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Live Reporting

Iain McDowell and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today

    Principal Deputy Speaker Chrisopher Stalford adjourns proceedings for the day.

    It's a little bonus for the members as they thought they'd be here until 19:00 debating sea fishing licences.

    Parliament Buildings at Stormont

    There's no assembly business tomorrow so we'll be back on Wednesday morning with some live action from the committee rooms.

    Have a great evening!

  2. 'Farming is pressurised, isolating industry'

    Mental health is an issue the Ulster Unionist Robbie Butler takes a keen interest in and he raises the matter in relation to young farmers, pointing out that in a survey last year 81% of them believed mental ill health was the biggest issue they faced.

    The Lagan Valley wants to know what Edwin Poots - who represents the same constituency - is doing to address the problem.

    The agriculture minister says it "isn't just young farmers but all farmers who face the pressures" of debt, poor cash flow, inclement weather that affects their work or the outbreak of disease among their herds.

    Tractors in a field

    "It's also proven to be a very isolated industry so many people are working day after day after day and only have the company of Radio Ulster or Cool FM or whatever and they're not having a two-way conversation with people."

    Mr Poots says there is support for farmers facing such pressure and he encourages them to seek that out.

    He also offers to help Health Minister Robin Swann in terms improving the mental of people living in rural areas.

  3. 'I don't want to see NI milk processed in Republic'

    The SDLP's Mark Durkan is concerned about the continued export of milk from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland after the UK's departure from the EU.

    Edwin Poots says that during the transition period - until the end of December this year - the export of milk continues as it had done previously.

    Milking machines

    He adds that under the Northern Ireland protocol exports of milk will continue to take place without tariffs or checks after the transition period.

    "I'll be perfectly honest, I don't want to see the milk processed in the Republic of Ireland - I want to see it processed here, I want the jobs to be here," adds the agriculture minister.

    He says there have been too many large conglomerates buying milk plants in Northern Ireland, transferring the work south of the border and paying farmers too little for their produce.

  4. 'NI recycling 50% of household waste for first time'

    The issue of cutting the amount of waste sent to landfill is next on the agenda and Environment Minister Edwin Poots reveals that last year more than 50% of household waste was recycled - that was the first time that landmark had been achieved.

    Bottles at a bottle recycling bank

    He says that when he was previously the environment minister - between 2009 and 2011 - the rate was 30% and he was told that increasing that by another 20% wouldn't be possible.

    Between October 2018 and September 2019 26.5% of all waste went to landfill, he reveals, and says he's "determined to build on this success", with one target over the next five years being to reach a point where no plastic goes to waste.

    He also outlines his intent to "challenge" big producers such as supermarkets about the amount of packaging they use.

  5. 'High concentrations of badgers with tuberculosis'

    The DUP's Dordon Dunne asks about bovine tuberculosis (BTB), which has been a big problem for some farmers in Northern Ireland.

    Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots says the cost of the compensation bill is expect to fall to £18.5m this financial year due to falling disease levels but the overall £36m cost of the BTB scheme is "far too high".

    He says new measures are being drawn up to address the problem.


    "We have some very high concentrations of badgers and they have got very high levels of TB contained within them," he adds.

    "It is in the interest of welfare of both the bovine and the wildlife populations to ensure that we eradicate the TB and we're not doing that by just killing the cows."

    The minister, who is also a farmer, says he has badgers on his own land but he will not let anyone touch them because they are doing no harm.

  6. Question time for Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots

    Final item of business of the day - Edwin Poots is on his feet to answer MLAs' questions about his brief at the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

    The first question he faces is about subsidy payments to farmers - Rosemary Barton of the UUP wants to know what the minister is doing to guarantee stable funding after the expiry of the government's promise to continue current funding levels until 2022.

    Edwin Poots

    Mr Poots says he wants to see subsidies go to "productive farms as opposed to people who own large quantities of land but don't actually do the work on it".

    He wants to "encourage younger people into farming" and therefore the need to be incentivised to enter the industry.

    "There's many young men and women across the country who would enjoy an farming career and they don't own the land whilst there's others who own the land and don't want to farm."

  7. 'LGBTQ citizens not well served by Stormont'

    The LGBTQ community in Northern Ireland "haven't been very well served by this assembly", according to Alliance Party MLA Andrew Muir.

    he wants to know what Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey will do to improve the lives of those people.

    The prie flag

    She says a sexual orientation strategy "is sitting there" and "we need to be sure that it's fit-for-purpose in terms of now because things have moved on".

    The priority for her on that matter "is to ensure that I engage with that community from the outset" adding that she's already arranging meetings.

  8. Question time for Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

    It's the turn of Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to rise to the ministerial lectern.

