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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: MARTIN MCGUINNESS MP SLA JULY 8TH, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: Northern Ireland now before we come on to the two candidates for the Tory leadership. Last week the First Minister of course, as we know, David Trimble, resigned in protest at the IRA's failure to begin the decommissioning of its weapons. Now Tony Blair is planning a big summit next week, here in England up at Western Park in Shropshire to try and find a breakthrough. It starts tomorrow and Sinn Fein's Chief Negotiator, as well as the Education Minister, Martin McGuinness, they'll both be there and he joins me right now. Do you think there's much hope in this conference?
MARTIN McGUINNESS: Well I think that all of us have a bound duty to do everything that we can, to do our best to try and resolve the outstanding difficulties and of course from our perspective and Sinn Fein we believe that it's absolutely vital that the British government get back to the template to resolve all of this and that is the Good Friday Agreement. It's essential that we get the new beginning to policing, that we get demilitarisation, that we bring about the change in the justice system, that we ensure that there is equality and human rights and of course that we deal with, in a sensible fashion, the issue of all of the arms.
DAVID FROST: But what about the basic, everybody says that the key thing, that it all depends on you and the IRA as well because it's on the decommissioning issue, that's the thing that they haven't come through with anything on now and that's the issue, that's why it's so vital, your role is so vital?
MARTIN McGUINNESS: Well I think it has always been a mistake to reduce the peace process in Ireland to a decommissioning process. The peace process is about more than how we remove the guns from Irish politics. We should remember that the IRA's guns have been silent for years and there's, I think, considerable concern within the Nationalist Republican community all over the island of Ireland about the emphasis, the concentration by David Trimble on the guns that are silent. Yet ignoring the effect of the guns that are not silent and we have seen them in the course of the last number of weeks ongoing attacks on the Catholic community with people being attacked in places like Larne and Coleraine and other parts of the North, North Belfast, primary school children have to run a gauntlet of sectarianism to get to school and we've seen two Catholics killed in 1:26 and Coleraine in the course of the last number of days. So we need to get our priorities right here and I think David Trimble needs to recognise that he needs to be working with the Sinn Fein leadership, that we should be on the same side and that we should be making it clear to the rejectionist Unionist and Loyalists that are out there that they're not going to have their way in destroying the Good Friday Agreement.
DAVID FROST: And what do you think is the best that could be hoped for in terms of decommissioning and the IRA and when?
MARTIN McGUINNESS: Well I hope that we can make progress in the course of the next week, I passionately believe that the vast bulk of our people want to see the politicians and the two Prime Ministers working together in a collaborative way, in a collective fashion to resolve all of these outstanding issues but I think one of the great difficulties about how we can bring about a process of getting armed groups to remove guns from politics and put them beyond use is that the way in which we've approached this has been all wrong. David Trimble has taken to himself over the course of the last three years the right to arbitrate on how these matters would be resolved thereby totally and absolutely undermining the authority of the de Chastelaine Commission which was established under the terms of the Agreement. So I really think next week that we're going to have to get back to the Good Friday Agreement and to that Commission within the Agreement which was set up to deal with arms and that David Trimble should take a step back and allow de Chastelaine, the IRA and other armed groups to deal with this issue.
DAVID FROST: And do you think you'll see David Trimble, do you expect to see David Trimble back again as First Minister?
MARTIN McGUINNESS: Well I certainly want to see David Trimble back as a First Minister who is embracing and fighting for the Agreement and I know that there are a large number of people within the Unionist Protestant community, good people who voted for the Good Friday Agreement who want to live at peace with their Nationalist and Republican neighbours and those people I think have shown by their vote and their endorsement of the Agreement and they wanted this new way, this new approach to succeed. The only way it can succeed is by the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister, by David Trimble and Gerry Adams and John Hume working together against the rejectionist forces and ensuring that the Good Friday Agreement is implemented. What is absolutely vital is that the British government face up to the reality that one of the difficulties that we're in today is because succour has been given to the rejectionists, both by the British government's failure to implement the Agreement and also by the pretty weak leadership that has been shown by David Trimble thus far.
DAVID FROST: And do you think there will be new elections for the Assembly and if so would you deplore or welcome that?
MARTIN McGUINNESS: Well I think that our concentration needs to be on the events of the next week and how we can resolve the difficulties which the peace process finds itself in at the moment. This is a matter of life and death, Catholics have been killed on the streets by Loyalists and I passionately want to see that brought to an end. So I think a way forward can be found if there is a will to resolve the difficulties but there needs to be more honesty within the process and David Trimble needs to face up to the reality that the IRA guns have been silent for years and that our focus must be to work collectively to show those people within the Loyalist paramilitaries who are killing Catholics that they're not going to succeed.
DAVID FROST: Martin McGuinness thank you very much for joining us.
MARTIN McGUINNESS: Thank you David.
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