Summary

  1. The finance minister brought the further consideration stage of the budget bill to the house.
  2. Members debated motions on broadband and mobile phone coverage, and animal cruelty.
  3. The Health Minister, Michelle O'Neill, and the Justice Minister, Claire Sugden, answered questions on the floor of the house.
  4. An adjournment debate took place on broadband provision for West Tyrone.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Brooke Allen

All times stated are UK

Good evening

That's it from the Northern Ireland Assembly today.

Join us again tomorrow from 10:00 BST for live coverage of the Infrastructure Committee. 

Until then, have a great evening.

'Absolute distress'

Kellie Armstrong of Alliance talks of "absolute distress" in homes with teenagers that have no broadband. 

"It's not a luxury" she says.

Rosemary Barton of the UUP says "rural dwellers appear to have been forgotten about, or neglected".

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton says "it is not right to say there has been no investment" in broadband in the constituency.

He says the executive has only limited powers to intervene, and that "it is ultimately a business decision for providers".

'Tin can and a piece of string'

Declan McAleer of Sinn Féin says people living in the countryside "feel very disconnected".

Ulster Unionist Ross Hussey says that "in a lot of areas you might as well have a tin can and piece of string".

broadband
BBC

Daniel McCrossan of the SDLP says the lack of rural broadband is a problem "we've picked up on every single rural door".

Sinn Féin's Michaela Boyle tells that some people in the constituency have to drive in their cars to friends' or relatives' houses to use their broadband.

"Where do you start?" asks Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff. "It's so bad, this really needs to be tackled".

Adjournment debate: Rural broadband

Computer user
BBC

The DUP's Tom Buchanan introduces his adjournment debate on broadband provision in West Tyrone.

Referring to Northern Ireland's impending football match versus Germany, he says "I know that there is something important on this evening".

Mr Buchanan contrasts the "huge gaps" in broadband provision between Omagh and the rural parts of his constituency.

Motion passes

Trevor Clarke
BBC

Mr Clarke says the motion is "not taking anything away" from the work previously done on this issue but reminds people that there is still work to be done. 

He also reviews and replies to some of the comments made by MLAs on this issue and appeals to the new justice minister to "do more". 

The amendment and motion both pass on an oral vote. 

'Public opinion is strong' says minister

Justice Minister Claire Sugden says "public opinion is strong" on the need for the assembly to protect animals in both the farmed and domestic setting. 

Ms Sudgen provides a response to the comments made by MLAs during the debate, making specific reference to the need for more law enforcement. 

The DUP's Trevor Clarke says there may be "less need for enforcement if animals were not placed in the wrong setting" to begin with. 

More cross party support

DUP MLA's Carla Lockhart and George Robinson support the motion. 

Mr Robinson raises concerns about the selling of animals online. 

The Alliance party's Chris Lyttle supports the motion and says the assembly has a "zero tolerance" approach to animal cruelty. 

He says he is proud that former justice minister and party colleague David Ford "took action to ensure that there was an increase to the maximum sentencing available for animal cruelty in Northern Ireland, an increase to a maximum five years, placing it as one of the toughest sentences on this island through the Justice Act 2016". 

Motion: animal cruelty (continued)

Christopher Stalford
BBC

MLAs return to debating the motion on animal cruelty. 

The DUP's Christopher Stalford says that in "recent times, there has been an increasing awareness" for this issue. 

"A vigilant public is a watchful guardian against animal cruelty," he says.

Mr Stalford says he supports the register and those people who carry out acts of animal cruelty "should never have access to animals again". 

'Deeply disrespectful'

Loughinisland sign
BBC

Colin McGrath of the SDLP asks the minister if she fully accepts "the content and the findings of the police ombudsman's report into the Loughinisland murders", and whether she agrees that the remarks made by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers were "unhelpful and deeply disrespectful to the families and the victims". 

The report found that there was collusion between some police officers and the loyalist gunmen involved in the massacre.

Ms Sugden says that the Loughinisland report is an operational matter for the police , which makes it difficult for her to comment on it.

She adds that "in 1994, six men went out and did not come back, and that's a travesty".

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Kingsmills inquest

The TUV's Jim Allister asks the minister for her assessment of developments in the Kingsmills inquest.

Ms Sugden says the day of the Kingsmills killings was "one of the most tragic days in the history of the Troubles".