    First up she's asked by the Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt about a potential increase in rates for sports clubs as a result of Reval2020, a Department of Finance project involving the revaluation of businesses.

    Mr Nesbitt says vast increases in the net annual values of some sports clubs' grounds don't square up with the Stormont executive's commitment to promote longer, healthier and more active lives".

    Deirdre Hargey

    Ms Hargey's remit includes sport and she says it plays a "key role in our society".

    She tells Mr Nesbitt that any club concerned about a potential increase in rates should raise it with their governing body and the Land and Property Services, which manages the collection of rates.

    DUP MLA David Hilditch has a warning - Reval2020 could be the "death knell of many clubs and sporting organisations", with some being "absolutely hammered" by Reval2020.

    He says their clubhouses have limited opening hours and are "operational simply to raise money to sustain the clubs and the sport".

  9. 'Establishing HIU will require government funding'

    Cathal Boylan (below) of Sinn Féin asks whether the justice minister's officials have been in contact with the Northern Ireland Office about the introduction of legislation at Westminster to address Troubles legacy issues.

    He also wants to know what preparations are being made by the Department of Justice for the establishment of the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU).

    Cathal Boylan

    Justice Minister Naomi Long says a specialist team has been put in place "in order to scope out the work needed for the HIU".

    But she warns members that unless the government is providing funding "it will be incredibly difficult for us to deliver a scheme that can actually deliver for victims of the Troubles".

  10. 'I wanted terror sentence changes to apply in NI'

    Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie questions the justice minister about why new Westminster legislation that ends the early release of people convicted of terror offences is not being extended to Northern Ireland.

    The Terrorist Offenders Bill will result in offenders only being considered for release once they've served two-thirds of their term and with the approval of the Parole Board.

    Naomi Long says there was "no barrier to the legislation being applied UK-wide" and she was in favour of it applying to Northern Ireland but the Ministry for Justice took the decision to exclude Northern Ireland.

    Police officers carrying out searches relating to terrorism

    She says the "first sight" Stormont's Department for Justice had of that decision was when a press release about it was issued.

    She adds that there "will be other opportunities for Northern Ireland to be included in the Counter-Terrorism Bill which is about to come through Westminster so the door has not completely closed on that chapter.

    She says she's written Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to ask for better communication with her department "before announcements of that gravity are made".

  11. Question time for Justice Minister Naomi Long

    On to the second ministerial question time session - this time it's Justice Minister Naomi Long, who's asked by the UUP's John Stewart about tariffs for mandatory life sentences.

    Naomi Long

    The East Antrim MLA says it's an "absolute disgrace" that in 2017 the average sentence for murder in Northern Ireland was 11 years and four months, which was "some 10 years less than the equivalent in England and Wales".

    Mrs long says it's difficult to make the comparison "because very small differences in sentencing in Northern Ireland due to the small number of cases can skew the results".

  12. 'O'Neill being coy over attorney general's dual role'

    The Alliance Party's Trevor Lunn (below) says the deputy first minister is being "coy" about the question of the attorney general.

    The Lagan Valley MLA asks: "Would she not agree with me that it's an absolutely clear conflict of interest for somebody to hold the position of attorney general and also be a high court judge?"

    He says such an arrangement shouldn't be allowed to proceed.

    Trevor Lunn

    "We shouldn't just throw caution to the wind and go with our gut," replies the minister.

    "I am determined to follow process and that's why we've sought additional information around the conflict of interest."

    The DUP's Christopher Stalford asks Mrs O'Neill if she agrees the process of appointing the attorney general should not be "meddled with by politicians trying to make political points".

    Mrs O'Neill agrees, saying any public appointment must follow due process.

  13. 'Keen to ensure attorney general's office won't be undermined'

    Green Party leader Claire Bailey asks if the are any concerns about potential conflicts of interest in the Attorney General John Larkin's (below) office given his recent appointment as a temporary deputy High Court judge.

    Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill says the Executive Office is aware of the potential conflict of interest.

    John Larkin

    She says the temporary high court judge application process provided for a conflict of interest declaration and that the lord chief justice allocates such judges on a case-by-case basis.

    "The first minister and I are keen to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest or perceptions of conflicts of interest that may undermine the attorney general's office or the executive," she adds.

  14. 'Civil service reform will make it great place to work'

    Sinn Féin MLA Maolíosa McHugh asks for an update on the reform of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, which is set out in the New Decade, New Approach document.

    Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill says officials will draw up a reform programme and she outlines some of the "priority themes", including making the civil service a "great place to work and a great place to attract new and young talent".

  15. 'Will Murphy publicly state Paul Quinn was not criminal?'

    The murder of County Armagh man Paul Quinn has been one of the dominant issues in politics over the past few weeks and it's back on the agenda today.

