29/01/2013 Stormont Today


29/01/2013

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


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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme:

:00:23.:00:27.

The divisive issue of welfare reform was back on the floor.

:00:27.:00:30.

Members debated a new report on the equality implications of the

:00:30.:00:40.
:00:40.:00:40.

Welfare Bill. In living document, as if like fine line -- fine wine

:00:40.:00:45.

it would improve with age. We'll be speaking to two members of the

:00:45.:00:46.

committee which put that report together.

:00:46.:00:49.

And why a question on European peace funding provoked this

:00:49.:00:55.

reaction from the Finance Minister. It does annoy me sometimes at the

:00:55.:01:00.

kind of ill informed comment that comes from people that seek to

:01:00.:01:06.

agitate when I hear this we get Proposed changes to welfare

:01:06.:01:10.

payments have starkly divided the Assembly in recent months. The DUP

:01:10.:01:13.

is broadly in favour of passing the legislation as quickly as possible

:01:13.:01:17.

to avoid financial penalties from Westminster. Sinn Fein and the SDLP

:01:17.:01:19.

are more hesitant, concerned that the changes will impact adversely

:01:19.:01:24.

on the most vulnerable. Last year, the Assembly set up a committee to

:01:24.:01:27.

examine the bill's implications on issues like equality and human

:01:27.:01:35.

rights and today that committee's report was debated in the chamber.

:01:35.:01:40.

One of the most significant aspects of the committee deliberation was

:01:40.:01:44.

consideration of the way in which the Department for Social

:01:44.:01:48.

Development had discharged its duty under section 75 of the Northern

:01:48.:01:55.

Ireland Act 1998 to carry out an equality impact assessment offer

:01:56.:01:59.

the Welfare Reform Bill. The department launched a public

:01:59.:02:04.

consultation on its draft in 2011 and published a final version in

:02:04.:02:10.

May 2012. Although many respondents indicated they were unhappy with

:02:10.:02:17.

the assessment and the data on which it was based, the final EQ YJ

:02:17.:02:21.

remained unaltered. The Department for Social Department --

:02:21.:02:28.

development has acknowledged data deficits and proposes it should be

:02:28.:02:32.

a living document. The committee shoot -- has been made aware of the

:02:32.:02:37.

human rights implications at a more severe level of sanctions proposed

:02:37.:02:41.

under the Welfare Reform Bill. Members were concerned that

:02:41.:02:46.

sanctions should not be overly punitive or disproportionate

:02:46.:02:50.

resulting in extreme hardship or destitution for some fun rebel

:02:50.:02:57.

claimants. According to the committee, it has said that any

:02:57.:03:02.

sanctions imposed should be mitigated to avoid the potential

:03:02.:03:07.

for extreme hardship of children and lone parents or Tamas Fellegi

:03:07.:03:12.

those with mental health issues. The committee is supportive of the

:03:12.:03:19.

individual responsibility and encouraged people into work. The

:03:19.:03:24.

new benefit that will replace benefits is working credit. There

:03:24.:03:27.

were a number of anomalies highlighted to the committee and

:03:27.:03:32.

the administration of this benefit. For example, the situation where a

:03:32.:03:36.

claimant who was working no more than a few hours a week, in fact I

:03:36.:03:41.

believe no more than one hour a week, will lose 100% of their help

:03:41.:03:45.

with mortgage interest. This is a disincentive to work and runs

:03:46.:03:50.

contrary to the rationale of the bill which is to encourage people

:03:50.:03:57.

to come off benefits and seek work. I believe this report has examined

:03:57.:04:00.

comprehensively the equality and human rights implications of the

:04:00.:04:03.

welfare reform bill that we are in the process of implementing. I

:04:03.:04:08.

would want to see a system that is accessible to all in a manner which

:04:08.:04:13.

is easily understood and quick to complete. I want a system in which

:04:13.:04:16.

people are not stigmatised for needing to access but that people

:04:16.:04:21.

realise the system is a safety net and not as I have stated earlier in

:04:21.:04:25.

the debate yesterday a viable career option. The fact is that not

:04:25.:04:29.

everybody is going to be happy with the outcomes of welfare reform but

:04:29.:04:35.

we strive to ensure that no one within our society is disadvantaged.

