29/02/2016 Stormont Today


29/02/2016

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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Transcript


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It was a red letter day on the hill as John McCallister's crusade

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to formalise arrangements for an Assembly opposition passed

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And there was a promise from the Deputy First Minister

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It's been a long journey, but John McCallister has rewritten

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And joining me with his thoughts on today's business is our

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political correspondent, Gareth Gordon.

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At times it appeared to be an almost impossible task as John McCallister

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laboured to create the legislation needed for an opposition

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But today his Bill passed its final stage and it now proceeds

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to Westminster to receive Royal Assent before the end

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What makes it on to the statute books may not be quite what he set

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out to deliver, but the South Down MLA

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still believes his Private Members' Bill will improve how

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We've had 15 hours of debate and consideration stage lasted over nine

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and a half hours over two days. 52 votes at committee, on different

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clauses, 20 divisions and considerations using another five

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considerations. It gives you a place called opposition. Opposition gives

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our elected the chance to change the Government. I think on the whole as

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the Bill has emerged, I'm very, very pleased with what has come out at

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the other end of so many hours of debate and scrutiny. I think it's

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fair to say this Bill has evolved considerably from the Bill that was

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introduced and scrutinised by the Assembly and the executive

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committee. Key provisions such as the formation of the opposition by

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technical groups, establishment of a budget committee, renaming of the

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office of the first and Deputy First Minister and the proposal for

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departments to be a single legal entity have now been removed. Given

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that sentiment and the SDLP, consistent with the democratic

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structures endorsed by the people of Ireland on the good Friday

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agreement, we recognise that creating a place called opposition,

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or a place for more formal dissent in this chamber is healthy for our

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democracy. We remain totally convinced of the need and necessity

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of opposition structures to be put in place. The reasons Assembly was

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structured has been acknowledged in all stages of debate, but I think we

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should all aspire to improve what we are doing and move in time with our

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ever evolving society. But it is clear from the increasing disconnect

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that we are failing to do so when it comes to the structures of this

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chamber. I know this Bill has been well read since its inception, but

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as the sponsor himself said, the opposition part of it is largely

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intact and perhaps most important part of the Bill, perhaps the bit he

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would have selected if all else had to fail. It is also, there've been

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times in the passage of this Bill where I didn't expect it to go any

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further, because we had the unedifying spectacle of Sinn Fein

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voting against every clause of the committee, and the DUP weren't

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helping by abstaining. The party that in the Assembly during the

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course of Mr John McAllister's Bill has done most to try and derail it,

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namely Sinn Fein, that after their failure to attain their ambitions in

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the southern election, and falling significantly short of what they

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hoped to attain, that the height of their ambition now in the Irish

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Republic is to form the opposition. And yet in this House on every vote

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on this Bill they've sought to deny even the right to have an

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opposition. Because I think we had an opportunity to really improve

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governance in Northern Ireland. I believe it's an opportunity wasted.

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We wasted the opportunity to abolish Petition of Concern. We wasted the

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opportunity to abolish community designation. We wasted the

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opportunity to introduce collective responsibility. And we wasted the

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opportunity to introduce a mechanism by which we can hold Ministers to

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account. And the final stage

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of the Opposition Bill passed by 63 So, John McCallister's Bill has made

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it through the Stormont maze. It's a bittersweet moment for John

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McAllister. Many said he would never get past the final stage, but he has

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done so. That's a little victory in itself. It means that anyone after

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May in the Assembly election who wants to go into opposition, the

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bigger parties, the mechanism is there to do so. They'll be funded

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and they'll have enhanced speaking rights. But no guarantee that any

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parties will at this moment take the opportunity up. It is not the Bill,

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however, that John McAllister envisaged when he set out on this

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long road. For example he wanted to end the community designations. That

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is not happening. Sinn Fein and the SDLP blocked that with the Petition

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of Concern. They said it was too much like majority rule. The DUP

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blocked the plan to rename the office of the first and deputy

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Minister to the office of the First Ministers. It is not what he want.

