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Live Reporting

Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today

    Parliament Buildings

    The DUP amendment is defeated by 42 votes to 32.

    The Sinn Féin amendment is passed and the SDLP motion as amended is passed on an oral vote.

    We're unable to bring you the final debate of the day but we'll be back at 10:30 tomorrow for live coverage of Tuesday's business at the assembly.

    Do join us if you can. In the meantime, have a great evening.

  2. 'A cacophony of ayes and noes'

    Roy Beggs

    Linda Dillon winds for the Sinn Féin amendment, Mervyn Storey finishes up for the DUP amendment and Patsy McGlone concludes the debate speaking for the main motion.

    Deputy speaker Roy Beggs (above) calls the vote on the DUP amendment.

    It's soon clear from the cacophony of 'ayes' and 'noes' that an oral vote won't suffice so the house will divide, trooping out into the Great Hall and back to have the votes counted.

  3. 'No crime is acceptable'

    Justice Minister Naomi Long replies to the debate.

    She says "no crime is acceptable and those which involve violence can be particularly traumatic for the victim".

    The minister says that in some cases, particularly those involving domestic violence, the increase in crime statistics is partly due to increased reporting.

    Naomi Long

    "I believe it's also important to reassure members of this assembly and importantly members of the public that levels of crime across Northern Ireland generally are low," she says.

    The minister outlines many of the schemes and approaches adopted to prevent violent crime.

  4. 'My daughter had the barrel of a gun in her mouth'

    UUP MLA Alan Chambers has a shocking story to tell of his own family's experiences of violent crime.

    He says he runs a retail business that trades in cash and his 16-year-old daughter was in the shop when an armed gang entered and told everyone to lie on the floor.

    "My daughter had the barrel of a gun placed into her mouth by an assailant, who was reeking of alcohol, to make her compliant with the robbers' demands."

    Alan Chambers

    Mr Chambers says his daughter attended counselling for a year and, after an initial refusal, was eventually granted the minimum compensation.

    The North Down MLA then tells how he was attacked late one night by an assailant wielding a hatchet "who pushed me to the ground and hit me several times around the legs with the weapon and drawing blood". At the the same time his wife was being threatened by someone carrying a hammer.

    Mr Chambers says he was turned down for compensation - partly because he could not take time off work.

  5. 'Legislation is not a panacea for domestic violence'

    Pat Sheehan brings the Sinn Féin amendment - Both the previous speakers have indicated they are prepared to accept this amendment.

    It asks for "executive ministers to bring forward an action plan and a resourced implementation plan to reduce violent offending and the risk of reoffending, including by addressing the root causes of offending behaviour such as addiction, mental illness, and poverty".

    Pat Sheehan

    Mr Sheehan says legislation has a role to play in changing behaviour - he cites seat belt legislation and the smoking ban as examples.

    "However, legislation is not the panacea for domestic violence and there needs to be better legislation and greater cultural changes among the male population in particular," he says.

  6. 'These are horrific statistics'

    Paul Givan has moved the DUP amendment with its emphasis on tougher sentences.

    The amendment highlights that in 2018-19 "violence against the person accounted for more than one third of all recorded crime in Northern Ireland" and notes the police's assessment that crime against woman and children is increasing.

    The amendment also notes the effect such crime has on victims and communities, regrets that comprehensive legislation protecting victims of domestic abuse has yet to be passed and notes that a public consultation on sentencing for crimes such as death by dangerous driving and attacks on the elderly closed on 3 February.

    Paul Givan

    It also calls on the justice minister to "bring forward legislation for tougher sentencing for violent crimes and to work collaboratively with the minister of health and victims’ advocates to introduce an action plan and a resourced implementation plan to reduce violent offending and the risk of reoffending".

    Mr Givan says that from 1 February 2019 until 31 January 2020 violent crimes increased by 14.3%.

    "The total number of offences relating to violence against the person was almost 41,000," he says.

    "These are horrific statistics," Mr Givan adds.