:04:35.:04:38.

The Human Rights Commission said the commission notes the department

:04:38.:04:43.

has not carried out a full EQ YJ in respect to race, religion and

:04:43.:04:49.

sexual orientation. The equality commission criticised almost every

:04:49.:04:56.

aspect of the Department's EQ I say. The failure to identify adverse

:04:56.:05:00.

impacts, the lack of mitigation to address obligations under section

:05:00.:05:05.

75, the Department's decision not undertake impact assessments and

:05:05.:05:09.

run a -- relation to religion, sexual orientation and race. The

:05:09.:05:13.

only people that tell us the bill is complied is the minister, his

:05:13.:05:18.

department and political representatives. And when it was

:05:18.:05:22.

exposed as less thorough and reliant on opinion rather than

:05:22.:05:26.

evidence, they introduce the notion of a living document as if like

:05:26.:05:32.

fine wine, it would improve miraculously with age. This is not

:05:32.:05:37.

good enough. The minister and his department have been too quick to

:05:37.:05:43.

accept the operation authority as no more than exercise in rubber-

:05:43.:05:53.
:05:53.:05:57.

stamping Westminster legislation. number of all -- examples have been

:05:57.:06:01.

underlined with concerns. And we have concerns. We have reported in

:06:01.:06:07.

several places there are concerns. I tell you, Mr Speaker, when I

:06:07.:06:11.

asked the groups that came before us and one in particular, the most

:06:11.:06:15.

vociferous group, could they point this to anything specific, anything

:06:15.:06:21.

specific that breached human rights issues, they couldn't. There are

:06:21.:06:28.

concerns. We have done that, but once you asked them where are the

:06:28.:06:33.

specifics, they couldn't do that. I want to thank the groups that came

:06:33.:06:39.

into the committee and the groups that wrote into the committee. It

:06:39.:06:45.

is very unfortunate that the one organ of the Executive that is

:06:45.:06:54.

supposed to look after equality issues didn't see fit to respond

:06:54.:06:57.

adequately to the Adhoc committee. The only response they gave us was

:06:57.:07:04.

a letter to say they wouldn't be respond in. It was one that was

:07:04.:07:09.

thrown at the committee and it was one that I think was to all intents

:07:09.:07:15.

and purposes a waste of time. There is no other way to save it. It is

:07:15.:07:24.

not the chairman's fault or the staff fold. What we were doing was

:07:24.:07:27.

repetition of what the DST committee were doing. There is not

:07:27.:07:32.

a doubt that in fact that committee would have and could have and

:07:32.:07:39.

should have been allowed to get on with their job and I see it as

:07:39.:07:43.

meddling and interfering in the task that was consigned to them.

:07:43.:07:51.

The concern of the impact to those with disability has not been

:07:51.:07:57.

assessed. The view that it is 0 living document is remarkable. This

:07:57.:08:02.

Assembly will be asked to pass massively important legislation

:08:02.:08:07.

without even having quantified its adverse impact on our citizens. The

:08:07.:08:15.

lack of a fall analysis of the impact on this region means this

:08:15.:08:20.

Assembly will effectively walk into welfare reform with its eyes shut.

:08:20.:08:26.

Just to pick up on Katrina Allen who excelled herself today, big on

:08:26.:08:33.

rhetoric, low on content. She has disappeared again. It sounded to me

:08:33.:08:41.

like an extract from some revolutionary Marxist magazine. I

:08:41.:08:45.

have difficulty taking it seriously and I was disappointed that she

:08:45.:08:52.

went down this road of those awful people in the chamber. Those awful

:08:52.:08:56.

