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Summary

  1. Members of the opposition asked the Education Minister to bring forward an early childhood development strategy.
  2. They also asked the minister to bring forward proposals for the provision of free pre-school childcare.
  3. Members of the DUP called for the Executive to bring forward an updated economic strategy.
  4. Ulster Unionist MLAs asked the Health Minister to detail actions she will take to address hospital waiting times.
  5. East Antrim MLAs discussed the potential for tourism in East Antrim.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Brooke Allen

All times stated are UK

Good afternoon

The assembly is now adjourned and that's a wrap for today. 

Join us tomorrow from 10:00 GMT for live coverage of Wednesday's committees at the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

Have a great afternoon. 

Tourism is a 'key economic driver' for Northern Ireland

The Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton, congratulates his party colleague Gordon Lyons for securing this adjournment debate. 

He says tourism is "now recognised as a key economic driver in Northern Ireland, attracting 4.5 million visitors in 2015, generating a total of £760m for the local economy". 

"There are many reasons for East Antrim to be proud of its tourism potential," he says. 

NI ministers launch report on tackling paramilitarism

BBC NI's Political Editor tweets

East Antrim MLAs unite over tourist attractions

Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs continues to the discussion, making fond reference to the various tourism sites in East Antrim. 

The Alliance party's Stewart Dickson says this is one issue that unites the various MLAs of East Antrim and says "we want to ensure that we get the maximum spend from tourists as they come to us in East Antrim". 

Sites should be 'marketed properly'

Carrickfergus Castle
BBC
Carrickfergus Castle

Sinn Féin's MLA for East Antrim, Oliver McMullan, says East Antrim's sites should be "marketed properly". 

He says councils must "put their budgets together" as the issue of budgeting to promote tourism cannot be landed on the minister and tourism organisations alone. 

Tourism in East Antrim

The Gobbins
Pacemaker
The Gobbins

DUP MLA for East Antrim, Gordon Lyons, is briefing the assembly on tourism in East Antrim. 

He says he believes East Antrim has "something special to offer" with the Gobbins and Giant's Causeway. 

In relation to tourism, he addresses the issue of connectivity and says "we need to be better connected with the rest of the world". 

He also mentions tourism VAT and says it is an "issue for Westminster, to be dealt with at that level". 

"We should see tourism as a sector and industry that has huge potential and can deliver more prosperity and opportunity to our people," he says. 

Motion passes

Doctor writing
Science Photo Library

Ulster Unionist, Robbie Butler, says "health is an issue which is far too important to get caught up in political wrangling". 

He reads through the various comments made by MLAs on the motion and makes reference to the fact that health was "the last department to be chosen during the d'Hondt process". He says he is disappointed by this. 

The motion passes on an oral vote. 

Minister's response

Michelle O'Neill
BBC

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill says we "have to deal with the immediate issue and the immediate issue is getting patients seen". 

"I will not be apologetic in bidding in for additional funding as we have to deal with the here and now," she says. 

The minister describes the work of Professor Bengoa as . She explains that he will produce his final report towards the end of June and the minister will come back to the assembly "to talk about how we move forward from that". 

In terms of funding, she says, "June monitoring isn't the solution but it is the solution in the short term. Money isn't just the issue in the longer term. I want to be working on transforming the health service." 

She says she fully understands why the motion has been brought to the house. 

Focus on mental health

Mike Nesbitt
BBC

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt supports the motion and commends his party colleague Jo-anne Dobson for the "very constructive approach she has taken in introducing the motion and pledging to work collaboratively with the minister". 

He asks the minister, during her term, to focus on mental health. 

"It's high time it was given the priority and resources needed," he says. 

Reform 'is necessary'

Paula Bradshaw
BBC

In her maiden speech, Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw pays tribute to her party colleague Anna Lo and says she has "big shoes to fill". 

She commends and supports the motion. 

She says the reason why the problem is "worse here than anywhere else in the UK is a product of an unreformed health service". 

"Reform is what is necessary," she says. 

"Too many people have waited too long for action on reform to make our health service fit for purpose for the thousands of patients currently waiting for vital treatment."

Health minister's statement had a 'tame tone'

Jo-anne Dobson
BBC

Jo-anne Dobson says she did not accept the "tame tone" of the statement made by the Health Minister, Michelle O'Neill, in the chamber yesterday. 

"We desperately need to move to a sustainable model in order to allow our health service to plan for the future," she says. "We need genuine reforms, not ploys and I look forward to working with the new minister."

Motion: Continuing crisis in hospital waiting times

Hospital staff
BBC

Ulster Unionist MLAs Jo-anne Dobson and Robbie Butler are presenting a motion on the continuing crisis in hospital waiting times. 

