Basil McCrea asks if OFMdFM support a Silk Commission in Northern Ireland

During questions to the First Minister and deputy First Minister here, Basil McCrea asked if the office supports the devolution of further economic powers to Northern Ireland. Westminster is considering the devolution of economic powers to the other regional Administrations. Martin McGuinness responded: 
"One of the most important powers that we seek, which the Member and other Members will be well aware of, is the power to devolve corporation tax. We estimate that, if we can get that, particularly against the background of the very positive answers that I gave on foreign direct investment during this question-and-answer session, it could lead to the creation of something like a further 58,000 new jobs. That is crucial for us, and we think that we are making progress. Obviously, the British Prime Minister has decided that he will not make a decision on this until the Scottish referendum is out of the way. 
There will be various opinions in the Assembly about further powers. Some parties here are for a lot of new powers to be given to the Assembly, and others have concerns, some of which might be political and not just financial. I think that all this can be resolved through a process of dialogue, discussion and agreement between us. The key job of work that is to be done in the next very short while is on corporation tax, and, if we can achieve that, it will be a massive step forward for our Administration."
Basil McCrea then asked: "Would you support the creation of a commission on devolution similar to the Silk commission to investigate the possibility of devolving more powers to see what would be advantageous, what would not be advantageous and what could command support?" Martin McGuinness responded:
"The Member knows, as do all Members, that, during Question Time to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, I answer as best I can, as I know the First Minister does when he is asked questions. We try to answer for both of us. From my perspective, that can certainly be considered. I would not be opposed to it, but I would like to come to a position on that in the aftermath of a discussion with the First Minister and, ultimately, if we were to proceed along that route, with other members of the Executive to get their agreement."
Full report of Assembly questions here

Basil McCrea responds to DEL Inquiry into careers advice in Northern Ireland

During the Assembly discussion (here) on the recently published DEL report on careers education and guidance in Northern Ireland (here), Basil McCrea made a number of points. On the issue of university graduates Basil said:
"It is entirely up to people what degree they take — it is a free world — but there is a mismatch between their skills and those that employers are looking for. Universities and further education colleges have a clear responsibility. They are independent bodies. They say that they respond to demand, but they respond to the demand from students. They need to make sure that they respond to the demand from industry to encourage the right numbers into the right degrees... 
...people want to get a 2:1; they do not care what that 2:1 is in, it is just about getting a 2:1. It is as though a piece of paper will somehow give them the rationale for being employed. That is not actually the case. We need to get people more interested in obtaining the skills that the labour market will pay them for."
During a mayoral round-table here, Charlie Rose was told by a number of American civic leaders that there needs to be a close link between education and industry. On the issue of NEETS and other less skilled young people, Basil said:
"We have been hearing that 25% of people in Northern Ireland live on less than a living wage, which is the highest percentage in the United Kingdom. That seems to pose a problem. Part of the decision-making on that is whether young people in those areas are actually work-ready. Many of them do not understand the tribulations of the world of work. It is not enough to give them work experience where they go in and make the tea or sit around and look at things; we need more intensive mentoring. We really need to give help and succor on a more one-to-one basis to the people who need it."
The major of Chicago Rahm Emanual explained here to Charlie Rose that his executive have created an initiative called BAM (Becoming A Man) which provides mentoring and advice to young and at-risk adolescents. On the issue of parents and careers advice, Basil said:
"The creative industries are one of our big growth industries, yet nobody actually knows how to get into them. We also have an issue regarding IT professionals. People keep saying that, if we could solve that problem, we could solve everything. So, there is something about how we convince parents that this is where the creative industries are. 
We need role models and to find ways to get information to people. With regard to areas that we might look at in the future, we did not include in the recommendations, as far as I can see, business and entrepreneurial activity. That will be a factor in the future. 
...Coming to the point that Mr Ross raised about how to get information across to people and what influences decision-making, you probably have parents, peers, teachers and TV at the moment. We talked about how we can encourage parents to know more. There is an issue, in that our teachers tend not to know about things in IT and can recommend only what they know about. You get to an issue such as television, and I wonder whether maybe we, as a society or as an Executive, need to start to communicate where our growth sectors are. That, at least, gets the message out. I am struck by the fact that there is an overabundance of lawyers and probably teachers and that we perhaps need to let people know that that is the case."
Read the Plenary debate in full here. Watch Basil's contributions here. Read the full report by the DEL Committee on careers guidance in Northern Ireland here.