Unionists, those people are the only people with compassion.

:08:56.:08:58.

The Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland.

:08:58.:09:01.

Listening to that, two members of that ad hoc Committee. Its chair,

:09:01.:09:07.

Trevor Lunn from Alliance, and Paula Bradley from the DUP. Welcome

:09:07.:09:12.

to you both. Trevor Lunn, we heard a flavour there of some of the

:09:12.:09:14.

concerns the committee had about the equality and human rights

:09:14.:09:17.

implications of the Welfare Bill. What do you think are the most

:09:17.:09:19.

pertinent issues the Social Development Minister needs to

:09:19.:09:27.

address? The equality impact assessment was a big issue for us.

:09:27.:09:32.

There is no doubt it is not a complete document and they are not.

:09:32.:09:35.

It was described as a living document which has to be updated

:09:35.:09:43.

from time to time. Does it make sense? It does. It is ongoing. It

:09:43.:09:50.

can be updated as time goes on. The major issue was that we were able

:09:50.:10:00.
:10:00.:10:01.

to look at the Bill before us. If there is trouble, it will be to do

:10:01.:10:05.

with the regulations that followed. This is an enabling bill and the

:10:05.:10:09.

real teeth will be in the regulation, so it is important they

:10:09.:10:15.

are scrutinised as well. One of the main recommendations is the

:10:15.:10:18.

sanctions which will be imposed on welfare recipients if they step out

:10:18.:10:22.

of line. When these changes happen, what would you like to see in place

:10:22.:10:29.

to mitigate those sanctions so that the most vulnerable are protected?

:10:29.:10:33.

Well, the sanctions you referred to are those that would place people

:10:33.:10:42.

into desperate need or destitution. That should not be too difficult to

:10:42.:10:49.

provide a baseline below which people cannot go. I heard certain

:10:49.:10:55.

members through the debate saying, and the minister refer to it, that

:10:55.:10:58.

only one side of the house cared about these people but that is not

:10:59.:11:07.

true. Isn't deliberations were very intense and concentrated. We were

:11:07.:11:12.

aware everybody had concerns. We were trying to identify actual

:11:12.:11:16.

breaches in terms of human rights and equality. And we couldn't find

:11:16.:11:22.

any. Paula Bradley, we heard your party

:11:22.:11:25.

colleague Lord Morrow describe the committee as a waste of time. Do

:11:25.:11:33.

you agree? I personally did not find it a waste of time but that is

:11:33.:11:37.

maybe because I sit on the Social Development Committee and I find

:11:37.:11:43.

clarity in many issues. If you asked me if I found the committee a

:11:43.:11:52.

necessary, absolutely. But not a waste of time? Not for me. But what

:11:52.:11:56.

about the safe guards, the need for the most vulnerable not to fall

:11:56.:12:01.

through the net. Do you think that framework can be put in place?

:12:01.:12:07.

agree that we have a duty of care to protect the most vulnerable

:12:07.:12:13.

within our Society and I said that I highlighted lone parents and

:12:14.:12:17.

accessible childcare, so I believe we have to put certain

:12:17.:12:21.

recommendations in place to protect those people. He also said today

:12:21.:12:27.

that welfare should not be seen a fight -- as a viable career option.

:12:27.:12:30.

Do you think there are people, for example, in your constituency who

:12:30.:12:34.

do see it that way and how, in your view, will this bill tackle that?

:12:34.:12:36.

It is something we have to tackle. On a personal level, I would like

:12:37.:12:41.

to think that is not how people see it, that they do not see that the

:12:41.:12:49.

benefits system is a viable option. But they need to be put right?

:12:49.:12:54.

That's right. There are people fulcrum there is no alternative.

:12:54.:12:58.

For the rest of their lives that will be dependent on this benefit.

:12:58.:13:01.

