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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. Good evening

    Ministerial questions have reached their conclusion and that's where we are ending our live coverage for today.


    Join us later in the week for committee business as we continue our coverage from Stormont. Until then, have a good evening.

  2. MoT test centre measures outlined

    Ms Mallon is also asked about the "ongoing problems in vehicle test centres" in Northern Ireland.

    MoT centre

    Two independent reviews are currently under way into the MoT system.

    Tests were suspended after cracks were found in most vehicle lifts in Northern Ireland's 15 MoT centres.

    Ms Mallon tells the assembly that two new lifts have been installed to provide "additional capacity" and three existing lifts have also been independently inspected "and cleared for use".

    "I am determined that all options will be explored to minimise the disruption to customers, but the safety of staff and customers will continue to be my top priority," she adds.

    Temporary exemption certificates have been given to drivers whose MoTs have expired but who are unable to have them tested.

    These certificates cannot be issued to taxis or four-year-old cars, which have never been through an MoT test before, meaning they do not have an MoT test certificate to extend.

  3. Nichola Mallon addresses illegal flags and emblems

    Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon (below) is taking questions in the assembly chamber and is asked for her assurance that illegally erected flags and emblems "will no longer be displayed from departmental property".

    Nichola Mallon

    Ms Mallon says she has asked for a "detailed submission" in relation to guidelines on the matter.

    "We do need to robustly deal with this, but we need to do it in a way that actually tackles the underlying issues as well," she says.

    "We all need to show leadership and that means we should be as vociferously opposed to illegal paramilitary flags representing loyalist paramilitaries going up as we should be for issues to do with dissident republicans - we need to approach this in a very equal way."

    She says she wants to play her part in tackling the issue.

  4. Health department's response to coronavirus

    Mr Swann is asked for an update from John O'Dowd in relation to his department's preparation in response to "the ongoing spread of the coronavirus".

    People wearing masks in China

    Mr Swann says his department has set up an Emergency Operation Centre and has "updated relevant websites" with advice for members of the public.

    A helpline has also been established in Northern Ireland to provide advice "for those who may have concerns following a visit to China and the now expanded region in the last 14 days".

    He says his department remains in contact with the relevant authorities across the UK and the Republic of Ireland to ensure "any necessary precautions are in place".

    The respiratory virus has claimed hundreds of lives and prompted Chinese authorities to quarantine several major cities.

  5. GP practices feature in health questions

    Health minister Robin Swann is now fielding a number of questions in the assembly chamber.

    Robin Swann

    DUP MLA Robin Newton asks Mr Swann about the closure of GP practices in Northern Ireland.

    Mr Swann says that although the number of GP practices in Northern Ireland has reduced from 350 in 2014 to 327 in 2019, "there were only five practice closures in that period".

    "The remaining 18 practices were part of mergers with larger practices in order to ensure longer-term sustainability," he adds.

  6. Jim Allister raises Quinn family with Conor Murphy

    TUV leader Jim Allister asks "is there not a more fundamental question of confidence" for the Finance Minister given his "cruel treatment" of the Quinn family that "he should be reflecting upon".

    Paul Quinn

    Paul Quinn, a 21-year-old from County Armagh, was beaten to death in a barn near Oram, County Monaghan in 2007.

    Speaking at the time, Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy said Mr Quinn had links to criminality.

    Mr Murphy last week withdrew the remarks and apologised to the Quinn family for the hurt they had caused.

    Mr Allister says if Mr Murphy had a "shred of integrity" he would have "resigned over the Quinn issue".

    Mr Murphy says he won't "take any lectures from the member who refused to discipline his own party member Trevor Collins who was campaigning for the UDA killer Torrens Knight who carried out a massacre in Greysteel".

    UDA gunmen entered the Rising Sun bar in the County Londonderry village of Greysteel and shot dead seven people on 30 October 1993. Another man died later from his injuries.

  7. Confidence-and-supply agreement cash update

    Mr Murphy is asked for an update on the funding from the confidence-and-supply agreement.


    He says £760m of the original £1bn funding has been allocated to departments between 2017-18 and 2019-20.

    He says the NI Secretary told the Stormont parties that the remaining £240m of this "ring-fenced funding" has been withdrawn.

    He says discussions with the Treasury on "the financial package are ongoing" and he is trying to "restore" the confidence-and-supply deal funding.

    In the confidence-and-supply agreement the government previously agreed a financial package with the DUP in exchange for support on certain issues.

  8. Finance of MoT centres highlighted

    Finance Minister Conor Murphy is now taking questions and is asked by DUP MLA William Irwin whether he will commit to working with the Minister for Infrastructure to ensure the necessary finance is available to enable vehicle test centres to resume testing services.

    Mot test centre

    Two independent reviews are currently under way into the MoT system.

    Tests were suspended after cracks were found in most vehicle lifts in Northern Ireland's 15 MoT centres.

