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DAVID FROST:

Well as we heard there in the news, David Trimble has bought himself some more time. But Sinn Fein are meeting this morning and they've already indicated that they consider yesterday's move jeopardised the whole peace process. Jeffrey Donaldson says he will h ave another go at unseating his party leader. Where are we then, where are we now? David Trimble joins us right now. Good morning David.

DAVID TRIMBLE:

Good morning.

DAVID FROST:

Your vote is up from 53 per cent to 54 per cent.

DAVID TRIMBLE:

Well yes, it still shows that there's a lot of heart-searching within the party about this, and of course the main reason why there is the heart-searching is because of the failure of the Republican movement to keep its word with regard to its promise, made nearly six months ago, to put its weapons beyond use.

DAVID FROST:

And beyond use, that's where the, obviously, the debate becomes about whether they are beyond use at the moment.

DAVID TRIMBLE:

No, well they clearly are not because they, they said they would put them beyond use completely not just in a sort of partial, temporary arrangement. Nobody regards the inspection - nobody that I'm aware of - regards the inspections as being a substitute for putting weapons beyond use, which is actually the same as decommissioning, it begs from, it borrows from the definition of decommissioning in the legislation. So, I mean again, there's no doubt about that. And I'm actually somewhat surprised at the reaction that we've had from Sinn Fein. I mean here, Sinn Fein's excuse for not carrying out its promise is it claims that - and I think wrongly, incidentally - but it claims that the British Government isn't keeping its word with regard to demilitarisation, but in fact the British government is keeping its word on demilitarisation and it's done quite a lot in terms of scaling down the army presence. But because Sinn Fein accuse the government of not doing enough, they are deliberately holding back on the engaging with de Chastelain about the procedures to put weapons beyond use. Well if they're deliberately holding back, do they honestly think that other people to whom they - because they made the promise to us too - do they think that we're going to sit and do nothing? That's not reasonable, that's no - nobody could have expected this. And I gave them clear warning three weeks ago at our party conference that if their failures to honour their word continued, then things on the North side would become problematic and what I've done is simple, small and it's targeted purely on Sinn Fein. It doesn't prevent North-South meetings taking place, or the business being done.

DAVID FROST:

At the same time people say that it's just going too far, it's throwing down the gauntlet, it's provoking them.

DAVID TRIMBLE:

Do they not think it's -

DAVID FROST:

But that's a two pack, it was a two pack, it was an assembly, plus the North-South bodies, they go together, they're all part of the same package.

DAVID TRIMBLE:

Absolutely. Absolutely - I don't deny that, they are. And of course they can still function, there's no question of that. The North-South meetings can continue. Ourselves and the SDLP can take that, can conduct the business, there's no problem with that. If there's any meeting that doesn't take part then obviously the fault lies with Sinn Fein. But you know, David, very interestingly this last week there was a meeting of an analogous body to the North-South council, namely the joint ministerial committees that happen on a regular basis, drawing together the ministers from the devolved regions together with the government - and Sinn Fein refused to take part. The Sinn Fein health ministers, the JMC on health, it's the third JMC on health that we've been involved in, previous ones were in Glasgow and in London, but the Sinn Fein minister refused to take part. She wasn't prepared to meet the Prime Minister in Belfast, for some reason, something to do with Sinn Fein ideology I think. But is that any different from what we're proposing? And if Sinn Fein are complaining about that they should look at their own behaviour.

DAVID FROST:

But it's not - David - it's not only Sinn Fein who are complaining. I mean, the SDLP, Seamus Mallon, says the actions are unacceptable, you're effectively pulling the plug on the whole peace process and he's not sure that it's legal that you can in fact stop these two ministers, or whatever, going to these meetings So it's not just Sinn Fein, it's moderate Seamus Mallon.

DAVID TRIMBLE:

Well, we've got a few days in which people can consider the matter and take advice, and Seamus will see that what I'm doing is entirely open to me - and he knows that.

