Apology over care home 'distress'
Health Minister Edwin Poots has apologised to elderly people for distress caused over the proposed closure of residential homes.
The Democratic Unionist said the process had been stopped and there would be no threat over the next six months.
He has faced Ulster Unionist calls for his resignation over his handling of the affair - ordering health trusts to halt the care cuts in what critics branded a U-turn.
Mr Poots told the Assembly: "I have no problem apologising to our elderly population for the distress that was caused.
"The current process has been stopped so the current threat of any residential home being closed in the course of the next six months is gone."
Mr Poots instructed all five health and social care trusts, which run services, to drop contentious plans to close State-run residential homes. He said he never supported the proposals in the first place, adding: "This was never my policy, this was never my proposal."
Sinn Fein Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin said: "This was a mess and did completely disregard the rights of the elderly population."
The minister said a process had begun to identify facilities needed in the future to provide the best possible care.
"We will talk very caringly with the elderly population. It is not a case of forcing people into facilities, it is a matter of people identifying what is available to them," he added.
Ulster Unionist MLA Joanne Dobson said an elderly resident of a home in Banbridge, Co Down, told her he felt like a discarded piece of scrap. The Health Minister said his Ulster Unionist predecessor Michael McGimpsey had been in post when a number of residential homes were closed.