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Summary

  1. Representatives of the NI Arts council are briefing the Culture Committee on their savings delivery plans from 10am.
  2. NI Screen, which provides information, funding and resources for filming in Northern Ireland, is also briefing the MLAs.
  3. Today's meeting of the Justice Committee at 2pm has a briefing from officials about a consultation into proposed reform of the laws on abortion.
  4. The committee also has sessions of police discipline, and legal services.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Robert Ainley

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

Alastair Ross winds up the Justice Committee's meeting for this week.

Join us on Monday morning for a plenary session of the full Assembly.

'Fluffy and nice'

Edwin Poots tells the committee that HMP Hydebank, a young offenders' centre near Belfast, has been renamed Hydebank College.

"It's all very fluffy and nice," he says.

Alban Maginness says the concept of a secure college comes from the United States.

Redeployment

Raymond McCartney
BBC

Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney asks about the proposed sanctions given that there would be no financial penalties or reduction in pay.

Ms Montgomery says that, alongside the usual sanctions applying to any sphere of employment, there could be "redeployment to another post within the service".

'Burdensome'

Lorraine Montgomery says the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) disciplinary procedures have been described as "overly bureaucratic" and "unnecessarily burdensome and costly"

Lorraine Montgomery
BBC

She outlines some of the proposed reforms.

Police discipline

PSNI crest
BBC

Departmental officials Lorraine Montgomery and Lesley McCombe are briefing members on the reform of police discipline and unsatisfactory performance procedures.

Legal services

Department of Justice officials are briefing the MLAs on statutory registration scheme for all providers of publicly-funded legal services in Northern ireland

'99.3% opposed'

The DUP's Edwin Poots says 99.3% of people who responded to the consultation were opposed to any change in legislation.

Edwin Poots
BBC

He says the department has "chosen to ignore the outcome of the consultation".

Catholic ethos

Mater Hospital, Belfast
BBC
Mater Hospital, Belfast

The SDLP's Alban Maginness asks how the Catholic ethos of the Mater Hospital in north Belfast could be protected when there was no proposal for a conscientious objection clause for institutions.

"It wouldn't be," Ms Pearson replies.

Policy proposal

Sean Lynch
BBC

Sean Lynch of Sinn Fein asks why the minister is not planning to legislate before the next Assembly election in 2016.

Ms Pearson says it would take time "to develop a workable policy proposal".

Conscientious objection

Stewart Dickson says he believes the minister, an Alliance colleague, has handles the issue "incredibly sensitively".

Stewart Dickson
BBC

He asks about a "conscientious objection" clause for medical staff.

DOJ official Amanda Patterson says the proposal is that the clause would be "only for the people who have a direct involvement in the actual procedure for termination".

'Broadest view'

Mr Ross says that from the results of the consultation it appears that 99% of the respondents were opposed to a change in the law.

Ms Pearson says the minister took the broadest view possible based on "the totality of what was said to him".

'Many, varied responses'

Karen Pearson says the responses were many and varied.

Karen Pearson
BBC

She says the minister, David Ford is proposing a change to the law allowing abortion in the case where there has been a diagnosis of foetal abnormality likely to result in death "and the continuance of the pregnancy would have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of the woman".

Abortion law

Justice department officials Karen Pearson and Amanda Patterson are briefing the committee on the results of a consultation on abortion legislation.

The consultation concerns abortion in cases of lethal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

In the chair

Alastair Ross
BBC

The DUP's Alastair Ross is chairing the meeting.

We're back

Business resumes in Room 30 at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

This afternoon we have a meeting of the Justice Committee.

This promises to be an interesting session with abortion law reform and police discipline among the items on the agenda.

Committee in closed session

The Culture Committee has moved into closed session.

After a quick turnaround, we'll be bringing you coverage of the Justice Committee, so join us again from 2pm.

Reservoirs Bill

MLAs discuss the disposal of publically-owned reservoirs, ahead of a proposed Reservoirs Bill, which the clerk, Peter Hall, says "currently sits with 250 suggested amendments. It's going to be quite an epic discussion, I think".

'Stepping back?'

Karen McKevitt
BBC

The SDLP's Karen McKevitt asks if they are "stepping back" from strategies to help young people develop skills such as coding.

Mr Williams says the funding situation is affecting some initiatives, but NI Screen is still able to support modern apprenticeships, including 40-50, 18 month long placements within the film industry.

'Working magic?'

Basil McCrea asks how NI Screen "worked this bit of magic" to secure £1.8m funding from the Culture Department, rather than a predicted £1m.

"As much as you can say we pushed it up from £1m to £1.8m, it still fell from three to £1.8m," says Mr Williams.

Mr McCrea points out that the Arts Council mobilised a lot of public support against cuts, but still had an 11% budget reduction.

'Reasonably content'

Despite have "some casualties" as a result of cuts, Mr Williams says NI Screen are "reasonably content" with its budget allocation.