They might be a bit depressed listening to what you have to say

:13:01.:13:05.

because they've got no alternative. We still have to protect those

:13:05.:13:11.

people. I assume you're talking about people with disablement and

:13:11.:13:16.

welfare reform is there to provide for those people. Some of those

:13:16.:13:20.

people are a little bit concerned that while that might be the

:13:20.:13:23.

intention, that might not happen in practice. There are lots of

:13:23.:13:28.

concerns and lots of fears. Some of those fears have been alleviated

:13:28.:13:32.

and it is up to us to go through this book and make the

:13:32.:13:36.

recommendations but make welfare reform work for those people.

:13:36.:13:42.

that final -- thought, a job well done? I was satisfied with the

:13:42.:13:47.

committee. There was an argument that the committee, the DST

:13:47.:13:51.

committee, could have done this. It was the first time Stormont has had

:13:51.:13:55.

an Adhoc committee set up for specific purposes like that. It was

:13:55.:13:59.

a good decision? It was a worthwhile decision. It may have to

:13:59.:14:09.
:14:09.:14:14.

happen again. Maybe a standing Now we are a low tax committee,

:14:14.:14:21.

that's the comments of Sammy Wilson. Mr Wilson batted any criticism from

:14:21.:14:24.

fellow fellow Unionists who claim they get nothing from peace funding.

:14:24.:14:29.

I am sure the minister heard, as I have complaints within the

:14:29.:14:33.

Protestant community that it doesn't receive its fair share of

:14:33.:14:37.

peace funding. Can the minister give a view on this, but also if he

:14:37.:14:43.

has the figures, provide us with the precise percentage that the

:14:43.:14:49.

Protestant community get with peace funding for its projects? Well, if

:14:49.:14:54.

one looks at the various peace programmes that there have been one,

:14:54.:15:00.

peace one, peace two, and peace three, the maximum that has has

:15:00.:15:04.

been - I should the figures somewhere - the maximum which has

:15:04.:15:08.

been drawn down by groups which come from the Unionist community

:15:08.:15:17.

was was 47%. In In peace one, there was 44% uptake by groups from the

:15:17.:15:22.

Protestant community. In peace two, it was 47% and although we are not

:15:22.:15:27.

at the end of peace three, it is standing at at 46% and it is

:15:27.:15:32.

something which concerned me and something which I have been saying.

:15:32.:15:37.

You have to address and there has been considerable effort, I can say

:15:37.:15:44.

this, I'm critical, but there has been considerable effort in trying

:15:44.:15:48.

to get applications from the Unionist community and to work with

:15:48.:15:51.

groups within the Unionist community. Groups where there is

:15:51.:15:55.

areas where there is little capacity. Groups such as the Orange

:15:55.:16:01.

Order, the various police organisations and I have got to say,

:16:01.:16:06.

Mr Deputy Speaker, it does annoy me sometimes at the ill informed

:16:06.:16:12.

comment that comes from people who seek to agitate when I hear, "We

:16:12.:16:18.

get nothing." Let's just look at some of the money which has gone.

:16:18.:16:22.

East Belfast, where some of this agitation has come interest. A

:16:22.:16:27.

project there, a magnificent regeneration project, �6 million as

:16:27.:16:34.

a result of money from peace three. The grand Orange Lodge for stepping

:16:34.:16:40.

towards positive engagement has got nearly �1 million. The Grand Orange

:16:40.:16:47.

Lodge, �3.6 million. The apprentice boys, �2 million. All of these

:16:47.:16:51.

things going to Unionist orientated groups and I wish some of those

:16:51.:16:55.

people who complain we get nothing would actually look at the facts.

:16:55.:16:59.

When some members opposite talk about revenue raising powers, what

:16:59.:17:04.

they are meaning is tax increases for hard-pressed businesses and

:17:04.:17:09.

households across the Profferens and -- Province and that's not the

:17:09.:17:14.

direction in which the Executive should be going and many of the

:17:14.:17:19.

areas identified would come at a huge cost to the block grant?

