30/01/2012 Stormont Today


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

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Hello and welcome to Stormont Today where nothing causes division quite


like the issue of unity. And it's the Ulster Unionists who are


getting themselves into a bind with David McNarry cast into the


wilderness. And a leader who's unrepentant. Clearly once you see


someone talk about the possibility in the future of the DUP Golding


beat First -- holding the First Minister's post it is beyond a joke.


From a new position in the chamber, Mr McNarry can still see the funny


side. It is called on this side of the house, if there is anything you


can do to warm it up I would be very grateful. And we talk Irish


language and ask where is the promised Irish language Act? So is


David McNarry a scapegoat for unhappiness in the UUP ranks? Did


he get what he deserved or did he over-react? We'll hear from him in


a moment. But first, our political correspondent Martina Purdy spoke


to Tom Elliott this afternoon. She began by asking him what it was


about the Belfast Telegraph interview that had annoyed him.


Ulster Unionist Party have been calling for better it union --


unity in the party. David McNarry had intimated to me that he was


carrying out an interview with the Belfast Telegraph the following day


and I said to him to use the line issued on the press statement but


unfortunately he went above and beyond that. There was no way he


was not talking to the DUP. He was the liaison officer. He went beyond


his remit. A what specifically did he say to upset the party? The area


I wanted to deal with was to ensure that members were informed of any


talks or progress so that they would not read it in the media.


Just a few days before I had updated the party Executive on any


discussions we were having with other parties and progress on the


justice minister review. Clearly, once you see someone talk about the


possibility in the future of the DUP holding the First Minister


position and the Ulster Unionist Party holding the junior minister,


that is way beyond the remit. used that line about junior


ministers? That was a line he used. I think we need to be clear about


this. David McNarry removed the deputy chair of the education


committee. I did not remove the whip from him or suspend him. I


have known him for a long time and a lot of our party members do not


have the opportunity to have advised cheer or chairmanship of


committee. All I was doing was the moving him in position. We did you


first read the article? I was actually over in Scotland and I


picked it up that morning and I saw it over in Scotland. Obviously I


would not say I was surprised because to be fair to David, he


phoned me the day he had done the interview and indicated and I think


he realised my annoyance when he indicated some of the things he had


said. I don't think he went into all be detail but he certainly gave


me the brought out line and he certainly realised my annoyance


even at that stage. When he phoned to tell you about the interview you


were annoyed with him? Yes. David McNarry can give us his view of


events. He says you went beyond your remit, is he right? I do not


know what the remit is that he is talking about. I am sitting here


talking to you and I have sat in this studio before talking to you


and the remit as you lay down as the interviewer, I have no idea of


what you will ask. Is anyone suggesting I would do an interview


with a professional journalist of long-standing and tell them a


parcel of lies in response to direct questions? I really do not


do that. I am trained to dodge questions but I am never and never


have gone into line to any member of the media. He seemed to have


particular issue with the DUP First Minister and an Ulster Unionist


junior minister, did that come off the top of your head or was that


something discussed with Tom Eliot or other people you had been to


talks with? Tom Eliot was well aware of that idea as you call it.


It was an example and nothing else. An example of how corporation in


the current Assembly might be displayed and that is all it was,


an example. Surely you would have known there would be members of


your party who would have all been the Belfast Telegraph on the Monday


morning and be very surprised to read what they read. It was not my


call to tell members of the Unionist Party. The issues that I


was dealing with, I was dealing with as part of a panel. This


novelty I have heard of a liaison officer is news to me. I was picked


as part of a panel. I would use the word hand-picked by the leader as


part of a panel of four are to go into these discussions. Four


members of my party to be surprised, I have heard some of those who have


expressed this surprise. Maybe they should be asking themselves, if


they are so trusted by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, why


were they left out of the loop? Why did they not know? It certainly was


not my position to tell them. about these other members of the


panel, who were they? I am not going to say, that would be unfair.


I am not going to say who they are. I know who they are run by a quite


clear who they are. Have they stood up for you in their discussions?


do not know what discussions have taken place in my absence but what


I do know is that in private they understand fully aware I am coming


from. The understand my distress at what has happened and they would be,


in my opinion, supportive. Have you over-reacted by resigning? He said


it was only the committee chairmanship he was taking away.


The committee chairmanship is important in terms that it is an


office we hold as apartheid. I was greatly privileged to hold that


deputy chairmanship. In many ways it is symbolic in that sense. In


taking it away from me was nothing other than an outright punishment.


I do not mind being punished if I have done something wrong. I have


not done anything wrong and I have yet to hear anybody tell me,


especially Tom Eliot, that I have done something wrong. But have you


over-reacted? Surely you could stay within the party then, you did not


have to a sign -- the resign from the Assembly group? The manner in


which Tom be laid my sacking was on a mobile phone while driving a car.