    Mr Murphy says the detail around the issue was a matter for the Infrastructure Minister.

    He says he is aware the Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, has commissioned an "urgent external expert assessment" of the steps needed to return MoT centres to a position where "full testing services can be delivered".

    Mr Murphy says his department has provided support with the procurement of this "external expertise".

    He says this work started on 3 February and until that assessment has been undertaken "it is not possible to determine the extent of any repair or replacement programme or associated costs".

  9. Minister quizzed about 'academic selection'

    Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd asks the minister whether he would agree it is time to bring academic selection for primary school pupils to an end.

    Pupils sitting test

    "I could hurry up other questions by simply saying 'No' in relation to that," Mr Weir says.

    He says arguments about academic selection have "arguably been raging for 50 or 60 years" and there is "unlikely to be a level of consensus on it".

  10. Chris Lyttle raises Education Authority concerns

    Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle (below right) says the minister will be aware that "serious concerns" in relation to the Education Authority's administration of special educational needs "led to an internal audit".

    Chris Lyttle

    He asks if the minister believes this is an adequate approach to "investigating" these concerns and can he update the assembly on "this review".

    Mr Weir says he understands the audit has reached "completion point" and will be shared initially with the Education Authority Board.

    He says that as a minister he will be wanting to make sure "that all provisions are made and lessons are learned for our special needs children and their parents".

  11. Education minister fielding questions

    Education Minister Peter Weir (below) is now on his feet taking questions, at the beginning of ministerial question time.

    Peter Weir

    Other matters that will be dealt with in ministerial question time include finance, health and infrastructure.

  12. 'Financial cost' of IVF highlighted

    SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley (below) says it is a "critical issue for many" and there are few issues "more important than starting a family in life".

    Sinead Bradley

    "The longing to have a child and the need for support is one that should never be overlooked in this house," she adds.

    "Many people have got themselves into huge financial difficulties in trying to fund this."

  13. Motion on clinical guidance on fertility

    A motion is brought before the chamber regarding National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) clinical guidance on fertility.

    Colm Gildernew

    Sinn Féin's Colm Gildernew (below) proposes the motion which calls on the Health Minister to "implement fully, as a matter of urgency, the NICE guidance on fertility including making three cycles of IVF available as committed to in New Decade, New Approach".

    In his maiden speech, Mr Gildernew says he is "deeply proud to represent Fermanagh and South Tyrone".

    He adds that "the availability of IVF treatment is an emotive and sensitive matter".

  14. Agriculture minister addresses the chamber

    Agriculture minister Edwin Poots (below) says it is good to see "such unanimity" around the assembly chamber on this particular issue.

    Edwin Poots

    He says he trusts it will be something that can be developed "very quickly in the lifetime of this assembly".

    He adds that his department takes the issue of animal welfare "very seriously".

    The motion passes with the support from the chamber.

  15. 'Essential part of public service'

    Alliance MLA John Blair says he supports the motion and welcomes the "interest in amimal welfare".

    John Blair

    Mr Blair says we should never take such service animals for "granted" and adds that they are an "essential part of public service".

  16. Army dogs 'saved numerous lives'

    Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton recalls service dogs who worked in the "front line" with the Army during the Troubles attending the scenes of suspect devices.

    Rosemary Barton

    She says these at times turned out to be "live devices" with handlers and their dogs "paying the supreme sacrifice".

    She says these service dogs "saved numerous lives".

  17. Service animals make 'immense contribution'

    SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone (below) says it is important that people recognise the "immense contribution that service animals do make".

    Patsy McGlone

    He says "we are known across the world as an island that cares deeply about animals" and it should be a goal of the assembly to ensure that it legislates for the "care and protection of animals".

  18. Motion on abuse of service animals

    In some private members' business, a motion has been brought before the assembly chamber by the DUP's Alex Easton (below) and Pam Cameron relating to the abuse of service animals.

    Alex Easton

    Mr Easton calls on the Agriculture Minister to introduce to Northern Ireland a law making it an offence to "harm or abuse an animal in the line of duty".

  19. Tributes to Francie Brolly

    Tributes are paid in the assembly chamber to former Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly following his death last week.

    Francie Brolly

    Mr Brolly represented the East Londonderry constituency at Stormont from 2003 until his retirement in 2010.

    Both Mr Brolly, his wife, Anne, and their son Proinnsias later joined the anti-abortion republican party, Aontú, which was formed just over a year ago.

    Speaker Alex Maskey says it is an honour to pay tribute to Mr Brolly and expresses sympathy to his family on behalf of the assembly.

    Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'Neill says Mr Brolly was a "tireless campaigner for civil rights" and a "committed Irish republican".

  20. Good afternoon

    Welcome back to Stormont Live. There may be stormy weather outside, but proceedings in the assembly are not affected, and ministers will today face questions on education, finance, health and infrastructure.