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Deputy First Minister, Northern Ireland, Seamus Mallon MP
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:

And now in the studio listening to that is Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Seamus Mallon, Seamus first of all a comment, do you see things, do you see what happened on Thursday the same way that John did?

SEAMUS MALLON:

I think basically there's very little that John says that I would disagree with. Part of the interview I didn't hear but I looked upon Thursday as an opportunity to try and regroup, to try and see if the four outstanding issues and I believe John has identified those, if those could be got back into the same box so that we had those four issues which interlock, one can't be dealt without the other, get them back in the same box then try and see if we could get all of the parties and the two governments into the same box and see if we could close up the box and get on with business, hopefully.

DAVID FROST:

And in terms of the four major issues, on cross-border, on the two members of the Northern Ireland government who in fact are from the Sinn Fein and who've been bared, that is an issue that you would like to see solved and on that issue you are with Sinn Fein rather than the British government?

SEAMUS MALLON:

No it's not the British government's fault, I'm not blaming the British government, they're not doing it. It's one of these quixotic things that the Ulster Unionist Party do in terms of this administration, it makes no sense, there's no end product. It's excluding Sinn Fein in essentially what is pique and the reality is we have got a British Irish Council and the North South bodies. Now the figures there speak for themselves, the British Irish Council that the Unionist parties insisted upon has met twice, we've had 30 something meetings of the North South bodies. So I think it puts that into perspective. It's essential that we have the inclusivity and that inclusive action within our administration, that's what we all decided upon, that's what's in the Good Friday Agreement, that's what's essential. But it's not the British government that's stopping it, it's the whim of the Ulster Unionist Party as of now to no effect I may say.

DAVID FROST:

It must make, since you are effectively a duet, David Trimble and yourself, in terms of running Northern Ireland at the moment, it must make those relations interesting between the two of you?

SEAMUS MALLON:

I would have thought interesting's probably the most accurate word that one could get. It's a difficult relationship, it's always going to be a difficult relationship, it's a very strange relationship given the fact that David and I are not just dealing with the administrative elements, trying to get a four part coalition, a very strange four part coalition administration going, but we have also got to deal with the external issues like these issues that we're talking about today. I recognise it's a terrible strain on David Trimble, I know the strain on myself but what I do know is that there is a respect between the both of us in relation to how we operate. There's a commitment strangely enough although sometimes it isn't very obvious, that we are going to get there. That failure isn't an option and that we will move forward and eventually get this box closed.

DAVID FROST:

Right.

SEAMUS MALLON:

So that the real business can start. And John was talking about some progress being made on policing. Has it reached the point where you can say "yes" to your involvement in the new police force?

SEAMUS MALLON:

Very close to it.

DAVID FROST:

Very close to it?

SEAMUS MALLON:

It could well have been done on Thursday, there were some outstanding issues and I believe there's a recognition now right across the board that the British government in terms of the legislation setting up the Patten recommendations made something of a mess of it. I think that's the reality and there are one, two, maybe three major issues to be dealt with, I think they can now be dealt with and if you look at the joint statement that the governments issued on Thursday, for the first time it identifies two things: legislation and the implementation plan. That's the first time they have ever used the term legislation. Now I think those things could very well be got right, I'm confident that come June which is the date specified that we will be able to get it right, I think the harm that was done during that period by the malfunction in terms of the way in which legislation was drawn up, we can get over that and we can get that issue resolved.

DAVID FROST:

Well that is very positive and new news. That's very good to know. Tell me in terms of the IRA statement¿which indeed the two governments welcomed in their statement what should be the next move in that process?

SEAMUS MALLON:

Well I think the statement itself was very clear, re-engagement with the international Commission.

DAVID FROST:

Which is happening?

SEAMUS MALLON:

Which we're told will happen. I would expect it might happen this week. Then we expect a statement from General de Chastelaine the Chairman of that Commission. Then there's the commitment in the statement to enter into the type of discussions, meaningful discussions with de Chastelaine about the ways in which decommissioning might take place, the modalities if we want to call it that. And then there is the objective itself to have arms completely and verifiably put beyond use. There's no date set for that as people will notice and it is right that there's no date set for that. But I think that statement is a cleverly worded statement because not only does it put things back in the box, but it puts immediate attention on the question of the holding of illegal arms and that objective, in my view, must be obtained. What it also does, I believe, and rightly so, is that it gives David Trimble and the Ulster Unionist Party a space, a period of time during which they can protect themselves within their own party. It may not protect them from the vagaries of the election but within their own party and that's important.

DAVID FROST:

Thank you Seamus and we'll just get the news headlines.

BREAK FOR NEWS

DAVID FROST:

And thank you very much Seamus, tell me your, this week you're off to talk to President Bush. What do you hope to get out of him?

SEAMUS MALLON:

Well basically what we'll be saying to people in the American Administration, is:- here's a problem. America has contributed enormously to the solution to it. We are getting there, getting there slowly, please help us to make the last step, go the last mile and I believe that any administration, whoever is the President will do that.

DAVID FROST:

Thank you very much indeed Seamus.

SEAMUS MALLON:

Thank you David.

DAVID FROST:

Thank you all for joining us, top of the morning, good morning.

END

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