Now I have been a member of this party for quite a long time and


there is a thing called respect. To really that news to me on his way


to a meeting by mobile-phone seemed quite disrespectful. Do you think


his leadership is vulnerable now? In terms of where Tom goes, the


situation in the party for some time has been that there are two


floating agendas. I have advised him to be cautious about those


agendas. I have pointed out to him that those agendas are not loyal to


him as I have been. They are not in the best interests of Unionism as I


would be. He needs to be cautious. He has now made himself a prisoner


of those two agendas. Which, I may say, are a separate agenda as by


separate people. Has he backed the wrong horse? Could you bring him


down in some way or attempt to do that? It is not a case of backing


the wrong horse. True friends do not do what he has done. That just


does not happen in my circle. what happens next? What is next for


you? I am at work. My place of work is Stormont and my constituency


office. I am out and about doing what and MLA does. This is my place


of work and I am here. I intend to carry on with my work. Can you see


yourself back in the fold, back in the Assembly party? I do not.


think that is it, that is the end of the Ulster Unionist Party


Assembly group? I will be very frank with you. I protected Tom in


this storm. I am quite amazed about this story because it is not a


story. The story that this is all about is the outcome. Will the two


Unionist parties get together as I and many others wish or will they


not? That is the outcome. That is still some distance away. I had


protected Tom in spite of, and when I saw his reluctance, to say what


was really happening, it is a question of honour as far as I am


concerned. My integrity has been put into the public domain. I will


fight to maintain my integrity. True friends, as they say, do not


do what has been done to me. What will be your next step? My next


step is the step I took to be where I found that called place in the


Assembly. I hope I will warm it up a bit and I will continue with my


work. Will you stand as an Ulster Unionist at the next election?


next election is three or four macro years away. At this moment in


time I know what I am doing tomorrow. Thank you for joining us


tonight. You don't need to be a history buff to know that there are


quite a few significant centenaries coming up. Titanic may not be


controversial but the Ulster Convenant, the Easter Rising, the


War of Independence and partition are likely to stir up debate. And


it's up to the Culture minister to walk that tightrope. We'll hear her


plans shortly. But first, it wasn't so long ago that the cattle disease


brucelosis was rarely out of the farming headlines but things have


come a long way in a short period of time as the Agriculture minister


told members today. I am pleased to stay there are only four cases of


this in 2011. Our last confirmed outbreak was on 14th July, 1920 11.


Our conferment cared incidence rate is down to 0.045 %. There are only


seven herds presently under restriction. I think that is a


remarkable achievement and that figure may have been a lot lower if


it had not been for the two infection hot spots that developed


infection hot spots that developed back in 2010 which were


attributable in part to reckless activities by some hared keepers.


Despite all of that there is good progress. We should not be


farmers report any abortion of their cattle. It is also important


goodbye as security is maintained. Eradicating this by 2014 is one of


our proposals in Government. Achieving the status of being free


from this is our aim. Good news as well for her the new EU protected


status region. The can I thank the Minister for her response and for


giving the comfort spot on to the EU quality food list last week.


These potatoes, and also local apples are all coming, it is


positive for our industry. We will the Department celebrate,


commemorate or obliterate? So it never can centenaries and events


during the decade ahead provide us all with the opportunity to gain a


greater understanding of our shared past and how it shapes and identify


his relations today. My department is refunding its Ulster Covenant


resource in historic content. A BBC programme will be transmitted in


September of this year. There will be a Belfast City Council


exhibition opened in City Hall this August. Exhibitions and talks on


the covenant are being planned by museums and libraries. I am


supportive of these plans to hold a lecture series exploring historical


content of the period 1812 to 1922. I am not exactly overwhelmed by


that answer. We are entering an important phase in the history of


Northern Ireland. We are leading up to the foundation of Northern


Ireland. We can celebrate the fact that we as an integral party of the


United Kingdom has survived 100 years and intend to survive another


The list of events is conclusive. It is not triumphalist. It is


inclusive. We are trying to build better relations. Not beating


chests. So, if the member is genuine about the events and we


hope to bring forward over the next decade, I would be happy to write


to him. Language and the strategies for Irish and Ulster has Scotts.


The Executive has included a strategy for the Irish language.


The programme for government is for consultation. Following the


consideration of responses, I would intend to set out a timetable on


both strategies. I am committed to taking this forward with the 1990


Nate -- 1998 Act. It aims to protect the language and culture.


Will the minister ensure the strategy is meet the needs of the


languages and concentrate on how they will be funded? I cannot give


the members assurance in terms of when the consultation has started


that it will be a robust consultation and that I can give --


I can give them. They will have to decide what funding they wish to


allocate. The fact it is included as an Executive building block


within the draft programme, I would expect colleagues to ensure funds


are in place. There language strategy it should be sorted soon,


but what about the Irish Language Act?


