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There's to be an Assembly election on Thursday March the second.
It was called at teatime by the Secretary of State exactly
seven days after Martin McGuinness resigned as the Deputy
James Brokenshire called on the parties to establish it as soon as
possible. No one should underestimate the challenge faced by
the institutions here and what is at stake. It is inevitable that debates
will be intense, I would encourage the parties to carry this election
with a view to the future of Northern Ireland and re-establishing
a partnership government at the earliest opportunity after that.
This is essential to the operation of government and means all must
Remain open to dialogue. Two parties that pledged to make a Fresh Start
are now deeply divided. Our political correspondent charts the
day. We've had political break-ups at
Stormont before but not quite like this. Arlene Foster and Martin
McGuinness's relationship has been in meltdown for months and today
this was reduced to ashes. This is the moment their separation was
rubber-stamped. One was prepared to stay and the other wanted out. I am
nominating Arlene Foster to be the minister. Thousands of people said
it in the country and we, as the DUP will decide who the leader of our
party is, not someone else sitting in this chamber. Sinn Fein have
honoured all agreements, we have striven to make these agreements
work, Martin McGuinness has acted with integrity, dignity and respect.
Moments later, Martin McGuinness left the chamber, leaving many to
wonder if he'd played his last political hand. Whilst Arlene Foster
faced up to her next challenge, blaming Sinn Fein for sending voters
back to the polls. They've forced an election which risks the stability
and future of Northern Ireland and suits nobody other than themselves.
They will take every vote for them as an encouragement that they can
bring down the Executive whenever they don't get their own way,
whatever the cost to Northern Ireland, again and again and again.
Today we've called time on the behaviour of the DUP. We've done so
because we can no longer accept how these institutions were being
treated with contempt, and the DUP treat the public with contempt. Sinn
Fein and Martin McGuinness have stretched ourselves to the very
limits to keep these institutions working but have been let down by
the behaviour of the DUP, the imposition of Tory policies and the
inaction of the Irish government. The heated exchanges continued
inside the chamber as Sinn Fein withdrew its motion of no-confidence
in the speaker Robin Newton. In a bizarre twist, the chamber was left
without a speaker when Lord Morrow refused to take any points of order
and left the chair. The Deputy speaker was drafted in. I'm going to
suspend the Assembly because of the absolute mess we've arrived into to
take some advice. There are a lot of questions to be dealt with in a
serious manner without tomfoolery that has been happening here. That
was not the only piece of business taken off the agenda, the plan to
reduce the cost of the flawed heating scheme was adjourned until
next week. The class of 2002 new about stop start politics but this
will be a new experience for the MLAs leaving Stormont not knowing
when or if they might return. As they know, collapsing institutions
is the easy bit. Bringing them back and rebuilding trust is the real
challenge and that is the test awaiting our politicians on the
other side of the election. As for other political parties, this was
their reaction to today's events. The people of Northern Ireland
should be extremely disappointed and angry by the developments that have
culminated in the inevitable collapse of this mandate after just
eight months. I would encourage them to express that anger and
frustration by coming out to vote next time and not staying at home.
They've had ten years of the DUP and Sinn Fein ruling us from Stormont
Castle. You need no more proof that they are incapable of working
together. We told people these parties could not deliver. We told
them we need a programme for government. Sinn Fein did not
listen. The DUP did not listen. It only took seven months of proper
accountability and opposition for this government to collapse. The
only thing the public have voted for in the Good Friday agreement is that
these institutions should work. Now we need people who are willing to be
transparent and accountable. They want to be elected to the Assembly
and do the work on behalf of the people. Eight months is a disgrace.
Earlier tonight in the Assembly the former Enterprise
Minister Jonathan Bell of the DUP addressed MLAs.
I believe these matters can be investigated. Alongside the very
first piece of information given to me by the DUP special officer that
you will not be allowed to reduce the tariff on the scheme because
Timothy Johnson, special adviser to the then First Minister and Jon
Ronson, the director of communications to the DUP, and the
special adviser to the economy minister, have such extensive
interests in the poultry industry that has not been allowed on the
agenda. I have the information, I have kept the records in many
formats. This party has suspended me for telling the truth whilst I give
the deputy leader all the information about the people sitting
beside them and bind them of much more serious offences. We've had
response to that from Timothy Johnston and from the special
adviser to the economy minister, Simon Hamilton. Mr Johnston said, I
have no family connections to the poultry industry...
The current Assembly comes to an early end without agreeing
a budget for the start of the new financial year in April.
A senior civil servant has warned that could lead to a huge
range of difficulties, particularly for the health service.
Earlier I spoke to our Economics and Business Editor John Campbell
about what will happen with no budget in place.
It is what David Stirling was trying to spell out today, he initially
stuck an optimistic note -- struck. He said we have a few weeks to put
an Executive back together and agree a budget just-in-time before the
start of the financial year in April. That means he is probably
more optimistic, and if it cannot be put together... He will immediately
have access to 75% of the budget, so he sought to reassure them he will
have that cash at hand and public services would continue to operate
even if there is not a government or a budget agreed. What does that mean
for the running of the departments? Even though he was reassuring people
that the cash would not run out he said it was still a very
unsatisfactory situation and his precise words were, if there wasn't
a government in place for a period of time, say a couple of months,
that would pose a huge range of difficulties in a wide range of
areas. He gave a specific example of the Department of Health and he said
the quality of services they depend on the pattern of spending, in other
words, the Department of Health, huge department, they need to have
certainty at the start of the financial year so they can plan
their services so if there is no budget in place, that will cause
difficulties to services that are already under pressure. There is
also a difficulty with rates bills. Setting rates is one of the powers.
There is a piece of legislation which allows the government to
collect rates, the taxes levied on businesses and households. If there
is no power to collect those then what happens? There is a contingency
plan in place. Usually they are collected over a ten month period.
It could be possible that you could get them in May or June. That is the
initial plan. If there's no money coming in, councils rely on them. He
said he could make it work for a couple of months. He emphasised it
could only be a short-term solution. If this runs on later than June or
July they will be in a real budget crunch. If there is no Executive in
place then a direct minister would step in and impose a budget.
You've News of an important phone call. Theresa May and Enda Kenny
spoke on the phone. Both parties say they are very concerned about the
direction politics is heading in Northern Ireland and they've urged
all sides to show respect during the campaign because there is a concern
in London and Dublin that gap between Sinn Fein and the DUP will
widen considerably the selection and that will make it more difficult
when we get down to the negotiations. In regards to the
practicalities of what will happen in Stormont before election day,
take us through that. We have our date of March the 2nd and we know
that the institutions, the Assembly will be devolved on January 26. The
business will continue in the chamber until January 25 and they
will wrap up ongoing as this, so to speak, by the 25th of January. After
that date, the ministers will still be in position and behind their
desks, running there are various departments. That will continue to
be the case until the eve of the election. We will have the election,
the MLAs are elected, how soon, given what you heard today, will be
Executive be back up and running? That's a massive question and not
too many pundits will have the answer. They would love to know how
it will play out. We do know there will be a three-week period for the
first and the Deputy First Minister to be elected. After that, we are
into unknown territory. It will be up to James Brokenshire to make the
call. We may see prolonged negotiations continuing between the
parties because we know the gap is so weighed between Sinn Fein and the
DUP that it may take some time before we can put things together
again. Seven days since Martin McGuinness announced his
resignation. You mentioned in your report about his political career.
Do we see the end of it today? Do we see Malcolm McGuinness playing his
last letter got hand? He seemed a lot stronger today, health-wise, and
speaking to him, he was pleased with where he was with his health. But he
has to decide whether he puts his health before politics. We are
expecting a decision on that. That needs to be made because the
election is now up and running. There will be 90 MLAs selected after
the election day. I presume they are all vying for position now within
parties as well. 18 MLAs are facing the prospect of redundancy from a
very good job, a job that pays ?50,000 a year with quite a generous
expenses package. These are politicians who thought they were in
a job for the next five years and here they are, seven or eight months
later, facing the electorate and 18 of them will not be coming back, we
know that pressure. We have a journey ahead of us, that is mature.
There is more on those developments on Stormont today at 11:20pm.
In other news now and two years after the death of a 13-year-old
Fermanagh boy following a playground incident, a former pupil
at his school has appeared in court charged with manslaughter.
Our South West reporter Julian Fowler was at the hearing
Oisin McGrath died after an incident in February 2000 15. France's
McDermott was in sixth form at time. The 19-year-old is accused of
unlawful killing. The family were in court and listened as the defence
solicitor said he'd been asked to express continuing sympathy to them,
saying it had devastated to families. The solicitor said Francis
would carry the memory of what happened in the schoolyard with him
for the rest of his life and said he had been instructed to minimise the
pain that the Justice process will have for the McGrath family. The
judge said the sentiments were laudable in an extremely difficult
set of circumstances. France's McDermott said he understood the
charges. He was released on bail for ?500 and will appear at Crown Court
next month. Efforts to stop the closure of a GP
practice in Portadown have failed. Someone who it was thought may be
able to take over the Bannview Our Health Correspondent
Marie-Louise Connolly reports. At one time, there were four
full-time GPs working from this practice, caring for 5200 men, women
and children. A vital health club in the town, over the years, as GPs
retired, they were not replaced. Despite the warning signs, the last
remaining GP resigned saying she could no longer cope with the
pressure. Nearby practices told the BBC they were overstretched and
unable to take on patients. It was left in the hands of the health and
social care boards to sex. A contractor had been fined late this
afternoon and it emerged that GP had withdrawn from the contract. The
health minister said the move was extremely disappointing and she has
called for an urgent meeting with the health and social care boards to
ensure patients receive high-quality health care. They added that the
health care will manage the practice until a contract is appointed. It is
not ideal that locums could be in charge of running a health centre.
Patients who are older, especially, require somebody who knows their
medical history. Unless problems are addressed this could become a
familiar story. The weather forecast, and here are the details.
We have a quieter week, apart from spots of rain we are looking at dry
weather. Rain has been moving through, it will clear away to the
east, and in the second part of the night it turning drier but we are
left with the legacy of cloud. Quite a bit of hillfort in places.
Temperatures will not be lower than 7 degrees. Tomorrow, apart from the
odd spot of drizzle we are looking at dry weather. Some low cloud over
the hills and it will be a dull and grey start. Similar across the
Republic of Ireland. Quite a brisk wind in the Northwest. Mainly dry.
Further south, southern Scotland and northern Wales seeing rain and to
the south of that it is mainly dry. The sun will come through after the
frosty start. Temperature is not much above four or 5 degrees. Milder
conditions, in fact, double figures. We are looking at 10 degrees in
Northern Ireland. Generally speaking, more cloud than sunshine.
I pressure of the dominant feature. Not a lot of sunshine. We are
looking at a fair amount of cloud. Mainly dry. Temperatures are
tapering down. That was BBC newsline. A fresh election has been
called for Thursday 2nd of March. The power-sharing Executive
collapsed, sparked by the renewable heat scheme which could cost
taxpayers nearly half ?1 billion. Good
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