Kingsmills victims
BBC
Ten men died after gunmen ambushed their minibus in 1976.

Referring to the identification of hand prints found at the scene, the minister says she welcomes "the fact that a new investigative avenue has been identified, and this must be fully explored".  

Legal aid reform

Law
BBC

The DUP's Gordon Dunne asks the minister to outline the savings made through legal aid reform in 2015-16.

The minister says £92m was spent on legal aid in 2015-16, and that the reforms "will realise savings of some £19m per annum when fully implemented".

Mr Dunne refers to an Audit Office report on legal aid published this morning.  

He quotes from the report about a need for the the Legal Services Agency to "embed its counter-fraud strategy".

Ms Sugden says the member "will appreciate that the report was published this morning" and that she will "take time to consider it carefully".

Conflict-related inquests

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood asks if the minister plans to "make funds available for over 80 conflict-related inquests, as requested by the Lord Chief Justice".

"I am committed to making progress with this issue," Ms Sugden says.

She says she agrees with Mr Eastwood that "these families have waited far too long".

Justice Questions

Claire Sugden
BBC

Justice Minister Claire Sugden is taking part in Question Time for the first time since her appointment.

Fatal foetal abnormalities

Mike Nesbitt
BBC

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt asks about the proposed working group on fatal foetal abnormalities and abortion.

He says that yesterday the attorney-general "told the Court of Appeal the group was up and running" but last Thursday Mr Nesbitt had been told the group was not up and running.

Mrs O'Neill says she cannot speak for the attorney-general.

She says "the terms of reference for the group were drafted" but "were not formally signed off, so consequently the group has not met".

Claims about more money are a 'false argument'

Mark H Durkan of the SDLP asks the minister about the possible effects on health projects if the UK were to leave the EU.

Referendum flags
BBC

Mrs O'Neill says that claims that there would be more money available for health are "a false argument".

"I don't think that leaving the European Union is going to be the panacea to solve all the ills that are in the health service," she says.

Question Time

Michelle O'Neill
BBC

Health minister Michelle O'Neill is answering MLAs' questions in her first Question Time.

Lunchtime

The assembly takes a break now to allow the Business Committee to hold its weekly meeting.

Join us again at 14:00 BST for Question Time

Looking for constant improvement

The DUP's Peter Weir supports the motion and the amendment. 

Mr Weir says it is important that assembly members are "not complacent" on the issue and they "build on the good work that has been done". 

"We should constantly be looking at how we can improve things for the animal kingdom," he says. 

The problem 'lies with the courts'

Laganside Courts, Belfast
BBC

The Alliance Party's Trevor Lunn says the problem "lies with the courts". 

He says the courts "do not avail of the facility that is available to them to really make a point when they are delivering sentences". 

'More than 4,000 animal welfare cases investigated' each year

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie says he fully supports the motion. 

He says it is "all about how we deal with sentencing" as sentences are not being applied correctly. 

The SDLP's Nichola Mallon says there have been "more than 4,000 animal welfare cases investigated by councils each year from 2012". 

"We must continue to support those who are working on the front line," she says. 

The SLDP also supports the motion and the amendment. 

Need for a centralised register

Pat Sheehan
BBC

Sinn Féin's Pat Sheehan says the previous justice minister was looking at the feasibility of a centralised register and he urges the new minister to look at this again. 

"My understanding of this would be that it would be relatively straightforward," he says. 

Mr Sheehan says animal sanctuaries could access the registers to find out if people had been convicted for animal cruelty. 

A punishment which 'fits the crime'

Ms Pengelly says there has been "some positive action" taken on this issue but she brings this motion to the house because of a "genuine sense of frustration and a genuine concern from people in Northern Ireland". 

"It is clear from the doors that people want further action on this - they want to see those who abuse, neglect or are cruel to animals, have a punishment which fits the crime," she says. 

Animal Cruelty

Emma Pengelly
BBC

The DUP's Emma Pengelly and Trevor Clarke bring a motion to the assembly on animal cruelty. 

The motion calls on the Minister of Justice, Claire Sugden, to take further action to establish an accessible central register of those convicted of animal welfare offences or disqualified from keeping animals. 

There has been one amendment, selected by the proposers of the motion. 

The motion passes

The broadband motion passes on an oral vote. 