They are calling on the minister of health to detail what action she proposes to take to address this. 

The motion as amendment is passed

In conclusion, DUP MLA Gordon Dunne says it has been "a very useful debate". 

The motion is passed on an oral vote. 

The motion as amended is also passed on an oral vote. 

Minister supports the motion

Simon Hamilton
BBC

Simon Hamilton says, in supporting the motion: "I want to ensure that there is clear alignment between a refocused economic strategy and the outcomes set out in the Programme for Government (PFG).

"The refocus of the economic strategy will give us the opportunity to explore those issues identified by the next PFG in more detail and allow us to outline how delivery of these issues can contribute to growing the Northern Ireland economy and ultimately deliver more and better jobs for our people," he says. 

More jobs supported in the west than east

Invest Northern Ireland
BBC

The Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton, says he understands the points made by Daniel McCrossan in terms of the perception of regional imbalance across Northern Ireland. 

Mr Hamilton describes how more jobs were supported by Invest Northern Ireland in the west of Northern Ireland than in the east in the period between 2011/12 and 2015/16. 

He says, "In the east, 282 jobs were supported per 10,000 of the population and in the west, 301 jobs supported per 10,000 of the population". 

The minister re-emphasises that, on a per capita basis, it is a higher figure in the west of Northern Ireland. 

Calls for a 'targeted approach'

Daniel McCrossan
BBC

The SDLP's Daniel McCrossan speaks about the failure of successive ministers and their inability to "spread the wealth generating potential of the North, across all those who are living here".

"There needs to be a targeted approach from this assembly on the areas of most need, economically in terms of infrastructure and jobs," he says. 

Welcome back

Welcome back to our coverage of Tuesday's proceedings at the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

MLAs are resuming the debate on the motion for an economic strategy. 

Lunchtime

The sitting has been suspended for lunch and will begin again at 14:00 GMT. 

This afternoon, MLAs will continue the debate on economic strategy. 

Ulster Unionist members will then present a motion on the continuing crisis in hospital waiting times, and there will be a discussion from the DUP’s Gordon Lyons on Tourism in East Antrim.   

Ulster Unionist supports the motion with amendment

Alan Chambers
BBC

Ulster Unionist party member, Alan Chambers, makes his maiden speech in the chamber. 

He talks specifically the need for educational provision and manufacturing jobs in his own constituency, North Down.

He says he supports the motion with the amendment. 

More money 'should be spent on skills'

Trevor Lunn
BBC

The Alliance Party's Trevor Lunn says "investment needs to be scaled up and we need to see a step up by which an additional £85m each year is spent on skills by 2019/20". 

"This would allow us to address current funding gaps in higher education, continue to freeze tuition fee levels for local students and to expand our provision of high level skills," he says. 

'Opposition without substance'

Conor Murphy
BBC

Chair of the Economy Committee, Conor Murphy, describes the opposition as "opposition without substance".

He says they have tabled amendments which already exist and describes their amendments as "meaningless". 

Parties have found 'some common ground'

The SDLP's Colum Eastwood says he is glad that the parties have found "some common ground". 

"This is a good way to begin this new era of opposition," he says. "But what we want to see now is not just motions, what we want to see is actual actions." 

Need for a 'regionally balanced economy'

Gordon Lyons says he shares the aspiration of the SDLP amendment to the motion for a "regionally balanced economy". 

"We don't want to see all the jobs concentrated in one place but we do need a degree of realism in all this. Naturally some jobs will go to certain places," he says. 

Motion: economic strategy

money
PA

DUP members Mervyn Storey, Tom Buchanan, Gordon Lyons and Gordon Dunne are asking the assembly to support a motion that the Executive focuses on job creation and brings forward an updated economic strategy alongside the new Programme for Government (PFG) 2016-21. 

There is one amendment, tabled by three members of the SDLP. 

Motion passes

The motion is put to the house and passes on an oral vote. 

'Break the linkage between poverty and childcare'

Abacus
Thinkstock

In his closing remarks, the SDLP's Alex Attwood says "for every £1 invested in childcare, it can avoid the £17 that are invested later on in other remedial interventions." 

"That economic fact, independent of much bigger reasons as to why we should address this issue, should bring some concentration of minds to the overall issue," he says. 

"In order to break the linkage between poverty and child development, you have to invest in childcare but that requires a paradigm shift, which at this stage, wasn't reflected in some of what the minister said." 

Minister agrees with 'the thrust of the motion'

Peter Weir
BBC

The Education Minister, Peter Weir, says he "agrees with the thrust of the motion" and the "importance of early intervention". 

