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Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST HOSTED BY PETER SISSONS INTERVIEW: DAVID TRIMBLE MP JULY 29TH, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

PETER SISSONS: Now events in Northern Ireland appear to spiralling out of control again, riots on the streets of Belfast hardly bode well for the future of the Province. This week Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern announced they'd come up with a package that could rescue the Good Friday Agreement, but will it? The Ulster Unionist Leader David Trimble who recently resigned as First Minister joins me now from Belfast, good morning David.

DAVID TRIMBLE: Good morning.

PETER SISSONS: First of all what's behind these latest riots in North Belfast?

DAVID TRIMBLE: Well to some extent actually the weather is a factor in that we're, you know more people out on the street as a result of it. But there's been trouble in North Belfast for weeks on end, it's partly I think caused by paramilitary elements on both sides, that's Loyalists as well as Republicans, pursuing local agendas to some extent but behind all this is the question of what is going to happen with regard to paramilitary organisations. Now the agreement that we had three years ago clearly contemplated the ending of paramilitary organisations. Continued existence of private armies is wholly incompatible with the future that we hope to create but unfortunately the paramilitaries continue to exist and continuing to exist means they continue to cause trouble...

PETER SISSONS: But are they...

DAVID TRIMBLE: There will continue to be riots and violence while there are still paramilitaries and what we need is clear steps being taken to resolve this issue.

PETER SISSONS: Are the various ceasefires in tact as far as you can tell?

DAVID TRIMBLE: Well it depends what you mean by that word, the IRA shot someone in Belfast last week, that doesn't seem to get an awful lot of coverage but the IRA guns are not silent, other guns are not silent. Pipe bombs are made and thrown on a wide scale, paramilitary organisations are behind all of this violence and as the, the police said, all the paramilitary organisations including those allegedly on ceasefire, have been involved in violence over the course of the last year. So we have a situation where there's a continuing level of violence which all paramilitaries are involved in and none of the paramilitaries are facing up to their obligations under the agreement to deliver peace and to start to disarm and disband their organisations.

PETER SISSONS: Have you any idea what's in the plan that Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair have drawn up?

DAVID TRIMBLE: There's obviously a certain amount of speculation in the press but I think the important question isn't this proposal and I think the reason why these proposals have been held back is because the really important question is the question of when are the paramilitaries going to carry out the promises they have made to us over the course of the last number of years. There are clear obligations that they accepted in the agreement, they failed to deliver on, and the IRA itself said 14 months ago it had put its weapons beyond use and it hasn't carried out that promise. I think the reason why the proposals have been held back is because the government has been hoping that there would be clear action by Republicans in particular to start the process and if there isn't that clear action over the course of the next few days it may very well be that the proposals are held back further.

PETER SISSONS: In the Observer today you'll, you seem to think that there is no real chance that the IRA will disarm?

DAVID TRIMBLE: Well we're, seemed to be faced by a persistent refusal by them to keep their promises and carry out their obligations and if that continues to be the case, I mean we can't wait indefinitely, government have been holding back over the last number of weeks, hoping that the Republicans will move and I don't see much prospect of that happening over the course of the next, next few day. And so I think the government are going to have to decide not about this little measure here or there and tinkering with the arrangements that would otherwise be in place in terms of normalisation and policing. I don't think it's going to resolve this matter, I did say a few weeks ago that I felt the moment of truth had arrived for the paramilitaries and consequently for the process, I think we're best to face that moment of truth and to ask ourselves that what is now to be done? We've had three years in which we have made, by we I'm thinking of the democratic politicians generally, and myself and my own party, we have made tremendous efforts to get this process to work, it's worked well in some respects, those things under our control have worked but those things that the paramilitaries are responsible for haven't worked. I think we've got to face the consequences of that.

PETER SISSONS: There are calls in your own party, Geoffrey Donaldson, David Burnside and others for Unionists now to withdraw from everything...what are the chances, what are the chances of that happening given that the majority of Unionists now don't want the agreement and it totally robs the agreement of its legitimacy?

DAVID TRIMBLE: That is quite wrong, let me just nail that immediately. The statement that most unionists don't want agreement is simply not true, most Unionists do want the Agreement to work and they consistently voted for those parties that want the Agreement to work, I think that's absolutely clear. Yes there are a significant number who are opposed to the agreement but they are still a minority. I think it's rather childish, as I was saying, to say oh well we'll just walk away from everything, I think that's not...

PETER SISSONS: So what is plan B David?

DAVID TRIMBLE: That is the question, that is the question people have to look at, there are provisions within the agreement for the review of the agreement. As I said to you we've made tremendous efforts to get this to work...

PETER SISSONS: And you were always opposed to...

DAVID TRIMBLE: With regard to most of the parts of the agreement, but there's one bit, there's one area that hasn't worked, that's the area under the responsibility of the paramilitary leadership and that includes the political parties linked to those. So I think we've got to review that position because it's also quite clear that most people in Northern Ireland want this process to succeed and most people in Northern Ireland want to see the Assembly functioning and local democratic accountability sustained. So the question is how do we sustain that while at the same time starting to untangle the process from paramilitaries who fail to deliver.

PETER SISSONS: Will you be looking for, given, we must assume that there will be some hard choices to take when you get the Blair Ahern paper, but will you be looking as a, at the bottom line for there to be a review of the Good Friday Agreement which in effect amounts to a root and branch renegotiation?

DAVID TRIMBLE: Oh no, that's, you're jumping far too far in terms of conclusions to talk about root and branch renegotiation is simply not realistic. Sorry I thought I'd made that clear and I think it's also, we've got to disentangle the real question which is the question of whether paramilitaries are going to deliver what they promised from the details that Blair and Ahern have been looking at over the last few weeks. I don't think tinkering with this details of normalisation against a background when there isn't normality is going to actually meet the issue. The real moment of truth is a question of facing up to the fact that here we have paramilitary related organisations which simply are not fulfilling their promises and not fulfilling their obligations and we have to consider the implications of that for how do we implement the agreement when they're some people who refuse to do their part.

PETER SISSONS: David Trimble, thank you.

END

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