15 April 2014

Invitation to a screening of Roman Holiday

As part of the highly anticipated Giro d’Italia Festival, the Northern Ireland Assembly has teamed up with Belfast Film Festival to bring you the 1950’s rom-com set in Italy that catapulted Audrey Hepburn to stardom, Roman Holiday.

Romantic, funny and charming Roman Holiday is one of the greatest comedies of all time and to this day remains influential in the genre. It tells the story of rebellious princess Anna (Audrey Hepburn) who, anxious of authority and intent on having fun, escapes the confines of her royal party on a dreary state visit to Rome. On her travels she falls into the hands of an underhand journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) who, smelling a great story, offers the unsuspecting princess a guided tour of the city.

Roman Holiday was nominated for over 10 Academy Awards and directed by the legendary William Wyler.
With its distinctive Italian theme (featuring many landmarks including the Spanish Steps), the classic will once again return to the big screen at one of Northern Ireland’s most historical and impressive sites.

The event is free but tickets are required. Tickets are limited and are available through belfastfilmfestival.org. Please book early to avoid disappointment!

The film will be shown in the Great Hall, Parliament Buildings on Thursday 8 May 2014. Doors open from 8:00pm.

Watch the trailer:

Opera in the Great Hall

Mr William Hay MLA
Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly

requests your company at an evening of

‘Opera in the Great Hall’

as part of the Giro d’Italia Festival

The event will feature extracts from Italian operas performed by Belfast born soprano Giselle Allen and members of NI Opera’s Young Artists’ Programme.


Great Hall, Parliament Buildings, on Wednesday 7th May 2014 at 7:30pm

Tickets are limited and will be allocated on a first come first serve basis. RSVP by 30 April 2014 to outreach@niassembly.gov.uk 

What is a Petition of Concern?

(1) A Petition of Concern in respect of any matter shall be in the form of a notice signed by at least 30 members presented to the Speaker. No vote may be held on a matter which is the subject of a Petition of Concern until at least one day after the Petition of Concern has been presented.
(2) Other than in exceptional circumstances, a Petition of Concern shall be submitted at least one hour before the vote is due to occur. Where no notice of the vote was signalled or such other conditions apply that delay the presentation of a Petition of Concern the Speaker shall determine whether the Petition is time-barred or not.
From Standing Orders
Example of a Petition of Concern

In October 2013 Rosaleen McCorley MLA tabled a motion relating to the transfer of broadcasting powers asking, "That this Assembly calls on the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to explore with the Secretary of State the potential for transferring broadcasting powers from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to her Department and for funds for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund and the Ulster Scots Broadcast Fund to be transferred and mainstreamed." On the 25 November 2013 a petition of concern was tabled on both the motion and the amendment. You can watch the outcome below:

View the details and outcome of voting here. View the Official Report here.

Committee Review of Petitions of Concern

The Assembly and Executive Review Committee recently undertook a review of Petitions of Concern and considered the following:

  • provisions for voting on an Ad Hoc Committee on Conformity with Equality Requirements prior to the vote on a Petition of Concern.
  • the possibility of restricting the use of Petitions of Concern to certain key areas, and mechanisms that might facilitate this.
  • whether the current threshold of 30 signatures required for a Petition of Concern should be adjusted.
  • whether the Petitions of Concern mechanism should be replaced with an alternative mechanism, such as a weighted-majority vote.

The Committee concluded that:

While there was support among some Parties on the Committee for the use of the alternative mechanism of a weighted-majority vote for matters subject to a Petition of Concern, there was no consensus on this issue. Therefore, in this context, the Committee reaffirmed the following conclusion from its previous Report: “…there was no consensus for replacement of community designation [and Petitions of Concern] by, for example, a weighted-majority vote in the Assembly of 65%.”

Although there was some support among the Parties represented on the Committee for restricting the use of Petitions of Concern to key areas, there was no consensus among the Committee on how that would operate.

The Committee agreed that, should the number of MLAs in the Assembly be reduced, there should be a proportional change in the number of MLA signatures required to trigger a Petition of Concern.

While there was some support among the Committee for taking a vote on the establishment of an ACER only when a Petition of Concern relates to legislation, there was no consensus on this issue.

Even though there was some support for the establishment of a Standing Committee on Equality and Human Rights Conformity to replace the Ad Hoc Committee mechanism referred to in Standing Orders 35 and 60, there was no consensus on this issue.

It is important to highlight that although the Committee did not achieve consensus for most of its conclusions on this complex subject, the Report sets out in some detail the options considered together with the individual Party positions on specific options. The Committee therefore sees that this Report provides valuable information for the Assembly to reach a way forward on this matter.

Download the full report.

Knowledge Exchange Seminar: Petitions of Concern - Dr Alex Schwartz (QUB)

The Assembly's Research and Information Service (RaISe) run a Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series with the aim of encouraging debate and improving understanding. As part of the series, Dr Alex Schwartz (QUB) gave a presentation in March 2014 discussing the criticism of petitions of concern; that they are unfair, prone to abuse and impede legislative productivity. You can watch Dr Schwartz's presentation below:

You can also view the policy briefing and view Dr Schwartz's presentation.

9 April 2014

Question Time: Regional Development Tuesday 8 April 2014

The Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, was pleased to discuss the benefits of a 4% drop in non-domestic water charges during today’s Question Time. The overall savings will depend on the water consumption and rateable value of premises and will not only help businesses but hospitals, churches, residential homes and those in the voluntary sector. This “good news” has accompanied the recent announcement that parking charges in town centres are to be reduced with the launch of a six month pilot to extend the ‘5 hours for £1’ scheme that proved so successful over Christmas.

The Minister also discussed the latest progress on redeveloping the old Waterside station in Derry into an integrated transport hub. At this stage it is not considered that any new development would have any impact on the City centre bus station (other than the improvement of connectivity between the new and existing facilities). Early estimates are that the redevelopment would cost around £17m – money which is not accounted for in the budget. Therefore the future of the project depends on the securing of the necessary funding. It is hoped that EU funding sources might be a viable option for finance.

Also discussed during the scheduled oral questions were the impact of the Reservoirs Bill on the Department’s reservoirs, the Enniskillen bypass and travel times on A6 routes. During topical questions the Minister also answered questions on contingency plans in case of summer flooding in East Belfast, charges for motorbike races and the possibility of improvements on the Enterprise train service from Belfast to Dublin.

Question Time: Enterprise, Trade and Investment Tuesday 8 April 2014

The Minister for Enterprise said she thought it was "wrong for us to say that we only want jobs in Northern Ireland for Northern Ireland people".  The Minister was replying to a question from David McNarry about "imported labour jobs" at Harland and Wolff in east Belfast. The minister said she understood that the short contract to work on an oil rig was initially for 60 days but had been extended. The figures she had were that of the 600 temporary workers, 200 were from Northern Ireland, 200 from Scotland and Northeast of England and 200 from other European countries. The minister said the wider economy of Belfast had profited from the presence of the workers, particularly in the hospitality sector.

The Minister said there was a shortage of steelworkers and welders in Northern Ireland following the decline of the shipbuilding industry. She said she would be happy to talk to the employment minister about developing workers' skills in that industrial sector.

During topical questions the Minister also provided answers to Members’ queries regarding Pensions: Agri-food Loan Scheme, the Giro d'Italia and Munster Simms Engineering Ltd.