic

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development. I suspect the economic development and economic wellbeing

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

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

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

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

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make best use of the capital funds to maximise educational benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MLAs are already packing their trunks and getting ready to head

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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forward a minority language strategy, the implications of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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that the Minister is solely pursuing through the committee.

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Your party returned from the election riding high. Your party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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extremely complex department. There are advantages and disadvantages.

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The disadvantages, if I complain about anything, backbenchers will

:10:11.:10:15.

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

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current minister has been accused of switching positions. Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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budgets, the finite resources we were lambasted for challenging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:12:49.:12:54.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Deputy Speaker. Therefore I look forward to establishing and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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oppose this. Our politicians are sometimes

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

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

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

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

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among those visiting the Long Gallery. All parents of children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:15:05.:15:09.

against our children access to nursery education. All nursery

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

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and that children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds take

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

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

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and a diversity and equity for children entering into the

:15:33.:15:38.

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

:15:38.:15:43.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:16:26.:16:30.

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

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miles away to the only available place. Children are being

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shoehorned into places where, realistically, it is impractical

:16:38.:16:44.

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

:16:44.:16:47.

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

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

:16:53.:16:58.

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

:16:58.:17:02.

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

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

:17:07.:17:10.

Assembly and council elections and will rest their voices before

:17:10.:17:15.

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

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

:17:20.:17:25.

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

:17:25.:17:30.

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

:17:30.:17:34.

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

:17:34.:17:39.

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

:17:39.:17:43.

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

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

:17:52.:17:57.

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

:17:57.:18:02.

Westminster to lobby and to explain to the Labour and Conservative

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

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

:18:14.:18:17.

some point there will be legislation and you will have to

:18:17.:18:23.

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

:18:23.:18:27.

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

:18:27.:18:30.

you are chairing the Public Accounts Committee, you have

:18:30.:18:34.

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

:18:34.:18:38.

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

:18:38.:18:41.

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

:18:41.:18:46.

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

:18:46.:18:49.

There are many questions being asked, there are 11 committee

:18:49.:18:56.

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

:18:56.:19:01.

is very important that when a permanent secretary or anybody else

:19:01.:19:06.

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

:19:06.:19:10.

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

:19:10.:19:14.

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

:19:14.:19:18.

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

:19:18.:19:24.

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

:19:24.:19:29.

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

:19:29.:19:34.

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

:19:34.:19:38.

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

:19:38.:19:42.

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

:19:42.:19:45.

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

:19:45.:19:50.

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

:19:50.:19:59.

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

:19:59.:20:04.

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

:20:05.:20:10.

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

:20:10.:20:14.

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

:20:14.:20:19.

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

:20:20.:20:24.

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

:20:24.:20:27.

about the creation of the principal deputy Speaker post rather than

:20:27.:20:32.

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

:20:32.:20:35.

only devolved institution and probably the only government in a

:20:35.:20:38.

Western democracy without a programme for government, even

:20:38.:20:43.

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

:20:43.:20:50.

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

:20:50.:20:55.

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

:20:55.:21:01.

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

:21:01.:21:09.

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

:21:09.:21:17.

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

:21:17.:21:21.

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

:21:21.:21:29.

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

:21:29.:21:34.

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

:21:34.:21:39.

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

:21:39.:21:45.

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

:21:45.:21:50.

for junior ministers was created. Your party created the junior

:21:50.:21:56.

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

:21:56.:22:02.

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

:22:02.:22:06.

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

:22:06.:22:12.

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

:22:12.:22:16.

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

:22:16.:22:24.

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

:22:25.:22:28.

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

:22:28.:22:33.

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

:22:33.:22:36.

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

:22:36.:22:40.

same place. With two Executive ministers and an

:22:40.:22:43.

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

:22:43.:22:48.

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

:22:49.:22:53.

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

:22:53.:22:57.

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

:22:57.:23:02.

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

:23:02.:23:07.

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

:23:07.:23:12.

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

:23:12.:23:16.

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

:23:16.:23:20.

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

:23:20.:23:24.

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

:23:24.:23:29.

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

:23:29.:23:33.

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

:23:33.:23:39.

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

:23:39.:23:43.

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

:23:43.:23:47.

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

:23:47.:23:52.

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

:23:52.:23:56.

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

:23:56.:23:59.

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

:23:59.:24:03.

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

:24:03.:24:07.

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

:24:07.:24:12.

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

:24:12.:24:16.

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

:24:16.:24:20.

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

:24:20.:24:24.

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

:24:24.:24:28.

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

:24:28.:24:32.

of relaxation. While some members are preparing to

:24:32.:24:36.

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

:24:36.:24:41.

at Stormont today. Slobodan Petrovic led a delegation of 15

:24:41.:24:45.

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

:24:45.:24:50.

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

:24:50.:24:55.

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

:24:55.:24:59.

TRANSLATION: Obviously both countries have had a terrible past,

:24:59.:25:03.

Kosovo and Northern Ireland have decades of the turbulent past and

:25:03.:25:07.

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

:25:08.:25:13.

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

:25:13.:25:19.

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

:25:19.:25:25.

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

:25:25.:25:28.

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

:25:28.:25:31.

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

:25:31.:25:35.

the problem, they are not just passively sitting listening about

:25:35.:25:38.

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

:25:39.:25:43.

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

:25:44.:25:47.

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

:25:47.:25:52.

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

:25:52.:25:55.

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

:25:55.:26:01.

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

:26:01.:26:06.

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

:26:06.:26:10.

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

:26:10.:26:15.

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

:26:15.:26:19.

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

:26:19.:26:25.

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

:26:25.:26:30.

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

:26:30.:26:33.

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

:26:33.:26:40.

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

:26:40.:26:44.

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

:26:44.:26:48.

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

:26:48.:26:52.

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

:26:52.:26:58.

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

:26:58.:27:02.

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

:27:02.:27:07.

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

:27:07.:27:12.

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

:27:12.:27:16.

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

:27:16.:27:19.

potentially interesting committee meetings before the end of the week.

:27:19.:27:22.

The Public Accounts Committee will tomorrow hear a briefing from the

:27:22.:27:26.

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

:27:26.:27:32.

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

:27:32.:27:35.

permanent secretary Paul Priestley, which happened because he was found

:27:35.:27:39.

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

:27:39.:27:43.

running of his department. There may be some interesting questions

:27:43.:27:48.

and perhaps some interesting answers. There could still be fun

:27:48.:27:51.

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

:27:51.:27:55.

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

:27:55.:28:00.

chairman of the Ulster Unionists Tom Eliot suspended the meeting

:28:00.:28:06.

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

:28:06.:28:10.

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

:28:10.:28:15.

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

:28:15.:28:20.

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

:28:20.:28:25.

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

:28:25.:28:30.

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

:28:30.:28:34.

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

:28:34.:28:36.

basement at Stormont, I am heading for the Sun.

:28:37.:28:40.

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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