  7. Violent Crime debate

    Dolores Kelly (below) proposes the SDLP motion on violent crime.

    "That this assembly expresses concern about increasing levels of violent crime; recognises that this has been accompanied by a similar rise in alcohol and drug related offences; notes the effect of such crime on victims and on communities across Northern Ireland; further notes that comprehensive legislation protecting victims of domestic violence has yet to be passed; and calls on the minister of justice to work collaboratively with the minister of health to bring forward an action plan and a resourced implementation plan to reduce violent offending and the risk of reoffending."

    Dolores Kelly

    "We need to break the cycle of violence. Any approach will depend on partnership across a number of sectors such as education, health, social services, housing, youth services, probation and victims services," Ms Kelly says.

    She says she accepts the Sinn Féin amendment but cannot accept the DUP amendment as it focuses almost solely on a criminal justice response.

  8. 'Every identity should be celebrated'

    Chris Lyttle, of Alliance (below), says he "acknowledges" proposals to create an office of identity and cultural expression and recognises the importance of culture and identity to many people.

    "The Alliance Party does, however, believe that there is an opportunity to widen the scope of the office to one of cultural expression, diversity and inclusion and to ensure that every identity in our community is respected and celebrated," he says.

    Chris Lyttle

    First Minister Arlene Foster replies to the debate.

    "We believe that there is great potential for the executive and the assembly to work together to maximise the value we can obtain from the next two years and to lay a firm foundation for legislation in the next full mandate," she concludes.

  9. Microbreweries want to sell online

    The SDLP's Colin McGrath (below) chairs the Executive Office Committee.

    He welcomes the Community Minister Deirdre Hargey's commitment to extend the welfare mitigations beyond March.

    This was "causing fear and anxiety for families across the north," he says.

    Colin McGrath

    Referring to the proposed licensing bill, Mike Nesbitt of the UUP speaks up for the growing microbreweries sector.

    He says there are three points the brewers like to see addressed - the fact that they're not allowed to sell online, the ability to sell on site and to sell at markets, farm fairs and other events.

  10. Legislative programme

    We're back to the debate on the executive's legislative programme.

    This began before question time, when deputy first minister Michelle O'Neill outlined the legislation the executive hopes to have enacted during the remaining two years of its current mandate.

  11. 'We can carry out 32 tests per day'

    Chairperson of the Health Committee, Colm Gildernew of Sinn Féin, asks the minister if he agrees it's essential that weekly meetings, similar to the UK COBRA meetings, should now be held with the southern authorities.

    Mr Swann says he has had very good communication with the Republic's Health Minister Simon Harris over recent days.

    "The engagement between the chief medical officers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been second to none in the past few weeks," he adds.


    The SDLP's Justin Fitzatrick asks for reassurance that there are enough testing kits to make diagnoses properly and efficiently.

    The minister says that at present "we in Northern Ireland can carry out 32 tests per day".

    "We are currently looking at the feasibility of increasing our capacity to be able to complete several hundred test per day," he adds.

    He explains that all positive tests are sent to England for confirmation.

  12. 'Complacency our enemy but so are panic and hysteria'

    Stormont's health department has contributed to the UK-wide coronavirus action plan that is due to be issued tomorrow, says Robin Swann.

    "The document sets out what the UK as a whole has already done and plan to do further," explains the health minister.


    Mr Swann addresses his final comments the public and the media: "It is vital that we keep taking a balanced, proportionate approach at all times with our actions based on the best scientific advice.

    "Complacency is our enemy but so are panic and hysteria."

  13. 'No implications for NI after case confirmed in Republic'

    Health Minister Robin Swann says the there are "not believed to be any implications" for Northern Ireland as a result of the Republic of Ireland confirming its first case on Saturday.

    And he informs the members that health authorities on both sides of the border have been liaising "to ensure that where possible both jurisdictions can make the best use of our collective resources".

    Call centre

    Mr Swann says Northern Ireland has full access to the NHS 111 helpline for 24/7 advice on coronavirus.