He mentions the cost of childcare in Northern Ireland and makes specific reference to the first phase of the childcare strategy which was launched three years ago and has "supported more than 3,000 low cost childcare places". 

"It is my intention to bring a full final childcare strategy to the executive in the forthcoming months," he says. 

'This is a woman's issue primarily'

Eamon McCann
BBC

People before Profit's Eamonn McCann supports the motion and says "this is a woman's issue primarily". 

"It is women and women's work opportunities that suffer," he says. 

Speech and language difficulties in early years

The Green Party leader, Steven Agnew, talks about speech and language difficulties in the early years. 

"We have to break that link and make sure we do not condemn children to those difficulties in later life," he says. 

"We have got a lot better at early detection, we now need the services that follow."

Rural provision

Robin Swann
BBC

Ulster Unionist Robin Swann asks where parental choice falls into the provision "especially in the needs of rural provision". 

"The average cost in my constituency is £172 per week, so it is even harder in a large rural constituency to find these affordable childcare places and that is why the motion is timely, well balanced and I am glad to see it is getting the support of most parties in the house so far," he says. 

'Symbolic first' as new DUP mayor receives chains of office from Sinn Féin

Hilary McClintock receives mayor chain
BBC

For the first time in Londonderry, an outgoing Sinn Féin mayor has placed the chains of office around the neck of a DUP successor.

Hilary McClintock was elected as mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council on Monday. The SDLP's Jim McKeever is the new deputy mayor.

In 2012, the DUP mayor of Londonderry Maurice Devenney refused to hand his chains to Sinn Féin's Kevin Campbell.

Mayor McClintock said it was "significant" but things had moved on.

Family, friends and councillors from different parties clapped and cheered as former mayor Elisha McCallion placed the mayoral chain around Mrs McClintock's neck.

The former mayor told BBC Radio Foyle she was delighted to be able to do so.

'An executive disgrace'

Preschool pupil
Thinkstock

Alliance party member, Chris Lyttle, supports and welcomes the motion. 

"I welcome the recognition it gives to the centrality of early years education and childcare to development, to health, to educational achievement and the call it makes for improved provision around funding, inspection, regulation and access to these services," he says.  

However, he also says it is an "executive disgrace that much of the work in this important area of provision has been left to the independent sector, the community and voluntary sector and the social enterprises".  

Cross departmental approach is 'imperative'

Rosemary Barton
BBC

In her maiden speech, Ulster Unionist Rosemary Barton welcomes the motion and congratulates the SDLP on the work they have done. 

"It is imperative that there must be a cross departmental approach to the development of an early education and childhood care through intervention programmes and family support services," she says. 

Some concerns raised

The DUP's Lord Morrow says he thinks it is a motion of "considerable importance"; however he raises some concerns about children of parents who are earning up to £100,000 receiving free childcare provision. 

Sinn Féin's Catherine Seeley says she is "disappointed with this particular motion" as its focus on three to four-year-olds "ignores and disregards the negative impacts that even younger children face". 

SDLP 'campaigning on this issue for quite some time'

Claire Hanna
BBC

The speaker calls on the SDLP's Claire Hanna to move the motion. 

Ms Hanna says "the SDLP have been campaigning on this issue for quite some time". 

"We need to invest in childcare and make sure that women do not need to make the choice between a fulfilling career and knowing that their children are being well looked after and developed during the working day," she says. 

"We need urgent action from the executive on this and we need a revised strategy and legislation and funding to get the best start for children."

She mentions how the former education minister, John O'Dowd, indicated how he would bring forward an early years bill before the end of the mandate. 

"That didn't happen, but we hope it can be picked up by the incoming minister," she says. 

Motion: Early years development and pre-school childcare

Child's game
PA

Members of the SDLP, Claire Hanna, Alex Attwood and Nichola Mallon are calling on the assembly to support a common, cross-departmental approach to funding, inspection, registration and access to child and family support services. 

They are also calling on the minister for education to bring forward an early education and care act, a care and early childhood development strategy and bring forward proposals for the provision of free pre-school childcare. 

Stormont Today

Watch again...

Mark Carruthers
BBC

Missed last night's Stormont Today with Mark Carruthers? 

Watch again here. 

Good morning

The sun may have disappeared but you can join us all day for live coverage of the Northern Ireland Assembly from 10.30am. 

This morning, there will be an item of opposition business in relation to early years development and pre-school childcare, as well as a private members motion on economic strategy. 

This afternoon, Ulster Unionist members will present a motion on the continuing crisis in hospital waiting times, and there will be a discussion from the DUP’s Gordon Lyons on Tourism in East Antrim.