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Summary

  1. MLAs back DUP motion calling for support for people diagnosed with HIV
  2. SDLP motion calling for establishment of medical school in north-west is passed
  3. Closure of outdoor education centres in South Down discussed in adjournment debate
  4. First Minister Arlene Foster, Justice Minister Claire Sugden and Assembly Commission face Question Time
  5. First minister briefs MLAs on last week's British-Irish Council meeting

Live Reporting

By Iain McDowell and Erinn Kerr

All times stated are UK

Goodnight

After that passionate adjournment debate, the assembly is adjourned and our Stormont Live coverage for the day comes to an end.

Parliament Buildings at Stormont
BBC

But we'll be back tomorrow morning, with the first and deputy first ministers appearing before the Executive Office Committee, so please do join us then.

Goodnight for now!

'More painful cuts coming unless radical change is made'

Education Minister Peter Weir rises to respond to the appeals from MLAs, and he acknowledges that children benefit greatly from their visits to outdoor centres, and he says there would be "major implications" if the proposed closures go ahead.

But he says that it all boils down to funding, and the education budget is "£52m down on what it was previously".

Child
Thinkstock

Therefore the "room for manoeuvre" for him and the Education Authority is "not as wide" as it was in the past, and the pressures will keep coming in the next financial year, he adds.

"Unless there's a very radical change, there will be other cuts that will have to be made, which are more painful, which are more politically difficult for this house than the outdoor centres," he says.

Ultimately, he says, the decision lies with the Education Authority board and he urges MLAs to come up with an workable alternative for the centres.

'Outdoor centres have wide-catchment area'

The Green Party's Steven Agnew says this evening's debate has shown that it is not only South Down that will be affected by the closure of outdoor education centres, if they go ahead.

Pointing to the fact that MLAs from Antrim, Belfast and elsewhere have spoken on the matter, he says: "These places have a wide catchment area."

Delamont
BBC

Sinn Féin's Chris Hazzard says that in his five years in the assembly he has never seen so many MLAs in the chamber for an adjournment debate.

He says an "appropriate way forward" needs to be found that matches the needs of the children who use the centres and the budget pressures the education department faces.

'Axeing outdoor centres all about cost-cutting'

Alliance Party MLA Chris Lyttle, the deputy-chair of the Education Committee, also speaks in favour of keeping the centres open.

A girl climbing a wall
BBC

He says it has become clear that the proposed closures are "more about cost-cutting than improving education provision", and there is "shock" that busy and "exciting" centres are being earmarked for the axe.

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart says the centres are "fabulous", but she adds that Northern Ireland is going through "changing times" and there is "no bottomless pot of money".

'Children's positive experience can't be measured'

SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley asks the minister to put the proposals on a pause, saying that the centres are popular for good reason.

Proposals to close these centres "contradict" the proposals in the executive's programme for government, she adds.

Children
BBC

"How do we measure the added confidence that these young people get from visiting these centres?" she asks.

DUP MLA William Humphrey warns MLAs that the closure proposals have not come from the minister, but have instead been made by the Education Authority.

He says the education budgets is "not infinite".

'Minister shouldn't pass buck over centres' closures'

Sinn Féin's Caitríona Ruane supports the outdoor education centres and says she has seen "first-hand the good work that they're doing".

Outdoor centre
Clare Goodbody

The South Down MLA hopes Education Minister Peter Weir will "take his own mind" over the closures, and asks him "not to pass the buck", adding that he has a "substantial budget" that he could use to keep them open.

Ulster Unionist MLA Harold McKee, another representative of the constituency, says the cost of keeping the centres open "far outweighs" any benefits of closing them.

'Closing outdoor education centres a potential tragedy'

Today's adjournment debate focuses on the South Down constituency and the Education Authority's recent proposals to close outdoor education centres.

Its proposer is SDLP MLA Colin McGrath, who says it would be "a loss and a tragedy" if the centres are forced to shut their doors.

Outdoor education centre
BBC

He asks why would cuts be made to something that creates a space for young people to learn "communication skills, team work and life skills".

