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Live Reporting

Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. Good afternoon


    Emma Sheerin thanks Jonna Monaghan for her presentation and draws the meeting to a close.

    That's all from Stormont for this week.

    Have a great weekend and let's hope the good weather holds.

  2. Gender-based violence

    Paula Bradshaw from Alliance asks Ms Monaghan to what degree a bill of rights could have an impact on socio-economic rights for women.

    Ms Monaghan says it could provide an incentive to ensure that new legislation does not have a negative impact on women.

    Ms Bradshaw asks about the issue of gender-based violence and aks to what degree could a bill of rights give women greater protection in this area.

    Ms Monaghan replies that a bill of rights would formalise the right of people of all backgrounds to seek services.

    She says the bill could find addition support for minority groups.

  3. 'Could we have gender budgeting?'

    Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt is next to with a question.

    He asks Jonna Monaghan if NI could include gender budgeting in a Bill of Rights in NI.

    Jonna replies that it would be logical to include gender budgeting, as she says if a Bill of Rights were to be implemented, there would have to be to find out whether budget allocations been made in line with it.

    She says it is not about channelling additional resources to women, its about look at how money is being allocated.

  4. Basing a bill on the international frameworks

    Emma Sheerin

    Emma Sheerin says that "the UK government has decriminalised abortion in the North but you can see that even though that right is supposed to exist and is there in legislation the outworking of that hasn't been realised because we have political decision making from a minister here who doesn't want to implement services".

    So, how does a bill of rights ensure accountability "and ensure that a minister when making a decision has to have rights as their first priority", she asks.

    Jonna Monaghan says that's why NIWEP believes that basing a bill of rights on the international frameworks "provides that kind of a mechanism".

  5. Rights for women in Northern Ireland

    Emma Sheerin thanks Robin Wilson for his presentation

    Jonna Monaghan from the Northern Ireland Women's European Platform is up with the next briefing.

    She explains that NIWEP's core role is to bring women's voices from Northern Ireland to a European and international level and to represent women from NI in the UN.

    Ms Monaghan expresses that the UK and NI has obligations under international law to implement rights for women and to ensure they are meaningful.

    Jonna Monaghan

    She says the importance for a bill of rights is to bring clarity for everyone in NI and to create a robust framework so that everyone can see that no-one's rights are being taken away because rights for one group are being upheld.

    The NIWEP representative adds that the core issue for her is the lack of implementation of rights that already exist. She explains that legislation like employment equality is there to stop discrimination due to maternity and pregnancy however this discrimination still occur today.

    She adds that the assembly has an opportunity to show leadership and a bill of rights would significantly help women in NI.

  6. 'It's not a we-the-people document'

    Alliance party MLA Paula Bradshaw asks how Dr Wilson feels about a preamble towards a bill of rights in Northern Ireland/

    He says that before the Belfast Agreement, he was in touch with a senior official in the Irish government and he proposed creating a vision of a new place that people could look forward to for their children.

    The official rejected the idea because "it's not a-we-the people document, it's the two governments and we can't agree on a vision."

    He adds that if there was a Northern Ireland bill of rights, people could get a sense that it was holding out for something better for them.

  7. Social and economic rights?

    Carál Ní Chuilín

    Carál Ní Chuilín of Sinn Féin asks Dr Wilson where he stands on the question of whether social and economic rights should be included in a bill of rights.

    He say "you can put a more aspirational thing into a bill of rights at least that says that some social and economic rights would be pursued and that it would be a requirement on public authorities that contributed to their progressive achievement".

  8. 'Special circumstances'

    Mike Nesbitt of the UUP asks Dr Wilson to specify what he means when he talks about "special circumstances."

    Mr Wilson explains that, for instance, in other parts of the UK there isn't the same issue around Irish language education.

    Dr Wilson says that in the Belfast Agreement, the Civic Forum also has not been implemented. He adds that there are various social groups in NI who have various social claims to make but it is then to decide whether this all goes into a Bill of Rights or to address those concerns though legislation.

  9. Misunderstanding the Civil Rights movement

    Emma Sheerin

    Committee chair Emma Sheerin says people have identities other than their "constitutional objective".

    The Sinn Féin MLA asks Dr Wilson if he agrees that increasing the rights of one person shouldn't detract from the rights of another.

    He says the Civil Rights movement has often been misunderstood as if it were "a Catholic communal movement against the unionist system".

    Dr Wilson says the people involved were more from a "liberal-left perspective".

  10. 'You can't have a democracy based on communities'

    Dr Robin Wilson

    Dr Wilson refers to a case in where the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina had discriminated against a Jewish man and a Roma man under the terms of the Dayton peace accords.