DAVID FROST:

And what about - why at this point though do this? I mean your support has never been higher, in a sense, 67 per cent, your support among your voters is more than among the council, obviously, because of the curious combination of forces in the council -

DAVID TRIMBLE:

No - no

DAVID FROST: Given that you're doing so well, why risk this?

DAVID TRIMBLE: No I think it is important that we actually achieve things here. I mean what I want to achieve is both devolution and decommissioning. I'm very deliberately not walking away. A lot of people in the party - and in this community too - who would want us to, to walk away, to - as you said - pull the plug. We're deliberately not doing that. But we're also saying to the Republicans that you can't do nothing and get away with it. That if you sit and deliberately do nothing - as you've been doing for the last six months - then there's a cost attached to that. Failing to keep your word is not a cost-free option. And I gave them plenty of warning about this - publicly and privately. So no excuses please from Sinn Fein.

DAVID FROST: But they -

DAVID TRIMBLE: they want this, and I've said very clearly, that this sanction will be lifted the minute they start to engage substantively with de Chastelain on decommissioning.

DAVID FROST: And why - in terms of what we were talking about at the very beginning - why is weapons sealed away and checked not putting them out of use?

DAVID TRIMBLE: They are not sealed. There are devices and arrangements made with regard to these three bunkers to enable the inspectors to know if they've been tampered with, but there's nothing to prevent them being tampered with. There's nothing to prevent, for example the Real IRA, who probably know of the existence of these guns, raiding them and taking the material. So that it can't regard them as being out of use, and in any event they wouldn't be out of use permanently. So I think we've all accepted, everybody - I don't think anybody regards the inspection as being a substitute for decommissioning. And what we want - and the IRA themselves don't because they made a clear distinction in their promise between the promise for inspections and the quite separate promise to initiate a process that would put the weapons beyond use completely and verifiably. It's that promise we're asking them to fulfil. They've done nothing about it - I'm not asking them to do everything all at once, I'm just saying go and talk seriously to the international commission. All they've done since they made the promise in May was one phone call, telling the general that they were re-establishing contact. But they've not done anything else. I'm saying to them - you go, engage seriously, as you promised, with de Chastelain and we'll lift the sanction, let things run normally.

DAVID FROST: And one quote from Mr Donaldson, David. He says I'm smiling because we made some progress today. I mean he was theoretically on the side that was defeated. He said "We didn't get everything that we wanted, but David Trimble has moved very firmly onto our ground now. I'll give it two months and we'll be back here in January."

DAVID TRIMBLE: Well

DAVID FROST: Daunting words, if true.

DAVID TRIMBLE: Yes well, this comes into the category, if you don't mind me saying, that he would say that. In fact, I gave a clear indication at the party conference that this was coming and indeed were it not for yesterday's meeting it might have happened before yesterday. Obviously, puts us in mind of knowing that that meeting was being requisitioned - because I didn't call yesterday's meeting. As to the January, well I'm sorry to hear that, the members and delegates of the council, including a large number who voted for Jeffrey's option, made it very clear at the end, when I made an appeal for unity, that that's what they wanted. Indeed at that stage the numbers that were sitting on their hands were comparatively few. So I think Jeffrey would be advised to take advice within the party, because I think it's very clear what the party wants. It wants an end to these problems, which Jeffrey says are only over tactics and it wants the party to pull together, I have no doubt about that.

DAVID FROST: And just one final thought, you are confident - you are certain - that what you're doing with the North-South bodies are legal and that they won't turn up anyway and you'll have to stand at the door and send them away?

DAVID TRIMBLE: They are - we have taken advice.

DAVID FROST: Right. And so they won't come - and if they do come, if they do come?

DAVID TRIMBLE: They have no, they have no authority to do that. There is a legal structure about this. There is a clear legal structure.

DAVID FROST: David, thank you very much indeed for joining us. We look forward to seeing you again when the majority is up to 55. Thank you very much indeed. David Trimble, there, for joining us.

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