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Summary

  1. Department officials briefed the new Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
  2. The new Committee Chairperson, Linda Dillon, also discussed committee procedures and legacy reports.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Brooke Allen

All times stated are UK

DUP minister visits Irish language school

Peter Weir
Press Eye

Stormont's education minister has made his first official visit today to an Irish language school.

The DUP's Peter Weir visited Coláiste Feirste in west Belfast this morning to meet staff and pupils, and to see the progress of a £15.5m extension at the Falls Road school.

Lunchtime

The committee chairperson adjourns the meeting. 

Stormont Live will return on Monday at 12:00 BST with the first plenary session of the week. 

Good afternoon. 

Committee business

The department officials leave the committee, and members are now discussing various items of committee business. 

Clarification on Environmental Crime Agency

Harold McKee
BBC

Ulster Unionist Harold McKee, asks if the department is going to meet energy targets. 

Mr Lavery says the Department of the Economy will have energy target responsibilities. 

The UUP's Robin Swann then asks if the Environmental Crime Agency would be directed towards farmers. 

Mr Lavery says, "at the minute, it is directed at criminal waste, like the Mobuoy site". 

Anderson on waste sites

The DUP's Sydney Anderson also brings up the issue of waste sites and says "there has to be a great focus on this" and the problem "needs to cease as quickly as possible". 

From Belfast to Ballykelly

David Ford
BBC

David Ford of Alliance says he is concerned about business continuity during the move of the department from Belfast to Ballykelly

Mr Lavery says "we need a long transition" and it will be managed on a risk basis.   

"We already have circa 50 people working in the North West. Our aim is to have 250 people there by September 2017 to January 2018, and that's when Ballykelly would open", he says. "The objective is a functioning headquarters. It will be a long transition to make sure we keep delivering public services". 

Landfill and waste sites

Edwin Poots
BBC

The DUP's Edwin Poots asks about landfill sites and waste. He makes reference to a specific case outside of Londonderry.

David Small says "there are current prosecutions ongoing in terms of what was happening at that site". . 

Mr Poots says "the credibility of the organisation that didn't notice one million tons of waste being tipped underneaths its nose is hugely diminished as a consequence" . 

"What happened at the site was criminal activity, incentivised by very significant financial gain", Mr Small replies. 

"I am not trying to defend it entirely but we are now responding the way we should do."

Genetic research

Oliver McMullan
BBC

Sinn Féin's Oliver McMullan asks about Rathlin Island and the conditions that are laid down for farming. He asks the department to look at this again. 

He also asks about genetic research and how it is progressing in the future of farming. 

Mr Fulton says the department is currently working on a centralised data hub that would draw data from existing information, "from which farmers would be able to extract information on effectively the genetic merit of individual animals within their herds". 

Voluntary exit scheme

Caoimhe Archibald
BBC

Sinn Féin's Caoimhe Archibald asks about the voluntary exit scheme and downsizing within the department. She asks what challenges are now being faced because of this. 

Mr Lavery says they have "lost people with very significant years of experience". However, he says "this is the world we are in, we just need to get on with it". 

Mr Robert Huey says in his area of policy, he lost key members of staff with 107 years of experience between them. He says, "this is going to give us significant difficulty with maintaining both our historical knowledge, as well as getting people into posts at the right time". 

"We have plans and we are working on them", he says. 

David Small says he has "identified a number of posts which he would regard as critical" and he will be making arrangements to fill and recruit for those posts but will do this within "a very constrained headcount limit". 

Establishing a relationship with local councils

Ms Dillon says she hopes the department will work closely with local councils and a good working relationship should be established. 

She also expresses concerns about the Programme for Government (PFG) mainly tackling environmental issues rather than focusing on farming and agricultural issues. 

David Small says he is keen to work with stakeholders and the farming industry "in terms of how we deliver our regulatory role". 

'Championing 37% of Northern Ireland's population'

Noel Lavery
BBC

Mr Lavery gives a brief overview of the department's responsibilities including the protection and improvement of the environment, "championing 37% of Northern Ireland's population who live in rural environments".

He describes each of the divisions of the department and introduces his department officials. 

The permanent secretary then outlines DAERA's two executive agencies - the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Forest Service. 

Strategic Overview

DAERA officials at the committee
BBC

Department officials are now briefing committee members on their strategic overview. 

In attendance are Mr Noel Lavery, permanent secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), as well as Ms Louise Warde Hunter, Mr David Small, Mr Robert Huey and Mr Norman Fulton. 

Glenariff: DUP halts £180k Glens community funding over 'IRA names on gates'

ON & FA Wheeler
BBC
Artist's impression of the proposed centre in Glenariff

Funding for a community project in the Glens of Antrim has been pulled indefinitely because of a row over IRA names on the gates of the planned site.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council allocated £180,000 to the project on 24 May.

But the Democratic Unionist Party said the building of the centre in Glenariff would "re-traumatise" people affected by terrorism.

The DUP has pointed to the names of IRA men that appear on gates near the site.

Research Service to Committees

DAERE officials in the committee room
BB

Representatives from the Assembly's research and information services, Mr Mark Allen and Ms Suzie Cave, brief committee members on the services they provide. 

Mr Allen speaks about the assembly's library and the education service for young people. 

Ms Cave tells members about the role of the research services. 

Declaring interests

Ms Dillon asks committee members to declare any interests that may be relevant to the work of the committee. 

Various members declare their interests. 

In the chair

Linda Dillon
BBC

Sinn Féin's Linda Dillon is chairing the Agriculture Committee for the first time this morning. 

Good morning

Stormont
Press Eye

Good morning. It's another sunny day here at Stormont. 

We will have coverage of the new Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs from 11:00 GMT. 

Departmental officials will brief the committee, and chairperson Linda Dillon of Sinn Féin will lead a discussion on committee procedures and legacy reports.