He claims that during the consultation process, the occupancy of the centres was compared against buildings in the hotel business, and he adds that the decision has been made for "all the wrong reasons".

"I can almost hear the judicial reviews warming up now," he said.

'Motion brought forward on behalf of everyone'

The DUP motion is wound up by Paula Bradley, who says she brought it forward "on behalf of everyone, no matter what their gender or sexuality, because I believe stigma has to be reduced".

She has an emotional, personal connection to the issue, saying the disease affects someone she loves, who was diagnosed 10 years ago.

Paula Bradley
BBC

She hopes the story to come out of the debate will be a "positive" one rather than focusing on Mr McCann's "altercation" with Mr Clarke.

Ms Bradley giver her support to the Alliance Party amendment, which is passed on an oral vote, and the amended DUP motion is also backed without opposition by MLAs.

'DUP breaking new ground with HIV motion'

Wrapping up the Alliance Party amendment to the motion, Trevor Lunn says it is "about making a clear statement that people with HIV will not be disadvantaged compared to elsewhere in the UK".

Red ribbon
Thinkstock

The costs of introducing the HIV drug known as prep appear to be relatively low, he adds.

He gives credit to the DUP, saying that the party is "breaking new ground" by proposing its motion, and he congratulates Mr Clarke on his "very personal speech".

'Fear of stigma creates barriers to healthcare'

Heath Minister Michelle O'Neill responds to the debate that she say is "long overdue".

"For me, this is an equality issue and respect has to be at the heart of how we do our business here," she tells members.

Pills
BBC

Fear of stigma and marginalisation can "create barriers" for those with HIV to go for health tests, the minister says, and it is therefore essential to "empower people to access support".

The minister says DUP MLA Trevor Clarke's admission that he did not know until recently that men could get contract HIV is a positive sign of a society moving forward.

She says she is considering how funding could support voluntary groups helping people with HIV, and she is open to looking at a sexual health strategy.

'Everyone exists on the spectrum of sexuality'

People Before Profit's Eamon McCann says that to suggest that members should support the motion on HIV because the disease affects heterosexual people, is "in itself homophobic".

He accuses DUP MLA Trevor Clarke of "unconscious homophobia" after he admitted to only recently discovering that heterosexuals can get HIV.

An LGBT rainbow flag
Getty Images

The Foyle MLA goes on to say that "everyone exists on the spectrum of sexuality" and added that he would have kissed more men if it was not for the "stubble factor".

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey says that unfortunately some people who suffer from HIV are "fearful" of disclosing their condition to their friends, family or healthcare professionals in case of receiving differential treatment.

That, she says, is what makes the condition so "unique".

'Let's keep HIV awareness on the agenda'

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna says she hopes the DUP's proposal of the motion marks a change in approach by all parties to HIV and other issues faced by the LGBT community.

Claire Hanna
BBC

She says World Aids Day on Thursday gives the opportunity to "revisit the facts" around the disease, particularly around how it is transmitted.

"This is our opportunity to keep HIV and Aids education, awareness and treatment on the agenda, publicly and politically," she adds.

'Gay people denied most basic human rights'

People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll says that to tackle HIV there is a need to address homophobia, because men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by the disease.

He says it is a "growing problem" that needs to be addressed.

Child threatening another child
BBC

Mr Carroll says while gay people in Northern Ireland do not have the same rights to marry and express their sexuality as heterosexual couples they will remain "marginalised" and "denied the most basic human rights".

"It's important that we have these conversations here and fight against the stigma which stops these conversations happening on the ground," he says.

'Safe sex and clean needle use must be promoted'

Returning to the debate on HIV, Sinn Féin's Pat Sheehan points out that the narrative that it is a disease only affecting gay men is a "myth".

Needles
Science Photo Library

Safe sex and care around using needles should be promoted, he says, and he praises groups like Positive Life in the work they do against the disease.

He says he supports both the DUP motion and the Alliance Party motion.