    "I will continue to take part in the weekly Cobra ministerial [meeting] to ensure our joined-up approach to tackling this disease continues," he says.

  14. 'We have robust control measures in place'

    Health Minister Robin Swann says "detailed plans are in place in case of the virus becoming a pandemic".

    He says the authorities have been planning for the first case in Northern Ireland "and we have robust infection control measures in place, which have enabled to respond immediately to this type of situation".


    "It is important that we continue to remain calm and focused on the containment at this stage," he says.

    The minister says the 1967 Public Health Act has been amended to make coronavirus COVID-19 a notifiable disease.

  15. Health minister makes statement on coronavirus

    Health Minister Robin Swann begins his eagerly-awaited statement on coronavirus and what Northern Ireland is doing about it.

    He says as of today there 150 tests have been carried in Northern Ireland, with just one of them resulting in positive result.

    Robin Swann

    The minister says the confirmed case came as a result of travel to an infected area of Italy but was not related to a school ski trip.

    The Public Health Agency has traced of all those people who were in contact with the individual since their return, he adds.

    "Members of the public who have travelled between Dublin and Belfast using public transport need not be concerned," says Mr Swann.

  16. Question time for Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

    Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon is next up for questions from MLAs.

    She's asked for an update on the trial of a part-time 20mph speed limit outside some rural primary schools.

    Nichola Mallon

    Ms Mallon says most people who replied to the most recent Northern Ireland Continuous Household Survey favoured the introduction of a 20mph limit.

    Sinn Féin's Emma Sheerin asks if the limit could be extended to all roads outside schools.

    The minister says the review is considering both the effectiveness of the speed limits and finding more economic ways of operating it, adding: "I would be keen to see it rolled out to many more schools."

  17. 'Coronavirus an issue for entire Stormont executive'

    The DUP's Keith Buchanan asks for an update on the cooperation between the UK regions and central government on coronavirus precautions through the government's Cobra emergency committee.

    First Minister Arlene Foster says she took part in a Cobra conference call this morning along with Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, Health Minister Robin Swann and Northern Ireland's chief medical officer.


    She says the health minister will giver greater details in his statement to the assembly this afternoon.

    "This is becoming an issue not just for him but for the whole of the executive as to how we move forward," says the first minister.

    "We want to make sure that the executive is ready to deal with whatever comes to us."

  18. Murphy, not Foster, to answer questions on RHI Inquiry report

    The long-awaited RHI Inquiry report will be published on Friday 13 March and First Minister Arlene Foster is asked about it at question time.

    Our political reporter Jayne McCormack has been tweeting about it.

    View more on twitter

    And News Letter political editor Sam McBride has tweeted this...

    View more on twitter
  19. 'I'd be delighted if Queen visited Stormont for NI centenary'

    TUV leader Jim Allister asks the first minister if the Executive Office will lobby for the Queen to visit Stormont to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland next year.

    "I would be absolutely delighted if Her Majesty the Queen was to grace us with her presence during the centenary year," says Arlene Foster.

    Queen Elizabeth

    The first minister says the UK government made a number of commitments in the New Decade, New Approach document that shows it wanted to see the centenary marked in an appropriate way.

    "For those of us who value Northern Ireland and its place within the United Kingdom this is a time of great celebration but I do recognise that there are other narratives and views in relation to that," adds Mrs Foster.

  20. Question time for First Minister Arlene Foster

    Question time now and First Minister Arlene Foster takes her place at the lectern to answer on behalf of the Executive Office.

    She's asked about preparations for the ad hoc assembly committee on the proposed Bill of Rights.

    The adoption of a Bill of Rights formed part of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement but the parties have not been able to come up with a formula they can all sign up to.

    Paula Bradshaw

    Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw asks what will happen if there is no consensus after the publication of the committee's proposals and wonders whether they can be vetoed by the first and deputy first ministers.

    "I don't think we're looking down the road at vetoing proposals, says Mrs Foster.

    "What we're hopeful for is that there be a consensus that will come forward from the ad-hoc committee after consideration of expert advice."