Ian Paisley Jr. on the past

On Thursday 21 November, Ian Paisley Jr. said to Stephen Nolan:
"Like most people I woke to Mr. Larkin's statement with shock." 
Ian Paisley Jr. then explained why he and his party stood fast against the Northern Ireland Attorney-General John Larkin's call to end Troubles-related prosecutions. Paisley further said that, "I could not share what I think of Mr. Larkin on the air."

In August 2010, Ian Paisley Jr. said to a panel event in Belfast here:
"Northern Ireland’s future should not be sacrificed on the altar it’s the troubled past... Let’s stop kidding ourselves. We are never going to believe in each other’s versions of the truth. And I think it’s about time that we moved on... the cost of doing any inquiry is going into the hundreds of millions of pounds and I don’t actually believe it’s going to get us any further..."

Further reading

David Davis
, the Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden stood in support of John Larkin's proposal. He said here that John Larkin's "comments not only reflect the spirit of the agreement, they also recognise the increasing impracticality of getting to the bottom of such killings."

Peter Hain, the former secretary of state for NI said here that he saw "some merit in the proposal from the Northern Ireland attorney general". He continued: "Rather than incurring enormous expenditure and effort pursuing crimes committed during the Troubles decades ago... justified grievances, including those of widows of prison officers and police officers should be addressed in other ways so that Northern Ireland can move on from its hideous past."

Senior RUC officers, including three ex-heads of Special Branch, have told the Haass team that John Larkin's controversial proposals should be implemented. 

Read David Davis in full here. Peter Hain here. Story on RUC officers here.

STEM - There is a disconnect in the Executive

Judith Harvey was recently appointed as general manager of W5. She explained to the Gavin Walker on behalf of the Northern Ireland business magazine Business First the importance of science in schools. She said:
"Science, Technology and Maths (STEM) is relevant to everybody, every day - and that's what we have to impart to our young people before they have made academic decisions that close the doors on potential career paths. Too often our students in both primary and post-primary, are taught the process of science, but not the relevance it has to their lives."
Science is obligatory to GCSE in schools in UK and Ireland, this is not the case in Northern Ireland. Asked if Stormont is failing students, Judith said:
"There is a disconnect in the Executive. Where one part says that STEM is the economic driver for the economy, and we have to put the economy at the centre of everything we do, another part allows science to drop down the educational hierarchy. This send out a contradictory message about STEM to pupils, teachers and parents."

John McCallister speaks to the GAA Ulster Council

John recently spoke to the GAA Ulster Council and said what many are thinking. He said:
"When a small minority have been talking about a "culture war" the rest of of us have listened to U105, watched 'Downton', visited the local National Trust property, admired the beauty of the Mournes, and wondered why Ireland didn't do better in the Six Nations.  
It's not exactly a "culture war", is it?"
You can read John's speech to Ulster GAA in full here. You can read analysis on the speech on Slugger O'Toole by Alan in Belfast here. You can also read John's full speech to the Collins 22 Society here.