'Reconsider dismissals over social media posting'

Mark Devenport

BBC News NI Political Editor

'Record number of private members' bills proposed'

A record 21 proposals for private members' bills have been tabled at the assembly since the start of the mandate in May, Assembly Commission member Alex Maskey tells MLAs.

Paper
BBC

Due to the demand, an extra £155,000 has been made available to recruit additional staff at the assembly's bill office to support work on private members' bills, he adds.

Earlier this year, the speaker suspended the submission of private members' bills due to the workload the bill office was facing.

'Women want to be appointed on merit, not quotas'

Staffing at the assembly is raised by Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly, who asks about its gender action plan.

Assembly Commission member Jim Wells points out that two of the five senior posts at the assembly, including the role of chief executive, are held by women - a year ago there was none.

Gender
BBC

"The ultimate aim of the plan is to ensure we do have gender balance at the assembly," Mr Wells says, and he says, but it will be skewed by the mostly male security staff.

Green Party MLA Claire Bailey asks whether gender quotas could be deployed in the employment of staff.

But Mr Wells disagrees, saying: "Many of the female members of staff in this building would like to think they've been appointed entirely on merit rather than because of quotas."

Question Time for Assembly Commission

Stormont
BBC

Members of the Assembly Commission are now taking question from MLAs.

'Body cameras could deter attacks on prison staff'

Prison officers could be given cameras to wear to help prevent attacks on them, the justice minister says.

Responding to a question from the DUP's Alex Easton, she says there have been 58 attacks on staff up to October this year.

A policeman wearing a body camera
PA

Body-worn cameras have recently been trialled in prisons' care and supervision units, she adds. Police officers in Northern Ireland started wearing the devices this month.

And Ms Sugden says she has asked about the feasibility of deploying the cameras more widely to deter "violent or disruptive prisoners".

'Police college to resume intake in January'

Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton asks the minister to outline any conversations she has had with the PSNI's chief constable about the suspension of training at a police college in Belfast.

Ms Sugden says she has regular meetings with George Hamilton but they have not discussed that particular issue.

PSNI passing out parade
Press Eye

However, she says she has been advised that work is under way to "implement the recommendations of the review" of the college, with a view to resuming intakes in January.

She says some changes have already been made, including to the compulsory residential requirement of the training.

"I'm confident that the PSNI and the Policing Board are working together with a view to full implementation of the recommendations as soon as possible," she adds.

'Law for tackling stalking not strong enough'

New stalking legislation is on the cards for Northern Ireland, and Ms Sugden outlines the progress that the justice department has made in putting it in place.

She says she is "not convinced" that existing law is strong enough to tackle stalking, and she points out that the assembly's Justice Committee will review the matter and produce a report next year.

A woman being followed by a man
Thinkstock

"Stalking takes on a very modern guise, particularly around social media and I think it's an area we need to look at," Ms Sugden says.

The SDLP's Gerry Mullan asks the minister what her legislative programme will be for this mandate, and she says she hopes to have "around three pieces of legislation this year".

'Detection of Orange hall attacks non-existent'

Attacks on Orange halls are raised by the DUP's William Humphrey, who says 32 buildings owned by the institution have been damaged this year.

He described the detection rate for hate crimes against the order is "deplorable if not non-existent".

Salterstown Orange Hall
BBC

UUP MLA Roy Beggs says that since 2011 there have been 132 attacks on Orange properties, and he wants to know whether mosques, synagogues or chapels had been subjected to that same total would there have been "a much stronger cross-departmental response".

Ms Sugden says she condemns all attacks on "symbolic" buildings and says she takes them seriously, "regardless if it's an Orange hall, a GAA or any other type of building within our comminity".

Question Time for justice minister

Claire Sugden
BBC

Claire Sugden is up now, facing MLAs on her portfolio heading up the Department of Justice.

'We're lobbying hard for Rugby World Cup'

Staying on sport, the first minister says she is "quitely hopeful, if not confident" that Ireland's bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 will be a success.

The island is up against previous hosts France and South Africa in trying to land the tournament.

Rugby World Cup
BBC

"We have been doing some lobbying and some very hard work behind the scenes, and also the fact that we haven't had the Rugby World Cup," she says.