'Broadband as essential a service as water or electricity'

Broadband speed test
Thinkstock

In conclusion, the economy minister says, "I hope the assembly will recognise that Northern Ireland has made significant progress in relation to the reach and quality of the broadband services that are now available". 

"Broadband is now viewed as every bit as essential a service as water or electricity, especially for businesses," he says. 

Northern Ireland in the 'top 16% of all OECD regions'

Mr Hamilton says compared to other nations around the world, "Northern Ireland's access to services rating within the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) shows we are in the top 16% of all OECD regions in terms of access to services and household broadband access". 

"I would like to see it higher than 16%," he says. 

'164 exchanges' have been improved

Simon Hamilton
BBC

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton says the investment made in the broadband improvement scheme has "seen improvements to 164 exchanges across Northern Ireland". 

"It may not be perfect, but I don't think anybody can genuinely stand in this chamber and say there hasn't been investment, or that there hasn't been improvements," he says. 

Stormont Today

Mark Carruthers
BBC

Missed Stormont Today last night?

You can watch again here. 

Clock out early to watch the football says first minister

Arlene Foster
PA

First Minister Arlene Foster says workers in Northern Ireland should get out of work early today to go home and watch the team take on world champions Germany.

Speaking on the BBC's Nolan programme, she said: "This is a very special day."

Euro 2016: Martin McGuinness 'looking forward' to attending his first Northern Ireland match

Martin McGuinness
BBC

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he is looking forward to attending his first Northern Ireland football match when the team take on Germany in Euro 2016 later on this afternoon.

He will be in France to watch the Northern Ireland game and the Republic of Ireland match against Italy on Wednesday.

Need for speed

Steve Aiken
BBC

Ulster Unionist Steve Aiken says that in his constituency of South Antrim there are "over 8,000 premises that are not connected".

He says London and Manchester are working on speeds of 200 mbps and "that's what we need to aspire to".

Kellie Armstrong of Alliance says she is a rural dweller and that "there is a growing digital divide".

Executive investment

Mervyn Storey
BBC

The DUP's Mervyn Storey says that previous executives have invested £60,000 into rural broadband provision.

He says government needs to have a "stimulating, providing and assisting role".

Caoimhe Archibald of Sinn Féin says she supports the motion but is disappointed that the motion refers only to foreign direct investment.

She says small businesses and "indigenous enterprises" depend on broadband.

Broadband

Broadband
BBC

Justin McNulty goes to introduce the SDLP motion on broadband in rural areas but the DUP's Lord Morrow interrupts with a point of order.

He asks whether a member whose name is not on the list of proposers can move a motion.

The speaker confirms that this is the case and calls on Mr McNulty's party colleague, Sinead Bradley, to speak.

Mrs Bradley says the lack of broadband in some areas is "acting as a real barrier to growth".

Further consideration stage: Budget bill

money
BBC

The Finance Minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, brings the further consideration stage of the Budget (No. 2) Bill to the assembly. 

As there are no amendments tabled, this stage of the bill passes. 

Retirement of Trevor Reaney

Trevor Reaney and Robin Newton
BBC

Speaker Robin Newton pays tribute to the Chief Clerk of the Assembly, Trevor Reaney, on the occasion of his retirement.

He says Mr Reaney has remained "calm amongst the worst days here", and praises his "fundamental decency". 

First Minister Arlene Foster also pays tribute to the chief clerk, describing him as "fair and honourable".

Alex Attwood of the SDLP praises Mr Reaney for his public service.

Sinn Féin's Caitríona Ruane, Ulster Unionist Robin Swann and David Ford of Alliance thank the clerk on behalf of their parties.

Doctors call for change to NI health care

Marie-Louise Connolly

BBC News NI Health Correspondent

Doctor
Thinkstock

Doctors are urging the Department of Health to seize the opportunity to change health care in Northern Ireland.

While hosting the British Medical Association's (BMA) conference in Belfast, the chair is expected to tell leaders from across the UK that this is a unique opportunity for politicians.

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

Today's proceedings will kick off at 10:30 BST, when the finance minister will bring the further consideration stage of the Budget Bill to the house. 

This will be followed by motions on broadband and mobile phone coverage, and animal cruelty. 

Justice Minister Claire Sugden and Health Minister Michelle O'Neill are appearing at Question Time.