Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 08 May 2012
Venue: Room 106
Meeting began at 4.18pm
1. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed. None were declared.
The minute of the special meeting held on 19 April 2012 were agreed.
3. 80th ANNIVERSARY OF PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Mr Robin Ramsey re-tabled a paper to the Commission seeking views on the potential for marking the 80th anniversary of Parliament Buildings in November 2012. Following discussion, Members agreed that the marking of the Anniversary of Parliament Buildings presented an opportunity for a range of initiatives. Members raised further suggestions to mark the anniversary and it was agreed that these proposals would be considered within the substance of a further paper to be considered by the Commission.
Mr McElduff joined the meeting.
Mr McElduff again raised the issue of the lack of directional signage to Parliament Buildings for visitors entering the Belfast area and it was agreed that the Clerk/Director General would raise the matter with both the Department of Regional Development and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Mr R Ramsey also agreed to raise Members ideas at the next meeting of the Speakers Engagement Group to be held on 9 May 2012. It was also agreed that Commission Members would forward any further ideas or comments to Mr R Ramsey to allow for inclusion in future papers.
4. EXHIBITIONS POLICY
Mr R Ramsey re-tabled a paper to the Commission seeking consideration on a draft exhibitions policy and proposals on a range of art exhibitions for 2012.
The Commission considered the content and governance elements of the proposed draft policy on art exhibitions and agreed the policy with an amendment to 8.2 under exhibitions criteria, namely to read ‘be impartial and non-party political’.
The Commission also considered the programme of Art Exhibitions for 2012 and agreed that they proceed as outlined. Mr P Ramsey also asked that consideration be given to an exhibition on ‘Home Rule’ which was currently on loan from Westminster to the Dáil and it was agreed that information would be brought to a further meeting of the Commission.
Mr Peter Weir and Mr Leslie Cree left the meeting to participate in a Plenary Debate.
It was also agreed that Commission Members would forward any further ideas or comments to Mr R Ramsey to allow for inclusion in future papers.
5. HISTORIC ANNIVERSARIES
Mr R Ramsey re-tabled a paper to the Commission which outlined a series of dates to be marked by the Assembly and made proposals on a range of events.
Following consideration, the Commission agreed ten principles which would underpin the basis on which historic anniversaries will be marked by the Assembly. The Commission further agreed that a consistent and co-ordinated approach should be adopted to such events to encapsulate the principles and that all events should be branded under the banner “Perspectives On ….” to acknowledge an approach to historic events on which there may be differing views.
Mr Peter Weir and Mr Leslie Cree rejoined the meeting.
The Commission considered a list of possible anniversaries to be marked within the current Mandate and agreed that the following events would take place under the banner ‘Perspectives On’:
- 2012 The Sinking of the Titanic
- 2012 The Signing of the Ulster Covenant
- 2013 The Dublin Lock-out and the rise of the labour movement
- 2013 The Women’s Suffrage Movement
- 2014 The Outbreak of World War 1
The Commission further agreed that if the current mandate was extended until 2016, the Easter Rising would also be included in the programme of events and that arrangements would be progressed to ensure an event would be organised to mark the Battle of the Somme.
The Commission also agreed a series of events to mark historic anniversaries for 2012, which included a previous event to mark the sinking of the Titanic. Two further lecture events were also agreed, namely:
- Perspectives on Britain and Ireland pre 1912: The backdrop to a decade of centenaries; and
- Perspectives on the Ulster Covenant.
The Commission also agreed in principle that further accompanying initiatives in the form of a ‘Historical Exhibit’ and a ‘Platform for Members’ Perspectives’ should be included and that additional detail would be provided to a future Commission meeting.
The Commission agreed that any addition to the dates or change to the type of event or approaches for the Assembly to officially support any other event on historic anniversaries could only be agreed by the Commission by consensus and that the Speaker would continue to sponsor a number of events involving Members and the community including the Diamond Jubilee and the City of Culture 2013. Mr P Ramsey proposed that the Speaker should hold a meeting with representatives from the organising panel for the City of Culture 2013 and it was agreed that officials would assist in convening this meeting.
In conclusion the Speaker thanked both Members and officials on their approach to taking this matter forward and it was agreed that a press release should be drafted and cleared by correspondence to highlight how the Commission was progressing the marking of historic anniversaries within the current mandate.
6. GOOD RELATIONS STRATEGY/ACTION PLAN
Mr Logue, the Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit provided the Commission with some background to the development of a Good Relations Strategy for 2012 – 2016. Mrs Bannon, the Equality Manager informed the Commission that the Strategy contained targets and actions agreed following internal consultation with the Secretariat and also incorporated recommendations arising from the Internal Good Relations Audit conducted by Holywell Consulting as agreed by the Commission at their meeting on the 19 April 2012.
The Commission considered the draft Good Relations Action Plan within the Good Relations Strategy and agreed the plan subject to one amendment to 2.7 to create an option for making available training to party support staff.
The Commission agreed that they would consider the draft language policy at their meeting in June 2012 and that a further paper would be provided in relation to any additional resource requirements for implementing the plan.
Mr L Cree sought clarification in relation to the inventory of all artefacts belonging to the Assembly and it was agreed that all Commission Members would receive a list to include corresponding estimations of value. Mr Welch, the Director of Facilities also offered to organise a viewing of current artefacts and requested that Members approach him if interested in availing of this.
In conclusion, the Commission agreed that the Good Relations Strategy should now issue for public consultation as required under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
7. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
7.1 Charities Launch
The Speaker reminded Members that the Charities Launch for Action Mental Health would take place on Monday 14 May 2012 at 1pm in the Private Dining Room.
7.2 Freedom of Information Update
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission of a current Freedom of Information request which was due for release and it was agreed that a copy of the response would be provided for information to all Commission Members.
7.3 Public Sector Strike
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that NIPSA had not provided the necessary notice for the public strike on Thursday 10 May 2012 and as such Secretariat staff would not be participating in the strike action.
7.4 Office Cost Expenditure (OCE)
Mrs Cochrane and Mr Weir raised queries in relation to the rules and guidance for OCE. Mr Stewart, the Director of Corporate Services, provided clarification on the points raised.
7.5 Costs for events in Parliament Buildings
Mrs Cochrane raised a query in relation to the costs to external organisations for hiring additional chairs for events and it was agreed that Mr Welch, the Director of Facilities would provide clarification.
8. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
It was agreed that the Commission would hold a formal Commission meeting on 29 May 2012 at 4pm.
Meeting ended at 6.00pm
Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit