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Summary

  1. MLAs pass Sinn Féin motion calling for review of laws on scrambler motorcycles and quad bikes
  2. DUP motion on improvement to services for the 20,000 people in Northern Ireland with epilepsy is passed
  3. First Minister Arlene Foster and Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen appear at Question Time

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Iain McDowell

All times stated are UK

That's all, folks!

Deputy Principal Speaker Caitríona Ruane adjourns the assembly for today.

We'll return tomorrow for another day in the chamber from 10:30.

Parliament Buildings at Stormont
BBC

In the meantime, you can catch up on all today's happenings with Mark Carruthers on Stormont Today on BBC Two at 23:15.

Or, if you prefer the wireless, you can join Jayne McCormack for Today At The Assembly on BBC Radio Ulster from 22:02.

Motion on epilepsy provision passes

The DUP's Paula Bradley, the co-proposer of the motion, takes issue with Ms Bradshaw's contribution, saying it is "naive" to suggest that the Health Committee and the Department of Health are not working well together.

Paula Bradley
b

She finishes by saying the debate has been a "positive" one and that members "want what's best for the people that we represent" when it comes to matters on health.

The motion passes on an oral vote.

'Officials looking at merit of epilepsy database'

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill says she's committed to ensuring that epilepsy patients are given the best possible care.

Michelle O'Neill
BBC

She says she has instructed her officials to look at what merit there might be in creating a database to aid in the care of sufferers.

Databases for specific conditions, she says, can "help inform how services and treatment are structured and delivered" and can also provide a "more detailed picture of what is working and what needs to be improved".

'No benefit to yet another Brexit forum'

An all-Ireland forum on Brexit would not be of any benefit, the DUP's Gavin Robinson has told the BBC's Talkback programme.

Gavin Robinson
House of Commons

The East Belfast MP said there were benefits from a positive relationship with the Republic of Ireland, but not in this case.

'Release report into healthcare reform'

Paula Bradshaw of the Alliance Party says the motion could be brought forward for any number of health conditions, not just epilepsy.

Prof Rafael Bengoa
Prof Rafael Bengoa

She says there is a need to implement a "proper reform of health and social care services".

And she calls for the minister to release a report into the future of Northern Ireland's health service by a panel led by Spanish medical reform expert Prof Rafael Bengoa (above).

'Health service struggling to cope with demand'

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson says the health service is continuing "to struggle to cope" with numbers of people who have epilepsy, and there is a shortage of staff specialising in the condition.

Jo-Anne Dobson
BBC

She backs the call for an epilepsy register, but adds: "a database cannot stand alone - it should be the start of measuring what is currently not being managed as efficiently and effectively as it could be.

"I truly hope that a patient-led approach will follow."

'Create epilepsy register to help sufferers'

Matters move on to the DUP's motion calling for an improvement in services for people with epilepsy.

East Londonderry MLA George Robinson brings it to the floor, and pays tribute to those in the health service who treat sufferers of the condition.

representation of brain during seizure
SPL

He calls on Health Minister Michelle O'Neill to create an epilepsy register that will enable service provision to be directed towards the most-used service areas to help patients.

Similar databases exist for cancer, multiple sclerosis and renal patients, he adds.

Motion on scramblers and quad bikes passes

Winding up the Sinn Féin motion on a call for a review of legislation on scramblers and quad bikes, Fra McCann recalls one Christmas morning in his West Belfast constituency when witnessed a "youth chapter of the Hell's Angels" on the motorcycles on the Falls Road, having been given the motorcycles as presents.

He says if parents realised the costs attached to scrambler and quad bikes after the initial purchase, they may have second thoughts about buying them for their children.

The motion is agreed on an oral vote.

'No silver bullet on scrambler problem'

The members return to the scramblers debate, and Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard says the debate has shown there is broad agreement on the issue, but "there is no silver bullet".

He says the police have sufficient powers but the problem is catching and prosecuting offenders.  

Chris Hazzard
BBC

Mr Hazzard says the possible registration of off-road bikes would be an excepted matter - that is, governed by Westminster.

The proposal has fallen by the wayside, he says, because of the difficulties of enforcement.

'Sheep, cattle and pig prices on the rise'

Seán Lynch of Sinn Féin asks about "the potential loss of income to farmers" as a result of Brexit.

The minister says the current situation is positive.

Tractors lifting silage bales
Getty Images

"Sheep prices have increased, cattle prices have increased as have pig prices over the year," she says.

Mr Lynch asks for a guarantee on farmers' incomes.

"It's very early days," the minister replies.

'Need for practical pest control'

Three out of four people in Northern Ireland support the banning of snares in Northern Ireland, the Alliance Party's Chris Lyttle says.

He asks the minister why she does not support a ban.

A snare set in woodland
BBC

Miss McIlveen says that personally she has some support for the calls for a ban, but there is a need for a "practical" method of dealing with pests that kill "young lambs, game birds and other species".

She says it is "not reasonable" to ask landowners to patrol their fields with shotguns at night when foxes are active.

Question Time for agriculture minister

Michelle McIlveen
BBC

Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen is answering questions from members on her brief.

'Threats to priest and journalist absolutely scandalous'

The first minister says she "absolutely condemns" threatening behaviour directed towards north Belfast priest Fr Donegan and Sunday Life journalist Christopher Woodhouse at the Orange Order's Ardyone parade on Saturday.

The two men were confronted by members and supporters of the nationalist Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, which opposed the parade.

Fr Gary Donegan was confronted by angry protesters at Ardoyne

"It's absolutely scandalous that anyone should have to be faced with that threatening, intimidating behaviour," Mrs Foster says.

"I want to send out a very strong message that it's simply not acceptable."

'Council should reflect on intimidation to Jews'

In reply to a question regarding Derry City and Strabane Council from the DUP's Gary Middleton, Mrs Foster refers to a decision to boycott Israeli goods and services.

Gary Middleton
BBC

Mrs Foster expresses concern that "Jews in Belfast, we're told by the rabbi, are feeling very intimidated and under attack".

"I think the council should reflect on that ," she says.

'Brexit impact hidden from the public'

The SDLP's Nichola Mallon asks about a report prepared by the minister's department prior to the EU referendum, which she says was "hidden from the people of Northern Ireland".

Mrs Foster says the report "was not commissioned by me, was not commissioned by my predecessor" and "was not seen by me".

A union jack and EU flag
PA

She says it was commissioned by Sir Malcolm McKibbin, the head of the civil service, and was written by two civil servants.

"Everybody needs to calm down about this so-called Brexit paper," the first minister says.

'Downward trend in racist attacks'

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie asks how many attacks on black and minority ethnic communities have been recorded in Northern Ireland since the EU referendum in June.

Houses daubed with racist graffiti
BBC

Junior Minister Alistair Ross says that, unlike in England and Wales, there hasn't been a spike" in such attacks but instead there has been a continuing downward trend.

'Not quite sure what Article 10 is!'

There are giggles and guffaws in the chamber as DUP MLA Alex Easton asks the first minister if she supports "the triggering of Article 10 by the end of March next year".

Arlene Foster
BBC

Mrs Foster responds to her party colleague, saying: "I think the member means Article 50! Not quite sure what Article 10 is.

"But I'm sure some of my europhile colleagues will be able to tell me what Article 10 of Lisbon Treaty is all about," she adds, gesturing towards the Ulster Unionists.

'You don't show your hand before negotiations'

The Alliance Party's Naomi Long says Prime Minister Theresa May's comments on Brexit at the weekend made it clear that access to the single market "should not be a priority" in the forthcoming negotiations.

She wants to know the minister's view on how this would affect Northern Ireland's trading relationship with the Republic of Ireland.

Theresa May
Getty Images

Mrs Foster says it is an important question, but it should be remembered that if Northern Ireland had remained in the EU it would have had to deal with challenges on domestic water charges, direct investment and state aid.

She says the negotiations will be "long and protracted" and "you do not set out your hand before you enter negotiations".

'Could committee be set up over Brexit?'

The SDLP's Patsy McGlone asks the minister what her plans are to ensure that Northern Ireland's interests are represented during the Brexit negotiations.

Mrs Foster says the executive intends to have "a full and active voice in shaping the negotiations."

Union jacks fly about an exit sign
PA

Mr McGlone asks whether an "ad-hoc assembly committee" should be set up to consider Brexit issues.

The first minister says that is a matter for the committees.

Question Time for first minister

Arlene Foster
BBC

First Minister Arlene Foster is answering questions from members on the floor of the house.

'Review must not just be a paper exercise'

Any review of the legislation on scrambler and quad bike use "must not be a paper exercise and nothing more", the SDLP's Nichola Mallon says.

She adds that "this house need to be able to satisfy itself" that the law "is as effective as it can be".

Nichola Mallon
BBC

"Lives are blighted" by people using the bikes illegally in public parks, she adds, and "much more work is required to educate parents" in order to "encourage their safe and responsible use".

The debate is suspended to allow for Question Time.

'Some riders have little regard for community'

The DUP's Paul Frew points out that even in "somewhat controlled" environments - racetracks, for example - people on scramblers and quads can get hurt and killed, and references the death of 13-year-old rider Daniel Sheridan (below right) in Londonderry in August.

Daniel Sheridan with his brother
Sheridan family

He goes on to discuss people using the bikes in Ballymena, in his constituency, saying they show disrespect to their communities and "little regard for what's round the corner".

"The police needs to seize these bikes," he concludes.

'Lack of knowledge leads parents to buy bikes'

Roy Beggs outs himself as a "former scrambler", saying he used one on his father's farm back in the day.

Roy Beggs
BBC

He tells members that a "lack of knowledge" among parents may mean some are "thinking of making a purchase before Christmas".

Referring to the kind of motorbike he used, he says it is like "putting a child in behind a team of 38 horses", and says many parents do not know the power of what they are giving to young people.

'Laws need to be brought to the fore'

The laws governing scrambler use must be "brought out, brought to the fore with an awareness campaign", Sinn Féin's Raymond McCartney says.

The review his party is calling for "will assist the process", he adds.

Raymond McCartney
BBC
Raymond McCartney

The DUP's Paul Girvan tells the chamber that he does not think "there's anybody that's not been contact" around an issue relating to scrambler bikes.

He supports the motion and adds that needs to be consideration in legislation for "landowners whose land is being used without their permission".

McGuinness calls May's Brexit plans 'selfish'

Away from the chamber, the deputy first minister has described the government's approach to Brexit as "selfish".

Martin McGuinness
Pacemaker

Speaking at Stormont, Martin McGuinness said it was "all about the internal machinations of the Conservative Party".

'Vigorous law enforcement would bring change'

The "root of problem" around illegal use of scramblers and quads is "down to lack of enforcement of current laws", the DUP's Pam Cameron says.

A rider on a quad bike
Thinkstock

She adds that there may be an "attitude" among people using bikes illegally that they can "deliberately flout the law as nothing will be done".

She says she supports the motion, adding that "by vigorously enforcing legislation" people would "quickly see a change in the illegal use of these vehicles".

'Police don't seem keen to seize illegal bikes'

Laws on the use of scrambler and quad bikes are "confused", according to the Alliance Party's Trevor Lunn.

A rider on a quad bike
Thinkstock

Mr Lunn formerly worked in the insurance business and he tells members that cover is not available for people under the age of 18 to use them on roads.

He adds that police has powers to seize the bikes in cases where they are not insured or are being used illegally, but "don't seem very keen to use them".

'Huge onus on parents to be responsible'

The "menace" of the illegal use of scramblers and quads is "neither new or unique to Northern Ireland", Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie says.

He calls on the justice minister to "drive forward at pace" measures to deliver punishments "that act as deterrents".

A wheel of a scrambler bike
Thinkstock

The Upper Bann representative notes that many of those using the bikes and children and young adults, and adds that there is a "huge onus" on parents to be responsible and not buy the bikes unless they are sure they are going to be used legally on private land.

"We must find a mechanism to keep the citizen of Northern Ireland safe," he adds.

'Need for legislation that will protect lives'

The "focus of the house has to be on protecting life", says the DUP's William Humphrey.

He adds that any measures on the use of motorbikes cannot be "about making scramblers illegal" or ending people's enjoyment of using them, but instead about "responsible" in using them.

A rider on a quad bike
Thinkstock

The North Belfast MLA tells the chamber he has attended the funerals of two boys - one aged four, another aged 14 - who were killed after falling off scramblers.

He supports the motion and calls for "legislation that is practical and will protect lives".

'Quads and scramblers plaguing communities'

Matters move on to the Sinn Féin motion calling for a review of legislation around the use of scrambler motorcycles and quad bikes.

Deputy Speaker Patsy McGlone warns members that there is a live case before the courts relating to the death of Valerie Armstrong, who was struck by a scrambler in July.

A rider on a scrambler motirbike
Thinkstock

Jennifer McCann, one of the party's West Belfast MLAs, puts the motion to the chamber, saying Mrs Armstrong's "tragic death" has "brought this into the public arena again".

She says scramblers and quad bikes "plaguing local communities" and parents must be "aware of the law" relating to the use of these types motorcycles.

"The truth is we really need to do something before another tragedy occurs," she says, adding: "We need people to be able to be safe."

Addressing underachievement

Ulster Unionist Rosemary Barton notes the award of a contract to Co-operation Ireland to provide professional development for teachers on educational underachievement both north and south.

She asks about the difficulties that may arise in co-operating on raising numeracy and literacy standards given the "very different curricula". 

Rosemary Barton
BBC

The minister says there are a range of activities which may not be "curriculum driven" that can be addressed to help improve underachievement.

He gives the example of absentee policy.

'Glowing report for autism centre'

Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff, who chairs the Education Committee, asks about university fees and maintenance for students from Northern Ireland studying in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Weir says that is a matter for the economy minister.

Barry McElduff
BBC

Mr McElduff has some concerns about the Middletown Centre for Autism in County Armagh, and the emphasis on training for parents being transferred to online delivery.

Mr Weir says "there is a very glowing report" on Middletown.

The minister adds there as been a change of focus from being a residential facility to being a centre for outreach facilities.

Brexit on agenda for education ministers

Education Minister Peter Weir reports back to the assembly on a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) on education, held in Armagh on 21 September.

Peter Weir
BBC

Matters discussed by Mr Weir and the Irish Education Minister Richard Bruton included the implications of Brexit, educational underachievement and special educational needs.

'Protesters showed raw, naked hatred'

The DUP's Nelson McCausland condemns the "raw, naked hatred" of the protesters who confronted Fr Donegan.

Protesters at Ardoyne
Press Eye

The SDLP's Nicola Mallon, who was present when the parade passed along the road, says the incident involving Fr Donegan was "violent" and "frightening", and adds that she had tried to intervene.

'Chance to discuss parading without standoff'

Trevor Lunn of the Alliance Party acknowledges the "resources" the police have put in place at Twaddell during the life of the protest camp.

Police Land Rovers at Twaddell Avenue
Press Eye

It has been estimated that the policing cost has amounted to about £20m over the last three years.

"It's actually been a good summer, relatively speaking, for parading," he says, adding that there should now be a chance to "discuss these things in an atmosphere of calm a and standoff".

'Ardoyne's Fr Donegan a workers' priest'

Mr Kelly welcomes the resolution, which he says was long sought after.

He pays tribute to local priest Fr Gary Donegan, who was confronted by supporters of the nationalist Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, saying is a fine example of "a workers' priest". 

Fr Gary Donegan
Press Eye

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie also welcomes the agreement, which he notes was achieved "despite the Parades Commission", which adjudicates on contentious parades in Northern Ireland.

He pays particular tribute to the Orange Order, and condemns the treatment of Fr Donegan.

Matter of the day: Ardoyne parades dispute

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly is bringing a matter of the day on the resolution of the long-running marching dispute at Ardoyne/Twadell in north Belfast.

Three Orange Order lodges marched up the Crumlin Road on Saturday morning.

Orangemen march at Ardoyne
Press Eye

Loyalists have now dismantled their protest camp at Twaddell Avenue.

It was set up in July 2013 after the Parades Commission ruled that Orangemen could not walk along the route.

Speaker's respect warning for DUP's Stalford

Speaker Robin Newton begins by warning members about the standard of debate during last week's adjournment debate on flag-flying in south Belfast.

Robin Newton
BBC

He refers specifically to comments "made from a sedentary position" by the DUP's Christopher Stalford during a speech by the SDLP's Claire Hanna.

The speaker says Mr Stalford's comments did not display the "respect, good temper and moderation" expected of members in the chamber.

On the agenda: Service improvements for epilepsy patients

MLAs will have their say on epilepsy services this afternoon, with the DUP bringing a motion calling for an improvement to the provision for those living with the condition.

A graphic depicting brain activity
SPL

An estimated 20,000 people in Northern Ireland have epilepsy and the condition can affect people of all ages.

On the agenda: Calls for scrambler and quad bike review

A motion on reviewing laws around the use of scrambler motorbikes and quad bikes will be debated in the chamber this afternoon.

Sinn Féin has brought it to the floor after the death of mother-of-three Valerie Armstrong in west Belfast in July.

A rider on a quad bike
Thinkstock

She was struck by a scrambler as she walked her dog in Colin Glen Park and she died the next day.

A teenager has been charged over her death.

Community workers said at the time that it was not the first serious incident involving motorcycles and quads in the park, and have since called for more robust legislation on their use.