And she tips her hat to Ulster rugby star Rory Best, who racked up his 100th international cap as he captained Ireland to victory over Australia on Saturday, with Mrs Foster saying the assembly is "incredibly proud" of his achievement.

'BBC will be challenged over Frampton's award omission'

Carl Frampton's omission from the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year shortlist will be raised with the corporation by the executive, the first minister says.

Mrs Foster says she is "not amused" that Belfast's world champion boxer is not up for the annual award, adding that the decision not to include him in the final 16 is "absolutely scandalous".

Carl Frampton
Press Eye

She says she wonders why motorcyclist Jonathan Rea, swimmer Bethany Firth and footballer Michael McGovern also missed out.

She says there is a "problem" with the BBC's judging panel, and Communities Minister Paul Givan will challenge the BBC's head of sport about the lack of Northern Ireland sportspeople on the shortlist.

"We're all licence fee payers and this should be taken into consideration," she adds.

'Much excitement over possible Pope visit'

A possible visit to Ireland by the Pope is raised by the SDLP's Justin McNulty.

The prospect arose yesterday when Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny met Pope Francis at the Vatican, after which Martin McGuinness said the Pope would travel to Northern Ireland..

Pope Francis and Enda Kenny
RTE

The first minister says there has been "a lot of excitement" among some people and does "understand the significance of a papal visit".

But she points out that it has not yet been confirmed.

'EU poll had nothing to do with united Ireland'

Northern Ireland's most important relationship is with the rest of the UK and not the EU, the first minister says.

She points to the volume of trade the region does with Great Britain, - the primary market for goods produced in Northern Ireland - and she suggests that could be strengthened after Brexit.

Ballot
Press Eye

"That is something that has been quite frankly missed by people," she tells members.

Referring to a document released by Sinn Féin yesterday which pressed for a united Ireland in the wake of Brexit, she says the EU referendum in June had "absolutely nothing to do with a vote in relation to the reunification of Ireland".

'We should have ambition for NI outside EU'

It should not be a surprise that the UK has not finalised its plans for Brexit, the first minister says.

Taking a question from the SDLP's Patsy McGlone on Whitehall's plans for the UK's withdrawal from the EU, she says the executive will emphasise to the government the "unique position" of Northern Ireland and she is happy with the level of engagement with No. 10 so far.

Flags
Reuters

"We would not expect or want the UK government to adopt a position until they have considered all the issues and implications, including for Northern Ireland," she adds.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt asks if it's practical to "adopt a policy of having cake and eating cake", to which Mrs Foster says Northern Ireland should have "ambition" for life outside the EU.

'I stand in solidarity with Jewish community'

The executive should consider tracking specific anti-Semitic crimes in Northern Ireland, the first minister says.

Mrs Foster says she recently visited the Jewish synagogue in north Belfast, and was told of some of their concerns over recent attacks on buildings and graves.

Graves
BBC

"I wanted to go to the Jewish community here in Northern Ireland and stand in solidarity with them," she adds.

In response to a question from her DUP colleague Gordon Dunne, she outlines her department's plans for National Holocaust Memorial Day.

She says her office has allocated a budget and staffing for a commemoration event on 26 January, which will take place in Armagh's Market Place Theatre.

Question Time for first minister

Arlene Foster is at the despatch box to take questions from MLAs on the work of the Executive Office.

Arlene Foster
BBC

That's lunchtime...

The assembly will now break for one hour to allow the business committee to meet to draw up next week's agenda.

We'll be back at 14:00 with Question Time, so join us again then.

'HIV support has come long way since Mercury died'

Ulster Unionist health spokeswoman Jo-Anne Dobson follows up Ms Seeley's point by saying there is a "clear need" for a new sexual health promotion health strategy.

Trevor Clarke of the DUP says that when he first entered the assembly he would not have believed he would ever be bringing a motion on HIV.

Freddie Mercury
PA

But he says he has had his eyes opened to the disease and was unaware that people who are heterosexual could be affected by it.