The culture post was held by three DUP in the previous mandate. It is


now held by Sinn Fein. I you encouraged by what you heard from


the culture minister? The minister has made stronger and clear


statement since she took up the post. In many ways, there have been


more positive references to the Irish language in that short period


of time than in the previous three years. It is welcome. There are


stumbling blocks in front of any process to end that the Irish


language. The Irish Language Act was a commitment given by the


British Government so. Even if Stormont were willing to bring it


in tomorrow, there would be issues they could not legislate on because


if issues such as broadcasting. There will always need to be


pressure coming from those at Assembly level who are sympathetic


to the Irish language and who understand the reality of the


situation. For people who do not know about the area, what practical


difference to the Irish language speakers with the act make?


Irish Language Act, if it is strong enough, if it is based on rights,


will clarify the duties of government and the public sector in


relation to Irish speakers. It will clarify what we can expect to have


and what services and what timescale that will be done. It


will cut-out frustration and time wasting and uncertainty that


currently exists. It will enable the state to make strategies and


put in place measures that it can bring in over a period of time.


you concerned about the financial aspect? For some departments, it


may seem further down the list given the straitened times?


Tsar areas, -- who these are areas where the language -- Irish


Language Act will cut across. Irish speakers are saying we pay taxes


and we need to have a share of services that can meet the needs we


have. Up until now we have been excluded. Those need can be met


without the necessary huge -- necessarily huge additional cost.


The ongoing detention of Marion Price he was return to prison last


year was the main debate in the chamber. This motion called on the


Justice Minister to press the Secretary of State to review his


decision. There was no support from the Unionist pensioners, despite


the best efforts of SDLP to convince them otherwise. It was not


subject to the licence. The Secretary of State cannot find


written details. Mr Speaker, I make the point clearly. There is


something suspicious when the Northern Ireland Office cannot find


the document. They are either withholding it or too embarrassed


to share it. The Justice Minister of master raised this about


processes within the prison system that are bought into doubt with


this case. This community is content that people abide by the


law. When they break the law, they serve their sentence until released.


Marion Price were sentence for matters almost 40 years ago. She is


in prison and has been treated appropriately. Hopefully, at some


point in the future, the sentences and regime that will bring charges


will do so and we can see the outcome of the judicial system but


the judicial system at the moment should seek its course. I note with


concern the continuing detention. But I am not convinced I should


have particular concern. I am told she is vulnerable. Perhaps being in


prison is the best place at times for vulnerable people. People mix


up justice, sometimes mercy with revenge. What I her it was large


doses of revenge. Bear this in mind, this woman was released in prison


in 1980. -- from prison. 32 years later, 31 years later, she is


returned to prison. The person has no right to challenge the basis on


which her licence was revoked. will do everything to ensure she is


treated in a way that meets her needs, recognising she is in a


specific position as the sole category a woman prisoner in


Northern Ireland. I will not interfere with due process as it


lies to the commissioners, the responsibilities they have and the


secretary of state has exercised. Back to the main story. The row in


the Ulster Unionist Party. You heard what David McNarry said. What


you make of it? My head is full of claims and counter claims. What I


think is happening is there is a clear power struggle within the


party. You heard David McNarry talk about two agendas. I think he means


that those who want to go into our position and seize control of the


party and those who want to stay in government and work co-operatively.


Is David McNarry a casualty? Will Tom Elliott for? -- fall down. It


is confusing. Tom Elliott spoke about a liaison officer. David


McNarry spoke about a panel. He is not spelling out what he means. Now


back to Tom Elliott, to ask if the panel exists. These questions will


run. I think Tom Elliott giving a substantial of interview, I think


he hoped it would go away but I do not think it will. He was decisive


about being seen as leading and taking a disciplinarian approach.


Other people in the party have talked to the media and they have


not had this happen, where they are demoted from a role. It is �6,000.


Most of us would not like to lose a job like that. I put it to Tom


Elliott, if my boss is upset with me, I do not think it would take


him five days to reprimand me and I do not think I would be shocked


when it came, in the way David McNarry says he was shocked. If Tom


Elliott is saying he is punished because of the line where he talked


about a DUP First Minister and Ulster Unionist junior minister, he


said it was an idea. It underscores that David McNarry was not talking


about a single party. He maintained he was talking about two parties


working together. The plot will continue to thicken. There are


people... I am hearing different things going on but it sounds like


a power struggle. So far, David McNarry has been a casualty of it.


Thank you. We can have a final word from Jan


it. Where now for the campaign to get the Irish language act? Will


held a major event in Stormont in November. We presented proposals


the made in 2006. They were agreed proposals for what kind of shape


and form the Irish Language Act should have. Those were re endorsed


in November. We are Updating the proposals on education because of


the growth in that period in education. And on the media,


because of digital technologies and things like that. We will be


publishing the 2012 version of the recommendations for the Irish


Language Act. We will give that to the minister and we would hope it


would influence the content of the bill to go before the Assembly, or


to go to Westminster, whichever is appropriate. We realistically, what


is your best guess, what year? commitment was given in 2006. Since


that time three major bodies have spoken about what has happened and


the way the commitment has not been fulfilled. United Nations, Council


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