    The two men were unable to vote for any of the three members of the collective presidency, who had to be a Serb, a Croat and a Muslim "Bosniak". They would also have had no representation in the upper house of parliament.

    Dr Wilson says the ruling of 2009 has still not been implemented by Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    "It goes to the heart of the problem," he says, because the individual citizen is the unit of a democratic constitution "not a putative community".

    Dr Wilson says that the difficulty in the Belfast Agreement for a Northern Ireland bill of rights "is that it is based on the notion that you can have parity of esteem between two communities and that somehow that can be compatible with a bill of rights".

    "It's incompatible because first of all you can't have a democracy based on communities, and secondly, rights must be something that an individual can claim," he adds.

  11. Council of Europe briefing

    Sinn Féin's Emma Sheerin is in the chair this afternoon.

    She takes the members through some committee business before introducing this afternoon's first witness session

    Dr Robin Wilson from the Council of Europe is giving a briefing on the Bill of Rights.

  12. Back from lunch

    We're back from lunch and dropping in on this week's meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights.

  13. Back at 14:00

    The Health Committee has overrun considerably.

    In order to be able to bring you coverage of this afternoon's business we are going to leave the meeting now.

    We'll be back at 14:00 with live coverage of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights

  14. Committee takes a break.

    Colm Gildernew thanks the witnesses.

    He announces that the committee will take another 15-minute break

  15. The use of agency staff

    Cara Hunter

    SDLP MLA Cara Hunter asks about alternatives to the use of expensive agency staff.

    "There will always be a need in our system for some flexible and temporary working, either agency or bank" says Prof McArdle.

    However, she says it is important that the number of nurses should be stabilised.

  16. Can international nurses 'hit the ground running?'

    The UUP's Alan Chamber's brings up the recruitment of international nurses in NI. He asks whether these nurses are "able to hit the ground running", and can we help them with things such as relocation costs.

    The Department of Health's Heather Finlay replies that new international nurses do require a period of induction and they have to register with the nursing and midwifery council and undertake an exam.

    She adds that they work as nursing assistants at first as part of their induction.

    She says that regional agencies work with international nursing recruitment and help the nurses with their visas and relocation.

  17. Concerns over the care partner sheme

    Jonathan Buckley

    The DUP's Jonathan Buckley says he's "quite alarmed" in relation to the roll out of the care partner scheme in care homes.

    He says it's "scandalous" that it's in operation in only a third of the homes.

    Prof McArdle says one-third is not an exact figure "and it is increasing over time".

    "I am equally concerned about the number of homes that have instigated the care partner model," she adds.

    She says the department has been working with the Public Health Agency, the RQIA standards body and the homes on this issue.

  18. Redeployment of theatre nurses

    Alliance's Paula Bradshaw asks Prof McArdle about how operating theatre nurses will be placed back in their roles working with cancer patients, after many have been redeployed to help with the pandemic.

    Ms McArdle says that 25% of theatres nurses are now working in ICU but will be placed back in their theatre environments.

    She adds that a recruitment brochure has been supplied to nurses to encourage them to work in theatre nursing and to promote it as a career.

    She says she wants to consider getting nursing students to undertake placements in theatre, which is not something they would normally do.

    Paula Bradshaw also brings up the issue of how long Covid has affected nursing staff and how the workforce is gearing up to prepare for this.

    Charlotte McArdle replies that the current Covid-related sickness level in nursing is at 182 members of staff and that she is happy to raise the issue with Occupational Health, who will decide when staff should go back to work.

  19. Preparations for the treatment of long Covid

    Carál Ní Chuilín

    Sinn Féin's Carál Ní Chuilín asks what additional funding is being put into the system to deal with long Covid

    The Chief Nursing Officer says the HSC Board his working on preparations "for a new service model for long Covid"

    "Until the model is worked out" and the business case is prepared "it's hard to identify at the minute what the costs will be and there what resources would be needed," she adds.

  20. No 'quick fix' to surgery waiting times

    Orlaithi Flynn

    Orlaithi Flynn of Sinn Féin says she is concerned about how theatre capacity will recover after Covid as waiting lists are currently too long.

    Prof McArdle replies that it will take "significant time" for the health service to get back to a new normal. She says getting back to full capacity will take longer than six months.

    The Chief Nursing Officer adds that she will be looking at using the independent health sector and allocating those in the workforce with relevant skills to help alleviate work in theatres.

    She says she will prioritise people in clinical need who will be put to the top of surgery lists. She says there is no "quick fix" but the issue is top of the department's priority.