"It's for that reason that I find no difficulty whatsoever in supporting what's been called for here today," he adds.

Mr Clarke says he recently watched a TV programme on Freddie Mercury's battle with the disease, and noted how far treatments have progressed in the 25 years since the Queen singer died.

'Sex education key to tackling HIV'

Sinn Féin's Catherine Seeley raises the issue of education around HIV.

She says sex education was "key" to tackling such diseases and should not be influenced by a "school's ethos or by individual teachers' attitudes".

HIV
SPL

She is concerned by the number of people living with HIV who are not aware that they have the condition, and says a refreshing of people's education on the symptoms and causes of the disease would go a long way to improving the situation.

'Access to HIV prevention drug makes economic sense'

An Alliance Party motion to the amendment calls for proposals to be brought forward to allow the pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, known as prep, to be made available to people in Northern Ireland.

It allows those who do not have HIV to prevent infection of the disease by taking a pill every day.

Pills
Thinkstock

Paula Bradshaw says it would cost about £500,000 a year to provide to people in Northern Ireland, which she compares with the average lifetime cost of treating a single patient of £300,000.

"Even if people don't like the thought of this in moralistic terms, I would ask them to look at this in economic terms," she adds.

'Let's challenge stigma and perceptions around HIV'

Matters move to a DUP motion on people diagnosed with HIV, and calling on the health minister to support the development of a new centre of excellence for Positive Life, an organisation that helps people deal with the condition.

A red ribbon
BBC

DUP MLA Gary Middleton, wearing a red ribbon for World Aids Day, points to an increase in the number of people suffering from the disease in Northern Ireland.

He says "we need to challenge the old perception and the old stigmas" surrounding HIV.

SDLP motion on medical school in north-west passes

Winding the debate, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood says his party's motion is not about "political point-scoring" and it is "unfortunate" that some members have "dragged this down".

Continuing to hire locum doctors is not sustainable for the Western Health Trust, he says, with this year's cost heading towards £16m.

Colum Eastwood
BBC

Therefore it is a "fairly simple argument to make" that an "enormous amount of money" could be saved and the economy could be boosted by building the school in Derry.

The project also presents a "fantastic opportunity" to meet the need for GPs right across the island of Ireland, he concludes.

The motion passes on an oral vote.

'Project for medical school has considerable potential'

Responding to the debate, Health Minister Michelle O'Neill says a medical school in the north west has the potential to address staffing issues in the area and across Northern Ireland.

She says she sees "considerable potential" in the project.

Michelle
BBC

But she points out that the proposal is at an early stage and will take much time and work to develop.

"I am committed to exploring the feasibility of this proposal and ensuring that we train the right number of future doctors," she concludes.

'Hume raised medical school idea years ago'

People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann says there are "no shortage of candidates as to who was the first person to come up with this idea".

He says the first time he heard of the proposal for a medical school in Derry was 25 years ago from the SDLP's John Hume.

Eamonn McCann
BBC

Mr McCann asks the assembly for forgiveness and says he "100% supports" the medical school, but admits he is "cynical".

The Foyle MLA says the university's own figures point to 500 extra jobs, which he says is a "long way short of a university of 10,000 students which we were promised".

'Medical school unlikely when purse strings stretched'

Paula Bradshaw of the Alliance Party says she has doubts about how realistic a prospect a medical school in Derry could possibly be.

"I do not think that we should pretend this is likely in the short term," she says.

A doctor holding a stethoscope
Thinkstock

"It is one thing to support something in principle, quite another to deliver on it with purse strings already stretched."

A cross-border school is put forward as one alternative, with classes held at the Ulster University's Magee campus and elsewhere on the west of island.

'Patient outcomes improve with increased staffing'

Sights need to be set high to address staffing issues in the health service, Gerry Mullan of the SDLP says.

Medical staff
BBC

For example, failures to reform healthcare provision, particularly in employing temporary staff, in Northern Ireland has heaped costs upon the service, he says.

Establishing the medical school in Londonderry would go some way to tackling those problems, he suggests, adding that would "improve patient outcomes as a result".