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But he says it is a worthwhile exercise. It is an achievement

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achievement to get a Private Member's Bill through. It hasn't

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happened too often. Sinn Fein voted against. How significant a piece of

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legislation do you think it is, because it did go through today with

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a significant majority. Well, I think potentially it opens the gates

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and makes people think more about it. Whether or not as I said in my

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first answer min will take up this offer at the moment is open, and

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unless they do it sits on the statute books and doesn't mean a

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lot, I suppose. We'll find out early in May when we come back with a new

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mandate. The Deputy First Minister told MLAs

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that he would be "absolutely willing" to appear at a commission

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designed to provide information to relatives of those killed

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in the Troubles. Plans for an Independent Commission

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on Information Retrieval were set out in the Stormont House Agreement,

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and today Jim Allister asked Martin McGuinness if he'll take

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part in the process. Does the Deputy First Minister

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intend by way as example to other IRA men to provide information the

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information retrieval commission when it's established? Well, that

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brings us back again to the negotiations that we participated in

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prior to Christmas, and the huge progress that was made. There isn't

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much point in establishing an organisation like the ICAR or the

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other organisations that we agreed in terms of the structures if we are

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not going encourage people to participate to ensure that families

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who've been victims of the conflict can get some resolution to I suppose

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the information that they are seeking. If that's so perhaps the

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Deputy First Minister would answer the question: Will he as an officer

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commanding in the IRA lead by example and give information, to the

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information retrieval commission if it is to afford any hope to the many

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innocent victims of his IRA? Well, I think that on a number of occasions

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in the past I've made it clear first of all that Sinn Fein policy was to

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argue for the establishment of an independent international Truth

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Commission. And obviously we didn't achieve, that but what we have done

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is compromised in terms of the structures and mechanisms that we

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agreed prior to Christmas. I further make the point there isn't much

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point in establishing those if people aren't prepared to go

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forward. If I am required to go forward, on any point of relevance

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to myself, I am absolutely willing to do that. The Deputy First

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Minister refers to detrimental first contributions... Are will he agree

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that's always been the case? And every time I have indicated to him

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about his involvement in the past in paramilitary groups that was equally

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detriment, it doesn't hold much water when he denies knowledge of

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every single incident mentioned to him, which leaves people to the

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conclusion that he was the most overpromoted person in

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paramilitary... In the history of the world? Isn't it just as well for

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all of the people out there that we represent that I am not as bitter as

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the member who has just spoken? I spent a year in the office of first

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and Deputy First Minister with Ian Paisley during which time we built

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up not just a good working relationship but a friendship which

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lasted until the day he died. We had many conversations about many

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things. I know the member held Reverend Ian Paisley in high rafrmtd

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never once did we recriminate about anyone, not once, and the 8 years I

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worked with Peter Robinson. All we were interested in was making this

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place work, making the executive work, delivering for our people,

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getting jobs, and starting against against the activities of those who

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would plunge us back into the past. It is a pity we still have maul

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minded MLAs in this Assembly and one of them has just spoken and another

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one spoke just a very short time ago. Fortunately for all of us in

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the Assembly the vast majority of people are not like that.

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The Deputy First Minister in combative form.

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Was in comphebt from Mr McGuinness a complete surprise? It is not what he

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set out to say, but he has had many questions in the past from John

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McAllister and Mr Campbell about his past. He told the Bloody Sunday

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inquiry he had for a time been the IRA's number two. But to put into it

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context we should say that plans for an independent commission on

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information retrieval, to agree other aspects of legacy of the

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Troubles. John McAllister said, if it is set up would he be prepared to

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give details about his IRA past? Martin McGuinness can hardly say no

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if he wants other people to do the same thing. He says, if I'm required

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to go forward on any point of relevance to myself, I'm absolutely

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willing to do that. There is no such commission and there may never be

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one. Gareth, thank you. And just 36 hours after

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Carl Frampton won in the boxing ring, it was no surprise

