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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: NIGEL DODDS MP, DUP and MARTIN MCGUINNESS MP, SINN FEIN. 10th JUNE, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: First I'm joined live from Belfast by the DUP's Nigel Dodds who toppled the sitting Ulster Unionist MP on Friday. Mr Dodds, good morning.
NIGEL DODDS: Good morning.
DAVID FROST: To what do you attribute your success, is it just to your views as opposed to David Trimble's on the Good Friday Agreement?
NIGEL DODDS: Well I think that anyone who looks at the figures and Mr Trimble's attempting to put a very good gloss on what has been a disastrous election for him, will see that the majority of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland have spoken very clearly and whilst we, as a party, are devolutionist, we want to see local democracy, we want to see people in charge of their own affairs in Northern Ireland, we in common with the majority of the Unionist community certainly, want to see those who are front men for gunmen removed from government until such times as they're committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
DAVID FROST: But if¿
NIGEL DODDS: These were promises that were made to us by Tony Blair, those promises have been broken and the Unionist people have now spoken.
DAVID FROST: But the, but at the same time I mean the so-called front men, you're saying, for terrorists, but I mean clearly the people of Northern Ireland have spoken, spoken well, I suppose you could say, of you in this election, but, but it's been a remarkably triumphant election for Sinn Fein, hasn't it?
NIGEL DODDS: Well it's been an election in which the Democratic Unionist Party has made enormous strides, Sinn Fein have done well but remember the distinction between Sinn Fein and any other party is that in the words of the Prime Minister, in the words not of the Democratic Unionist Party but of those who should know about such security issues, Sinn Fein and IRA are inextricably linked and despite their mandate they remain wedded to a paramilitary organisation which holds illegal terrorist weaponry and refuses to give up even a single ounce of semtex or a single bullet. And that, I think in my view, in a democracy raises serious questions, indeed disqualifies them from the office of government until such times as they're prepared to move into the democratic process and I think that that's the clear message that's been sent out. After all we have an agreement at the present time in Northern Ireland which has the assent of 100 per cent of Nationalists but it's now very clear it doesn't have the assent of a majority of Unionists¿
DAVID FROST: And why¿
NIGEL DODDS: You cannot build a stable future on the basis of agreement from Nationalists but dissent from Unionists.
DAVID FROST: And, and why did you, I guess one can read between the lines there, but why did you refuse to accept Gerry Kelly's congratulations after your result?
NIGEL DODDS: Well as someone who has been on the end of a murder assassination attempt at the hands of the IRA and many other people better than I have indeed been murdered by the IRA, this is an organisation that has never apologised once to its victims, this is an organisation which still retains the capacity to wage war on the people of Northern Ireland, this is an organisation which retains the right to do so, its leading spokesmen have said that they could go back to doing what they do best and we all know what that means and what I'm saying is that we will work as a party with any democratic government, we will discuss with any constitutional party - no matter what their views. But we will not sit down to negotiate the future of Northern Ireland or accept the hand of those who are prepared to use violence if needs be to achieve their political objectives. Let them move into the democratic process fully and exclusively and the way to do that is to give up the weaponry and detach themselves from an illegal terrorist organisation which is still, by the way, terrorising areas of Belfast and Northern Ireland and still carrying out murders in Northern Ireland.
DAVID FROST: Alright, thank you very much indeed. Let me put what you've been saying now then to Martin McGuinness, Martin you would say, I presume, that you have entered the democratic process and that's what this vote is about?
MARTIN McGUINNESS: Well good morning David, and of course we have been very much a part of the electoral system for the past 20 years and of course our vote has risen each time. This has been a tremendously important election result for Sinn Fein, we are now the largest Nationalist Party but of course when the dust settles on all of this there is a duty and a responsibility on all politicians, not least Nigel Dodds and indeed many others, including myself, to ensure that we continue to make progress here in Ireland, that we work together, I'm willing to stretch out the hand of friendship to Nigel Dodds and I recognise the important role that he and Mr Paisley, Mr Trimble and all of us have to play to bring this process forward. I think one of the difficulties about the DUP position is that they proclaim publicly that they're opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and all of the changes that that heralded yet at the same time they're working merrily away within the institutions, their two ministers are carrying out their briefs and of course the rest of the DUP MLAs appear to be quite happy with their positions within the Assembly. So I think many of the difficulties and problems which are out there, whether it be the need to bring about a new beginning to policing in the issue of demilitarisation and how we get our groups to put weapons beyond use. I think all of these difficulties, if there's a will can be resolved and when the dust settles there will be an opportunity, probably be given on the 18th of this month for all of us to do that.
DAVID FROST: And do you feel, having heard what the DUP were saying this morning, right now to us, do you feel that the Good Friday Agreement is in more jeopardy today than a week ago before this election?
MARTIN McGUINNESS: No I actually think if you analyse the figures for the pro-Agreement parties against the figures for the rejectionist Unionist parties there is probably now more support for the Good Friday Agreement from right across our community. Something in the region of 78 per cent which is six percentage points up on the referendum in 1998. So the Agreement is popular, in fact the institutions that have been established are even popular with a sizeable section of the DUP support and that was shown very clearly in an opinion poll in the Belfast Telegraph several weeks ago. So I think that the Good Friday Agreement is still a viable project, it is a project that all of us have a duty and a responsibility to see implemented and there will be, I think, a huge responsibility on Tony Blair to make it absolutely clear to those people who proclaim themselves to be rejectionist that they're not going to have their way, that we're going to continue to bring about the essential change that the Good Friday Agreement promised all of us.
DAVID FROST: But just one last thing which is David Trimble has said very clearly that he will resign on July the 1st and he's written the resignation, if there's no progress on decommissioning, clear progress on decommissioning, that would be a blow to the process, wouldn't it?
MARTIN McGUINNESS: Well I certainly hope that that doesn't happen and I think it would be blow to the process and I think that there is a duty on all of us to try to prevent that happening but I do have to say at the same time that I find it very, very strange that David Trimble is threatening to resign but Mr Paisley isn't, Mr Paisley's ministers within the power-sharing Executive are not threatening to resign. So I think it's, it's just a little bit confusing for many people that we actually have a situation where Mr Trimble is adopting a much more hard-line position than Mr Paisley on the issue of arms. So I think what we have to do of course is continue to work away to make politics work and to ensure that in the aftermath of these election results that we all sit down as sensible people to work out a way forward because what was very, very clear to me on the doorsteps is that the Good Friday Agreement and the institutions that have been established and the change that has come about thus far, is very, very popular with the people right across the board.
DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning, thank you to them both for joining us here this morning. Thank you to Nigel Dodds and to Martin McGuinness.
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