    He was beaten to death in County Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland in 2007.

    Shortly afterwards the then Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy - now the Stormont finance minister - said Mr Quinn had links to criminality.

    Mr Quinn's parents Breege and Stephen led a long campaign for an apology and a withdrawal of the remark about their son - Mr Murphy did so this month.

    But Mr Quinn's parents also want Mr Murphy to publicly state that their son was not a criminal - speaking at Stormont today they repeated their call for such a statement.

    The parents of Paul Quinn at Stormont

    TUV leader Jim Allister asks the deputy first minister what she's done to press Mr Murphy to deliver that.

    Michelle O'Neill tells the assembly that Mr Murphy "regrets the remarks he made in the aftermath of Paul's murder" and his apology for them was "sincere".

    SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty says Mr Quinn's parents - "two incredibly brave people" - are in the public gallery and he asks if all executive ministers - including Mr Murphy - believe the 21-year-old was not a criminal.

    Responding, Mrs O'Neill says the issue is "very, very sensitive" and the best way to deal with it is one a "one-to-one basis and Conor Murphy is very happy to meet with Breege Quinn at the earliest opportunity".

    Addressing Mrs Quinn, who she describes as a "mother who has been hurt", the deputy first minister says: "I as a mother can't even to begin how you deal with that trauma."

  16. Question time for Executive Office

    It's question time for the Executive Office and this week it's the turn of Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill to face a quizzing from MLAs, after First Minister Arlene Foster answered them last time round.

    The first question is from the DUP's Gary Middleton - he asks for an update on the work of the Executive Sub-Committee on Brexit.

    Mrs O'Neill says the committee is "firmly established and is working to ensure that our interests are being protected and that we are working to get the best deal for us".

    Michelle O'Neill

    Mr Middleton follows up with a questions about checks on trade - if they are to happen can the deputy first minister assure guarantee they will not occur on this side of the Irish Sea, he asks.

    Mrs O'Neill says she does "not want to see barriers east-west, north- south".

    She says she and Mrs Foster have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for clarification of that as well as a "whole range of issues".

  17. Debate on fishing boat licencing not going ahead

    Three hours of debate had been set aside for the next two bits of business but they've both been pulled after the Agriculture Committee chair Declan McAleer decides against putting it to the assembly.

    MLAs were due to debate the annulment of two statutory rules relating to sea fishing licencing and the prohibition of foreign boats from fishing in Northern Ireland waters unless given approval to do so.

    Fishing nets

    Statutory rules (SR) lay out details of how legislation will work in practice and assembly scrutiny committees are responsible for examining them.

    The two SRs relating to fishing were put under the microscope by the Agriculture Committee, which raised questions about them, leading to them landing on the order paper today.

    But Mr McAleer chooses not to move the motion about the SRs and so we move to ministerial question time.

  18. Changes to committee membership

    Some quick business to tick off now...

    Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson - who's returned from the European Parliament to replace Raymond McCartney as an MLA in Foyle - is nominated to take up places on the Infrastructure Committee and Justice Committee.

    The move is approved on an oral vote without any fuss.

    The assembly chamber

    And one more - Gary Middleton of the DUP is nominated to replace his party colleague Harry Harvey on the Committee for Procedures and Mr Harvey to replace Mr Middleton on the Public Accounts Committee.

    MLAs give the swap the rubber stamp.

  19. 'Gregg was a man of great dignity'

    The DUP's George Robinson refers to Harry Gregg's passion for his local team Coleraine, which "ironically won the League Cup the night before his untimely death".

    Sinéad Ennis

    Sinéad Ennis (above) of Sinn Féin says that as a Manchester United fan she feels a sense of loss today, adding that "by any standards Harry Gregg was a hero".

    SDLP MLA Justin McNulty brings the tributes to a close, saying Mr Gregg was "a man of great dignity, humility and strength".

  20. 'Gregg part of NI's rich Manchester United heritage'

    Alliance Party MLA Chris Lyttle says he hopes the tributes paid to Harry Gregg in the assembly "go some way to offer some comfort" to the former Manchester United football's family.

    The East Belfast MLA says Mr Gregg was part of the "rich heritage of Northern Irishmen who have graced the Theatre of Dreams", otherwise known as Old Trafford.

    He says Mr Gregg's "reluctance to accept the recognition" he received for his heroics after the 1958 Munich air crash "give some insight into the humility and the humanity of the man".

    Harry Gregg

    Jim Allister, the TUV leader, says Mr Gregg towers among the many "sporting giants" from Northern Ireland.

    "It's not just his triumph on the football field that made him the memorable son of this land, of whom we're all proud," adds the North Antrim MLA.

    He says Mr Gregg's "selfless courage" after the Munich air disaster was something that "most of us could only dream about".