Sinn Fein's Cathal O hOisin talks about the importance of local film festivals.

After school clubs saved

Mr Williams says that around Christmas 2014, NI Screen feared its funding from the Culture Department would be slashed from £3m a year to £1m.

But, he says, Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin was able to provide £1.8m, which "we have calculated is sufficient to maintain the educational eco-system" including after school film clubs, which reach over 260 schools across Northern Ireland, and the Foyle and Belfast film festivals.

NI Screen briefing

Richard Williams and Linda Martin
BBC

Richard Williams and Linda Martin from Northern Ireland Screen are now telling the committee about their savings delivery plans.

Mr Williams starts his briefing by listing the successes of the local film and television and gaming industries, including the recording of of Game of Thrones and the award winning short film Boogaloo and Graham.

'Step up'

Basil McCrea of NI21 says he thinks the Arts Council NI needs to "step up" when presenting the argument that this year's 11% cut to the arts will send "shockwaves" through the sector.

Basil McCrea
BBC

Noirin McKinney responds by saying "I think we did run a very robust advocacy campaign".

Mr McCrea replies "I noted the response, the impact of it was zero. So, not the best campaign in terms out outcome".

'Not enough being done'

Ulster Unionist Leslie Cree says he is convinced "not enough is being done" to attract EU funds to support the arts.

Leslie Cree
BBC

"There's a lot of money there and we're not getting our share of it. If you wait until something's announced, you're very much on the back foot. You need to be there from the start influencing policy".

Website costs £100k

SDLP MLA Karen McKevitt asks about the planned closure of the

Culture NI website.

Ms McKinney says the website cost around £100k a year to run and while it is "an excellent resource", at a time when the Arts Council wants to protect creative organisations, it has become unsustainable.

'Punching under their weight?'

Cathal O hOisin
BBC

Cathal O hOisin of Sinn Fein asks whether arts groups in Northern Ireland were "punching under their weight" in terms of accessing European funding.

Shauna McNeilly says the number of recent applications suggests "one of the things we could do better is to creative partnerships and work collaboratively and perhaps generate further applications".

She says between 2007 and 2013, "just eight organisations" had drawn down EU funding.

"When you consider the number of cultural organisation in Northern Ireland, I think we could probably try to develop applications to Creative Europe and that's what the desk is there to do," says Ms McNeilly.

Voluntary exit

Lorraine McDowell from the Arts Council says savings on staff pay have been achieved through a recruitment freeze.

The council is also considering "flexible retirement" options and a voluntary exit scheme, whether as part of the wider civil service programme, or one specific to the organisation.

Creative Europe

Shauna McNeilly talks about her role as EU engagement officer for the Creative Europe programme.

Shauna McNeilly
BBC

The €1.46bn scheme is running until 2020 and Ms McNeilly aims to increase the amount of funding coming to Northern Ireland's arts sector.

Venues 'hit hard'

Lyric Theatre interior
D GILBERT
Belfast's new Lyric Theatre opened in 2011

Ms McKinney says the Arts Council tried to establish which organisations "can best sustain a cut" - for example venues, such as the Mac arts centre and the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, and the Millennium Forum in Londonderry, which have the option of raising funds through ticketing have been 'hit hard' while other volunteer groups offering free classes were better protected.

Arts Council briefing

Noirin McKinney
BBC
Noirin McKinney briefing the MLAs

Noirin McKinney, Shauna McNeilly and Lorraine McDowell from the Arts Council are telling the committee about the ways the organisation has delivered savings.

Ms McKinney says they are making cuts while "trying to retain a balance of provision" across the arts and throughout Northern Ireland.

Avoiding duplication of services and encouraging merging and co-operation between groups were among the methods they used to reduce costs.

Casement concerns

The committee also discusses Casement Park GAA stadium in west Belfast.

They agree to request that members of the technical group in charge of assessing the stadium development appear to answer questions.

Cathal O'hOisin of Sinn Fein says it is important to ask about capacity issues, ingress and egress at the stadium as well as car parking.

Windsor Park

Damage to the West Stand at Windsor Park
BBC
Damage to the West Stand at Windsor Park

MLAs discuss health and safety concerns around

Windsor Park stadium in Belfast.

The West Stand of the ground has been closed off because of possible subsidence, throwing into doubt the stadium's hosting of Northern Ireland football team's forthcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers.

"The safety of those spectators going to the matches has to be paramount," says the DUP's William Humphreys.

Basil McCrea of NI21 says he would like departmental officials to appear in the committee to answer questions.

McCausland in the chair

Nelson McCausland
BBC

The DUP's Nelson McCausland is chairing this morning's meeting.

Good Morning

BBC NI and Arts Council NI Young Musicians
BBC
BBC NI and Arts Council NI Young Musicians

Thanks for joining us for coverage of Stormont's Culture Committee.

The first evidence session will be a briefing from the Arts Council on plans to deliver savings and how this will affect services.