:17:19.:17:24.

I have made my position clear in the House and that's that I do not

:17:24.:17:31.

believe we ought to be taking money from the public if there are ways

:17:31.:17:34.

of making savings within the public sector that we have got charge of

:17:34.:17:40.

at the moment. And for that reason, of course, we have frozen in real

:17:40.:17:45.

terms rates this Northern Ireland - - in Northern Ireland and they were

:17:45.:17:49.

frozen during the last period. I hear these things about the

:17:49.:17:54.

assembly and taxes and everything else. We have got a very good

:17:54.:17:58.

record, the best record, of anywhere in the United Kingdom of

:17:58.:18:03.

where we have tax raising powers we have not exercised them to the

:18:03.:18:07.

detriment of people in the middle of a recession and we ought to be

:18:07.:18:12.

proud of that and it is something that those who continually complain

:18:12.:18:16.

about the performance of this assembly ought to bear in mind. We

:18:16.:18:22.

are a low tax assembly and that's the way I want to keep it.

:18:22.:18:27.

We have an arrangement from place where any contract, construction

:18:27.:18:31.

contract, which is worth more than �1 million and in which there is a

:18:31.:18:36.

substantial amount of sub contracting in the contract and

:18:37.:18:45.

providing it is actually one which is overseen by CPD, we are going to

:18:45.:18:49.

encourage others to use the same projects. Once the money - the

:18:49.:18:53.

money will go into the pro jet account -- project account and as a

:18:53.:18:59.

result of the money going in, within five days of the money being

:18:59.:19:03.

deposited. The sub contractors should be paid from that. So no

:19:03.:19:06.

longer will the money go to the main contractor who may decide to

:19:06.:19:11.

use it as working capital and hold back and hold back and pay the sub

:19:11.:19:16.

contractors at their leisure and I believe this will be an important

:19:16.:19:20.

development for helping sub contractors. It only applies to

:19:20.:19:27.

those contracts which are put out by CPD. They have to be

:19:27.:19:30.

construction contracts. They have to have a substantial number of sub

:19:30.:19:36.

contractors in them and they have to be over �1 million.

:19:36.:19:41.

The Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson. One-third of students who go to

:19:41.:19:43.

university across the water return to work in Northern Ireland. That's

:19:43.:19:47.

what the Employment Minister told the assembly today. Stephen Farry

:19:47.:19:51.

was asked what his department is doing to attract more graduates to

:19:51.:20:01.
:20:01.:20:02.

come home? In the 2011 lsh/12 academic, one-third of academics

:20:02.:20:05.

left this region to study at a higher education institution in

:20:05.:20:08.

Great Britain. That in the main, those who opt for a university

:20:08.:20:13.

place in Great Britain do so upon choice. The most important reason

:20:13.:20:18.

cited was the student considered a particular institution as being the

:20:18.:20:21.

best placed to undertake their course. Issues of location were

:20:21.:20:26.

also important to the respondants. In that respect, a large number of

:20:26.:20:30.

these students are determined leavers. Data on those who return

:20:30.:20:36.

can be sourced from the higher education destination Surrey. This

:20:36.:20:41.

survey -- survey. This survey survey shows over one-third of

:20:41.:20:47.

people who go away to study return for work. 39% of Northern Ireland

:20:47.:20:50.

domiciled full-time leavers from from higher education who studied

:20:50.:20:55.

in Great Britain and were in employment six months after

:20:55.:20:58.

graduation returned to Northern Ireland for work.

:20:58.:21:03.

I am sure the the minister will agree we want our most talented

:21:03.:21:06.

people to come back to Northern Ireland and the best way to do that

:21:06.:21:09.

is having the graduate opportunities here and I know he

:21:09.:21:12.

and other executive ministers are working hard to ensure those

:21:12.:21:16.

opportunities exist. Can the minister outline the type of work

:21:16.:21:21.

that his department do in going across to universities in Great

:21:21.:21:24.