Fionola Meredith - People need to speak up

Fionola Meredith wrote in the Belfast Telegraph:
"[The DUP] As the largest party... they're the ones who keep squashing all attempts to inch Northern Ireland towards even the most basic, starter-kit form of equal rights for all. It's their fault. Right? No. It's ours. The DUP's quintessential comeback line, when challenged on any of their thuggishly repressive practices – such as twice tabling petitions of concern to block votes on gay marriage in the Assembly – is that they have an electoral mandate to act as they do. 
They are speaking for the people. By voting them in as the largest party, this – a benighted little statelet, left behind, nursing our prejudices, as the rest of the world goes marching on – is what the majority of people in Northern Ireland effectively choose. We give them permission to act in our name.Which gives the DUP, and its allies, impunity to go swaggering on in their customary way, cutting a self-righteous swathe through the loving same-sex couples who just want to get hitched [etc.]."
Fionola Meredith continued: "Yet again, the benign majority view of gay marriage isn't reflected in what transpires at Stormont. There is a glaring discrepancy between what we say we believe and what actually happens in government."

She concluded: "For Northern Ireland to join the rest of the world, elections must be about more than the usual grim old carve-up. The implicit endorsement of discriminatory practices must end, but it will only do so when we start speaking up about them on the doorsteps, calling the parties to account for their actions and inactions."

Reclaim the peace process

Professor John Brewer has written on here that the silent, long-suffering majority needs to reclaim the peace process in order to create progress. He said:
"The silent majority therefore need to reclaim the peace process from politicians who are failing it. Peace needs to be morally re-envisioned so that we rededicate ourselves to the hope, progress and commitment shown at the time of the Good Friday Agreement and referendum. We need to recapture that hope – but the way the past is talked about prevents us from doing so."

#Protests - Haass says that violence is scaring off international investors

The Irish Independent's political correspondent has reported here that violence is scaring off international investors according to Richard Haass. Fionnan Sheanan cited Dr. Haass:
"Northern Ireland is competing with every other square inch on the planet to attract investment. And this is the sort of thing that honestly scares it off. It sends a bad message and hurts all the people in Northern Ireland. Nobody benefits."
Read our previous post on the effect of violence and unrest on brand Northern Ireland here. Our posts on the planned 10,000 person march through Belfast city centre on November 30 2013 here and here. This is the tyranny of a minority. As Richard Haass has said, from the submissions received to the Panel of Parties a majority of people in Northern Ireland want compromise and progress.

Richard Haass - Majority in Northern Ireland want compromise

"My own sense from the bulk of the submissions is that the vast majority of people here are ready for compromise, are ready for progress, are ready to move on."
Richard Hass in full here. You can submit your submissions to the Panel of Parties in the NI Executive here.

Young people face a lifetime of unemployment

The Prince's Trust has said that thousands of jobless young people face a lifetime of unemployment. The longer young people are out of work, the further they drift from the labour market in terms of skills and information.

Professor John van Reenan, director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, said youth unemployment could affect the whole economy. He said: "What happens is that young people who stay unemployed for a long period of time - it scars them." These young people then need special, targeted help. As the director of the charity Paul Brown said:
"We believe those young people need and deserve long-term support, otherwise we think we're on the brink of a long-term, youth jobs crisis. I've seen time after time, even young people who've been out of work for many years, turn their life around. That has to be worth it for them and for the economy as a whole."
That's why Brian Walker was so perfectly right when he said on Slugger O'Toole that "Obsessing over history and identity won’t educate our kids or bring them closer together." Politicians
Northern Ireland politicians need to stop obsessing over the past and start building towards the future. Upon the education of the young people of Northern Ireland the future of Northern Ireland depends. Politicians need to feel the fierce urgency of now. This is urgent. Speaking at a summit of youth unemployment in Europe to the Guardian the German Chancellor said:
"Youth unemployment is perhaps the most pressing problem facing Europe at the present time."
Angela Merkel also made an interesting note on how people look upon the various education paths. She said: "We should not just try to make our young people more academic. Germany is seeing the positive effects of skilled workers and master craftsmen having an excellent reputation too." The EU Youth Action Plan was launched jointly at the Northern-South ministerial council (see here), but little has been reported on its development.

Previous posts on youth unemployment here and here.