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that his name was mentioned a time or two during questions

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to the Culture, Arts and Leisure But first Caral Ni Chuilin had

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to answer questions about the cost of repairs to the MAC

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arts venue in Belfast. The total cast of repairs was

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estimated at ?938,000. Almost a million pounds. This figure includes

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the repressed and of the stone facade and pipework as well as

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management and supervision of the works which include professional and

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legal fees. It is regrettable that almost ?1 million of public money is

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being spent to not only carry out repairs, but to cover some of the

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outstanding work which is health and safety related. I can assure the

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member of this house that I will, my department, through the arts

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Council, will pursue full recovery of this money. I believe it is an

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important building. Many people have gone through the door. It has raised

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a lot of concern considering the amount of money spent from the

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public purse. Can the Minister provide an update

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on the legal situation with reference to the repairs.

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They have had an extra day. The reports, when they are in front of

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me, will go to the committee. I will ensure that they are copied to the

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member for information. It is unfortunate that given the amount of

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money spent on the building, when I invested additional money from the

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public purse. They are repairing a building that shouldn't need so many

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repairs given that it is quite a young building.

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Given the great victory on Saturday night, what plans are they to host a

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reception for him in Parliament Buildings on his return.

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We have had receptions for athletes who have achieved a lot in the past.

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We are certainly planning to do that on the 9th of March in Enniskillen.

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We will look at the achievements of all athletes competing at different

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levels. I would hope that not just Carl Frampton but all the other

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athletes who performed on Saturday are more than welcome to that as

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well. He has said he would love to have a

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fight in Windsor Park, in terms of Belfast. What would you, and your

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parliament, given that we have the champion here in your own

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constituency, what are you going to do in terms of yours Department to

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support him? I'm not a boxing promoter. It is up to promoters to

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come forward with opportunities not just for Carl Frampton but for other

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boxes as well. We have met with many boxers, professional boxers in the

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past. Worthy opportunities to create a spectacle for us to enjoy we would

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be trying to have. Whilst we are all engrossed in

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watching Carl Frampton on Saturday night when his boat was going on,

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and another boxer became the band term weight champion in mixed

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martial arts. What support can the minister give mixed martial arts. It

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is a growing sport in this country? I will go on very quickly and three

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I think we need to do more. I follow the work of many people in this

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field. I believe that the work these teams do is absolutely brilliant,

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particularly working with children and young people who are hard to

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reach. We are showing them they can compete on a world stage. We

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Time is up. That is the end of question Time. Congratulations,

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Minister on completing your mandate. Congratulations, Minister

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on completing your mandate. The Speaker congratulating Caral ni

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Chuilin on her final appearance Another piece of legislation

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reached its final stage today, It will enable credit unions

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to offer shares which entitle holders to interest rather

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than a dividend and allow them to offer membership to groups

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as well as individuals. The passage of this bill represents

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the culmination of almost eight years of work. It enables credit

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unions to expand their range of services and offer the same

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facilities that their counterparts in GB and South America have been

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able to offer since 2000 and 21 respectively.

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The bill was designed to promote these continued growth and

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sustainability of this sector. I believe this bill will deliver what

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is required. The required change to create an improved service. The

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success and significant of these servers that credit unions provide

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here is backed up by statistics. 34% of the population hold a credit

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union account. Compared with around 5% and the rest of the UK. With

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membership doubling in the past decade.

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Frankly, the more you imitate banks, the more you become like banks. The

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more you become susceptible to the same pressures and regulation. We

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know what happened to them! I do hope that the sector continues its

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progress. It has always been a marvellously well-run system in

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Northern Ireland. I am sure it will continue to be so.

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Credit unions are enormous importance. I could speak for hours

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on the value that credit unions have maimed too many people.

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Individually, like myself, and collectively for families. I am glad

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that they have the level of support they have in Northern Ireland. That

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is reflective of the value that the people of Northern Ireland place in

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them. I remember back when I had a sunbeam that cost ?50. They told me

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I would be an essential car use and would need a reliable car at work.