Britain and participating in jobs fairs or employment seminars to

:21:24.:21:28.

encourage those graduates from Northern Ireland to return home and

:21:28.:21:32.

seek to find employment back in Northern Ireland? There is a number

:21:32.:21:36.

of issues that Mr Ross identifies there that we need to be minuteful

:21:36.:21:42.

of. First of all, the effect of the executive's decision to freeze

:21:42.:21:45.

tuition fees in Northern Ireland has been helpful in terms of

:21:45.:21:49.

encouraging our students to stay in Northern Ireland. And if they stay

:21:49.:21:52.

in Northern Ireland, they are more likely to build their career here

:21:52.:21:56.

as well. We have sought to expand the number of under graduate places

:21:56.:22:00.

in Northern Ireland and we have had the biggest rise in provision in

:22:00.:22:08.

over a decade. All of those are in stem subjects. Could the minister

:22:09.:22:12.

indicate how the pupils and students that go to Great Britain

:22:12.:22:16.

to take part in degree courses fair compared with those that stay at

:22:16.:22:22.

home both in terms of completing degrees and passing one?

:22:22.:22:26.

We will come back to the member with the specific figures in that

:22:26.:22:32.

regard. But it is worth stressing that the universe in Northern

:22:32.:22:37.

Ireland have high retention rates. Overall, higher education in

:22:37.:22:40.

Northern Ireland does compare favourably to higher education

:22:40.:22:44.

elsewhere in the world in terms of retention as well. For different

:22:45.:22:48.

reasons. If you look at somewhere like the United States, they have

:22:48.:22:51.

low graduation rates because a lot of people drop out sometimes for

:22:51.:22:56.

economic reasons. If you look at the Continental European model,

:22:56.:23:01.

they tend to have a very flexible approach to entry where large

:23:01.:23:04.

numbers of people will be enrolled and a lot of people drop out

:23:04.:23:08.

whenever they discover the courses aren't for them. So the approach we

:23:08.:23:12.

take within these islands is probably the best balance between

:23:12.:23:16.

those different extremes, but I am more than happy to give the member

:23:16.:23:23.

the detailed figures. Stephen farry. In a report last

:23:23.:23:30.

October, the Prison Ombudsman criticised the Prison Service for

:23:30.:23:36.

failing to investigate the death of a young man who took his own life

:23:36.:23:40.

at Hydebank Young Offenders' Centre. Last week the ombudsman discussed

:23:40.:23:50.
:23:50.:23:50.

the case at the Justice Committee. On two occasions Samuel shef harmed.

:23:50.:23:53.

He was -- self harmed. He was physically assaulted twice

:23:53.:23:58.

seriously and in July 2010, Samuel was briefly kept in the healthcare

:23:58.:24:03.

centre for what was described as respite from the bullying that he

:24:03.:24:07.

reported was occurring on his landing. The investigation

:24:07.:24:12.

identified that firstly numerous recorded instainss of Samuel being

:24:12.:24:16.

subjected to at times serious verbal abuse and threats were not

:24:16.:24:22.

investigated and did not lead to any action being taken. Numerous

:24:22.:24:25.

allegations of bullying and noted instances of bullying were not

:24:25.:24:29.

contrary to Prison Service anti- bullying policy. A security

:24:29.:24:32.

information report was not completed and required referrals

:24:32.:24:36.

were not made to the anti-bullying co-ordinator.

:24:36.:24:42.

Bullying investigations did not take place or abandoned when Samuel

:24:42.:24:46.

withdrew allegations even though it was known to staff that the

:24:46.:24:49.

withdrawal was due to Samuel's concern that he would be subjected

:24:49.:24:56.

to more severe bullying. Samuel was seriously assaulted on the 9 9th

:24:56.:25:00.

