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DAVID FROST: Well now there are reports coming in this morning, it's on the front page of The Sunday Times, among other papers, that the IRA may be planning a new disarmament initiative. It's described in The Sunday Times as a peace breakthrough, this just days after the appointment of a new Northern Ireland Secretary. Joining us on what sounds like an encouraging and exciting possible morning is the First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the leader of the Ulster Unionists, David Trimble. Good morning David.
DAVID TRIMBLE: Good morning David.
DAVID FROST: This reads like, the headline here, IRA to scrap arms in peace breakthrough, this sounds as though this could be a very important development.
DAVID TRIMBLE: Well I hope so, I mean we've been looking for a long time over the last few weeks at both the weapons issue and the policing issue. They are capable of being resolved, it just requires Nationalists and Republicans to have the will to carry through the obligations that they've accepted over the years. I hope there's going to be progress. As to the detail of that, I think we should be cautious and wait to see what if anything emerges over the course of the next week or so.
DAVID FROST: But I mean the new development, what is them spelling out their intentions here, I mean that's what's new this morning is it?
DAVID TRIMBLE: Well we had them give an undertaking last year to put their weapons beyond use credibly and verifiably. We hope they're now actually going to do that and as long as the weapons are made permanently unusable and permanently unavailable, that's the definition of decommissioning, we don't mind what method is done, of course although - as long of course as the De Chastelain commission are involved in verifying that it has been done.
DAVID FROST: Those are the key things about decommissioning, as you say, that they don't, they don't have to surrender the weapons as it were.
DAVID TRIMBLE: We have, we've made that clear for a long time, but it has to be permanent and it has to be verified.
DAVID FROST: What's the next move then David?
DAVID TRIMBLE: Well we're waiting to see. I think that the government may have put some proposals to them, and I know the Irish government has been putting pressure on them as well, so we hope that they're going to come back and tell us precisely how they are going to put the weapons beyond use in a permanent and verifiable way. And then that will leave just simply the issue of policing to be sorted out, and I hope that can be sorted out without too much controversy.
DAVID FROST: Now what about policing, how far have we got on that?
DAVID TRIMBLE: Well we reached the point where the legislation's on the statute book - now I'm not overjoyed with the legislation, there's bits of it we don't like, none the less we accept we've got a responsibility to society and we're prepared to join the police board and we're waiting to see if Nationalists are prepared to join the police board, and I hope they will.
DAVID FROST: So that's the next move there, the SDLP and -
DAVID TRIMBLE: Yes -
DAVID FROST: - Sinn Fein join -
DAVID TRIMBLE: - but I think that one thing I would like to see with regard to policing, which I think is important, as I say we've got reservations about the procedures and we're not sure if it's going to work well in practie, so I would like to see the government make an arrangement say for coming back in maybe two years' time to have a formal review to see if it's working - because the most important thing and all the crime we're having at the moment underlies it, shows that there, we need to have an effective police force. So I'd like to see, as it were, a formal review take place. I'd also like, of course, to see policing devolved to Northern Ireland, in which case we could do that. But rather than say that the Patten arrangements are the end of the day, let's see how it works. I hope it works better than I, than we've been, in the areas where we've had concerns, I hope it works well, but if it doesn't let's look at it again.
DAVID FROST: And Peter Mandelson, you said, during his time there in Northern Ireland, you found did a pretty good constructive job.
DAVID TRIMBLE: Yes I did and that's why I thanked him in the Commons on Wednesday because he put a tremendous amount of effort in. He wasn't always the easiest person to work with but then some people actually say that about me too for some reason.
DAVID FROST: Good God -
DAVID TRIMBLE: But we all have our problems, we all have our faults, but I have to say that with regard to what Peter did in Northern Ireland that I appreciate what he did, even if I didn't always agree with him.
DAVID FROST: His successor, of course, is a Catholic, but not of the same background as you, you've said as well. What - have we already mentioned it - what's the most important, John Reid faces, the most important problem he faces, the two issues we've just discussed?
DAVID TRIMBLE: They are, yes indeed, and I welcome John's arrival here, I wish him well. It's not the graveyard of reputations here in Northern Ireland, it's actually an opportunity for people to show what they're made of because here in Northern Ireland they're facing political issues of a different order to that they come across in the administration, the routine administration of parts of Great Britain. So it's an opportunity for him and I hope he does well.
DAVID FROST: Well thank you very much David and we hope that the headlines today are the harbinger of more good news in the next few days. Thank you very much David.
DAVID TRIMBLE: Thank you.
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