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It was to the credit union, you turned for the loan for the

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second-hand car that allowed you to get a career.

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And the Credit Unions Bill passed on an oral vote.

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A Licensing Bill, brought to the house by Judith Cochrane,

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If it progresses it would mean outdoor stadia would be able

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to apply for permanent licences to sell alcohol.

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Currently stadium operators have to apply for temporary licences.

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This bill aims to apply the licensing provisions to outdoor

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stadium. The committee supports the bill for this new type of licence. I

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believe that the reform of our licensing laws is well overdue. The

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committee for social development has discussed this on a number of

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occasions throughout this mandate. We have a mandate to bring forward,

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comprehensive legislation to do with the licensing laws on that basis,

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the social development committee supports the bill. Can I just say,

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with your indulgence, it would be remiss of me not to mention our

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congratulations to Carl Frampton who is now a superbantamweight champion.

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He is a great credit to himself, his family and the people in the area he

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comes from. Can I start with the chair left off

:21:45.:21:49.

and congratulate Carl Frampton. It was clear on Saturday night that the

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Ulster boys were making all the noise everywhere they went. We wish

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him every success for the future. The issue that has been alluded to

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several times already is one that was the subject of some scrutiny by

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the committee, that is the issue of the 9pm threshold. Particularly for

:22:06.:22:13.

games, and there are quite a few games which commences in and around

:22:14.:22:19.

seven or 730 in the evening. Therefore, either run close to the

:22:20.:22:24.

9pm their shoulder or certainly, if people want to stay on after the

:22:25.:22:30.

game, the 9pm threshold effects them particularly if they are families.

:22:31.:22:36.

Quite a few of those attending the games are families, and therefore an

:22:37.:22:39.

issue does arise in terms of accessibility.

:22:40.:22:48.

I too would like to pass on my congratulations to Carl Frampton.

:22:49.:22:51.

There is a relevance with this legislation today in that in some

:22:52.:22:54.

point in the future and outdoor stadium may be required for a

:22:55.:22:59.

subsequent world title fight. It is important that we update our

:23:00.:23:02.

legislation. I am disappointed that there was no

:23:03.:23:10.

attempt to restrict the licence from a 360 Friday year year licence, to

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one, if the purpose is to facilitate sporting events, when the stadium

:23:17.:23:22.

are actually in use for those purposes.

:23:23.:23:26.

He was aware that this is a new reform of licence, it is a specific

:23:27.:23:31.

licence was stadium. It is ancillary to an event occurring in the

:23:32.:23:37.

stadium. This notion of a 365 day licence, we are not opening a pub in

:23:38.:23:42.

the stadium. It is ancillary to an event. If our stadium, that has been

:23:43.:23:47.

arrested in by the Northern Ireland executive could manage to run events

:23:48.:23:51.

began to 65 days a year, I would be immensely surprised. It would mean

:23:52.:23:56.

that they were really, really realising the potential of the

:23:57.:24:00.

stadium. I don't see that that is happening. It's not in the business

:24:01.:24:04.

The licence will always be ancillary to an event.

:24:05.:24:07.

The Alliance Party's Judith Cochrane, who brought

:24:08.:24:09.

the Licensing Bill which passed its Consideration Stage

:24:10.:24:10.

Now on to matters from the weekend, not the Irish elections,

:24:11.:24:14.

but the Green Party's annual conference which was held

:24:15.:24:16.

This sort of photo is featuring a lock on the conference trail.

:24:17.:24:29.

Candidates on display and ready for doorsteps. But the Greens have never

:24:30.:24:34.

had a picture like this before. This is the first time they are running

:24:35.:24:40.

in all 18 in situ disease. Half of the candidates are women. This was

:24:41.:24:46.

emphasised by the leader. -- 18 in constituencies. This reflects how it

:24:47.:24:55.

is in society. It reflects the assembly as it should be. He is

:24:56.:25:05.

currently the Greens only MLA. Taking his seat will be the party's

:25:06.:25:10.

first priority in May. They seem confident they can do better than

:25:11.:25:13.

that. I am looking for at least the

:25:14.:25:19.

Greensleeves. I am confident, my record in the assembly, my party's

:25:20.:25:23.

record in terms of campaigning, we can go with confidence to back it

:25:24.:25:31.

up. And so he is aiming for the stars.

:25:32.:25:36.

This is a new Pope. Let's hope it's the force a week and is! -- a new

:25:37.:25:47.

Hope. We are offering the electorate something to vote for rather than

:25:48.:25:53.

against. The big message we got in May 2015 was that people are trying

:25:54.:25:57.

to break the cycle of voting something that they didn't support

:25:58.:26:01.

to keep something that they didn't support out. We had a huge mandate

:26:02.:26:06.

and our best election result ever. But is there a limit it did pool of

:26:07.:26:13.

votes for parties that are not Unionist or nationalist. They think

:26:14.:26:17.

the appeal to the post-troubles generation.

:26:18.:26:21.

We are leading that agenda. We are looking at things like transparency,

:26:22.:26:26.

whether it be defending student fees, ensuring they don't go any

:26:27.:26:29.

higher. We represent young people. The

:26:30.:26:35.

conference did not hold the attention of everyone, but this was

:26:36.:26:39.

the biggest Green party gathering ever hear. Membership has trebled,

:26:40.:26:44.

but whether the party will achieve their ambitions will become clear in

:26:45.:26:45.

May. Chris Page reporting,

:26:46.:26:45.

and Gareth is here for a final word. The former Foyle MLA

:26:46.:26:48.

Maurice Devenney has quit the DUP, But it's not as clear

:26:49.:26:51.

as to whether or not he's joining He has a starring role, his very own

:26:52.:27:07.

political soap opera with a different plot twist every week. He

:27:08.:27:14.

was briefly an MLA here, co-opted to replace the former Speaker. He

:27:15.:27:18.

disappeared after about seven months. Recently the DUP suspended

:27:19.:27:23.

imports allegedly standing out a police station in encouraging people

:27:24.:27:30.

to vote for the SDLP MPU. Last week the Ulster Unionist party said he

:27:31.:27:35.

had joined them. The gauche Asians have been going on for some time. --

:27:36.:27:41.

negotiations have been going on for some time. Today he has said he is

:27:42.:27:46.

not joining the Ulster Unionist party at all. He has changed his

:27:47.:27:52.

mind. He said in a statement that as a result of discussions over the

:27:53.:27:55.

weekend, there are a number of issues I feel we cannot find

:27:56.:28:00.

agreement on. That seems to be news to the Ulster Unionist leader who

:28:01.:28:03.

issued a terse statement tonight saying that the contact had been at

:28:04.:28:11.

his own request and not progress of Ulster Unionist party. When we met

:28:12.:28:17.

on Saturday he claims he was less sure. It is news to me. All in all,

:28:18.:28:22.

an episode from which neither the Ulster Unionists nor the man himself

:28:23.:28:25.

emerge well. And the Speaker has

:28:26.:28:28.

been hosting an event for the Royal British

:28:29.:28:29.

Legion tonight. It's part of his outreach as a Sinn

:28:30.:28:39.

Fein member. He hosted our remembrance event in November. He is

:28:40.:28:46.

hosting the British Legion tonight, it was one of the things he wants to

:28:47.:28:51.

do before he retires in a few weeks. He praised what he called the

:28:52.:28:55.

significant contribution be Legion has made to marking a shared

:28:56.:29:03.

He expressed his respect for helpful direction.

:29:04.:29:06.

Join me again at the same time tomorrow night,

:29:07.:29:10.

Until then, from everyone in the team, goodbye.

:29:11.:30:05.

If this offer isn't good enough for you, I'm absolutely not interested.

:30:06.:30:16.

I became jobless, penniless and homeless...

:30:17.:30:20.

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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