October 2010 by inmates he told staff a number of times that were

:25:00.:25:08.

bullying him. Staff seemed reluctant to raise bullying

:25:08.:25:10.

incidents reports. Investigations into bullying and resulting action

:25:10.:25:14.

were not effective. On a number of occasions there was no evidence

:25:14.:25:19.

that recommended action was implemented by the anti-bullying

:25:19.:25:25.

co-ordinator or by other staff. On 7th March Samuel was kicked and

:25:25.:25:30.

punched by by two inmates. He was taken to hospital when he started

:25:30.:25:33.

to cough up blood. The security staff and some prison staff

:25:33.:25:37.

appeared to regard the bullying of alleged or committed sex offenders

:25:37.:25:43.

as inevitable. A number of concerns were identified in connection with

:25:43.:25:46.

Samuel's healthcare. It was found no mental health assessment took

:25:46.:25:52.

place between August 2010 and Samuel's death in May 2011. It is

:25:52.:25:57.

to note that there was evidence that Samuel's overall wellbeing was

:25:57.:26:01.

significantly affected by the fact that because of paramilitary

:26:01.:26:05.

threats connected with the nature of his charges, his repeated

:26:05.:26:11.

attempts to find a bail address failed.

:26:11.:26:15.

I notice items going missing and records not being kept and the sort

:26:15.:26:18.

of things that you would anticipate to be happening as a matter of

:26:18.:26:23.

course, not being done. Are you aware of any disciplinary follow-

:26:23.:26:29.

ups as a result what was negligent behaviour? I am not. It is fair to

:26:29.:26:34.

say that we were satisfied, we didn't believe there was anything

:26:34.:26:37.

sinister. We think this was an efficiency issue in terms of the

:26:37.:26:44.

information being lost. I agree it is not acceptable, but it is

:26:44.:26:46.

exceptional that we have a problem getting information. It is better

:26:46.:26:51.

than it used to be and generally speaking the efforts that are made

:26:51.:26:59.

around record keeping have improved and generally don't create problems.

:26:59.:27:04.

Trevor Lunn is still with me. There was a lot of discussion last week

:27:04.:27:10.

about the leaked draft document. Your party removed itself from that

:27:10.:27:15.

process and now you have published your own proposals about a shared

:27:15.:27:18.

future. There is there has been criticism about your plans for

:27:18.:27:23.

shared education, that target for integrated education. 20% by 2010.

:27:23.:27:29.

Is that deliverable? If you look at it the other way around, Mark, if

:27:29.:27:33.

the facilities were there so that everybody who wanted integrated

:27:33.:27:37.

education to be facilitated, we would achieve that target in no

:27:37.:27:41.

time. There is clearly a public demand for children to be

:27:41.:27:43.

integrated in school, to be educated together.

:27:43.:27:48.

Is there a great demand for it? I saw a representative of the

:27:48.:27:53.

Catholic education system today today saying there is over capacity

:27:53.:27:57.

within the integrated system. Not all integrated schools are fully

:27:57.:28:00.

subscribed. Do that and you might be able to make the argument that

:28:00.:28:04.

more places are needed, but when there are empty desks already, it

:28:04.:28:12.

is hard to make the case? percentage of of empty sector and

:28:12.:28:20.

the Catholic maintained sector is higher. In the integrated, it is

:28:20.:28:25.

about 5%. You are talking about 80,000 empty desks. In a way that's

:28:25.:28:28.

a different issue. We are talking about bringing children together.

:28:28.:28:35.

There is lots of good reasons why they should be educated together.

:28:35.:28:40.

The plans leaked in draft form last week. Can they come together where

:28:40.:28:45.

people can have a better shared future? Well, we pro produced our

:28:45.:28:49.

plans because the other process appeared to be going nowhere. We

:28:49.:28:54.

stuck with it for a long time and we did our best.

:28:54.:29:00.

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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