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Sinn Fein's Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness
Sinn Fein's Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST HOSTED BY PETER SISSONS INTERVIEW:
MARTIN MCGUINNESS MP, CHIEF NEGOTIATOR, SINN FEIN, AND DR JOHN REID MP, NORTHERN IRELAND SECRETARY

AUGUST 12TH, 2001

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

PETER SISSONS:
Now as we saw so vividly in the paper review Northern Ireland is dominating the political agenda at the moment and this morning marks the beginning of an intense six-week period of talks and tactics. Will that be enough time to inject fresh impetus into negotiations and rescue the peace process. In a few minutes I'll be talking to the Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid. But first Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness. Mr McGuinness, good morning.

MARTIN MCGUINNESS:
Good morning Peter.

PETER SISSONS:
Now you may not like the way more time has been bought for negotiations but are you going to use the time to try to move the process forward?

MARTIN MCGUINNESS:
Well we have done that consistently over the course of the last three years and tried to get the Good Friday agreement implemented. Unfortunately we saw a week which began with a momentous announcement by the chair of the independent commission on decommissioning end with the suspension of the people's institutions. This is the second time that has happened. It's a breach of an international agreement, it undermines the institutions and it raises serious questions as to whether or not this suspension which has taken place on a second occasion can actually occur on a third occasion with even more disastrous consequences.

PETER SISSONS:
Well when it happened before of course the IRA walked away for a while. They didn't like it and they broke off contacts with General de Chastelain. Would you advise them not to do that this time, but to hang on in there?

MARTIN MCGUINNESS:
Well I would of course advise everybody to hang on in there and to continue to try and fully implement the Good Friday agreement but I do have to say that the Unionist rejection of General de Chastelain's determination and the suspension of the institutions may have caused a serious situation in that regard. I think that it in fact may have jeopardised the very important development of earlier this week and now we see a situation where there are questions being raised as to whether or not that initiative which was undertaken by both the IRA representative and General de Chastelain may indeed be jeopardised.

PETER SISSONS:
But the one thing that could change everything, I don't think the Unionists reject the IRA talking to General de Chastelain and I think that most moderate opinion would believe that it is as far as it goes it's quite good progress, but what they want is a timetable from the IRA. They want that extra bit that would change everything, a date on which something is going to happen.

MARTIN MCGUINNESS:
The announcement made by General de Chastelain was welcomed internationally and indeed by every political party who wants this Good Friday agreement implemented. The people who rejected the determination of the General was the Ulster Unionist Party. And effectively in rejecting the authority of General de Chastelain and the international commission have thrown us all out to a very grave crisis within this process - General de Chastelain reported great progress - it is our duty now to ensure that whatever agreements were made between, for example, the IRA representative and General de Chastelain, can be pursued with vigour. Our difficulty of course is that all of that work has now been very seriously undermined by the refusal of the Ulster Unionist Party to accept the determination of the General, at the head of an important commission established under the Good Friday agreement, and of course the illegal actions of the British government in dismantling the people's institution.

PETER SISSONS:
Martin, it can't be unreasonable after three years of this agreement, after the progress that's been made, after Sinn Fein in government, to expect the IRA to give us a date, to start putting its, on which it will start putting its weapons beyond use, turning the swords into ploughshares. What are they waiting for?

MARTIN MCGUINNESS:
Well I am absolutely in favour of all of that. And we in Sinn Fein are totally wedded to the decommissioning section of the Good Friday agreement. But the decommissioning section of the Good Friday agreement gives the responsibility for dealing with this issue with General de Chastelain. It isn't for me, or with respect, it certainly isn't for you, or for David Trimble to suggest how that work be completed. It is the responsibility of the armed groups and the General to deal with this issue. Now I think what we need to explore is the reasons why the Unionists are behaving the way they're behaving. And we've all watched very carefully this week new pre-conditions being injected into the situation, the goal posts being moved again. And increasingly we can see that David Trimble is more and more in the shadow of people like Jeffrey Donaldson and David Burnside. People who are absolutely pledged to the destruction of the Good Friday agreement. People who don't like a Fenian around the place and people who would wish that we would sit in the back of the bus. They need to remember that the days of us sitting in the back of the bus are gone. They're over. The Fenians are about the place, and we are going to continue to assert our rights for people's entitlements. The right to equality, the right to justice and the right to peace for everyone, including the Unionists who voted for the Good Friday agreement.

PETER SISSONS:
Just a final quick one, Martin McGuinness, do you wish the Omagh victims well in their civil action against the Real IRA?

MARTIN MCGUINNESS:
I certainly do with the Omagh victims well and my heart goes out to them in the suffering that they've endured over the course of recent years. And I think all of that shows how huge a responsibility it is for us as elected leaders not to fail those people, but to continue to work to ensure that the peace process succeeds and that the Good Friday agreement is implemented in full.

PETER SISSONS:
Martin McGuinness, thank you for joining us.

And now for his first interview since making the decision to go ahead and revoke the suspension, the Northern Ireland secretary Dr John Reid. Good morning, John.

JOHN REID:
Good morning, Peter.

PETER SISSONS:
Is everything going according to plan then?

JOHN REID:
Well I wish we hadn't found ourself in the circumstances we did but given the options that were in front of me which were essentially between an election with a prolonged period of disruption or a prolonged suspension, I took the third way which was to basically to give more time, to give peace a chance, and to buy more time but that has to be time for a purpose and that purpose surely is to now re-dedicate ourselves to implementing those parts of the Good Friday agreement that are still outstanding. To do that with all the commitment we can, and I can certainly tell you that I will be doing everything I can to reach that end. I don't think however uncomfortable it is, and I understand the frustration of people like Martin and others and I think he addressed that in fairly measured tones in the interview he's just done, I understand that. But I think people, the vast majority of people including he will recognise that I took the option that gives us more time to talk and to reach conclusions and decisions to move the peace process forward.

PETER SISSONS:
You've got another six weeks, then, what use is that if there is no further move on decommissioning?

JOHN REID:
Well let me just make one thing plain arising out of what has been said. The person who deals with decommissioning is General de Chastelain. He must satisfy himself and under the Good Friday agreement and under all of the suppositions on which we base this, he and his commission are the people who will decide the methodology of the agreement and report to us. However, I think it's also true to say just as the IRA in the statement has said that they would monitor political developments, that all of the politicians will monitor what's happening on the arms issue. That's something there's got to be movement on. But to answer your question, over the next six weeks I fully intend to address the questions which some people have said are stumbling blocks, the policing reforms, the non-publication of the implementation plan, which has now been shown to the parties, so we've a good idea on the basis of the draft what should be in that, the criminal justice review and so on, we should use that time productively and if every one of us does all of those who want to see this succeed, then we can, I believe we are tantalisingly close, this peace process in its final implementation, is within our grasp. It will take years and years, of course, to change mindsets and culture and for the implementation of the peace process to work through, but the final details are within our grasp.

PETER SISSONS:
Now you, you're an experienced politician. Do you believe in your bones that we will within the next few months or few weeks, or half a year, hear from General de Chastelain that concrete has been poured into some big IRA bunkers and the moment has arrived when we can actually say that verifiably and plainly beyond use?

JOHN REID:
I don't know about the methods and so on, these are up to General de Chastelain. But if you're asking me if I believe that there is within our grasp a resolution for conflict that has gone on in its latest phase 30 years, and back to 1798, and some would argue back to 1187, or thereabouts, is that possible? Yes it is. It is possible for us to tackle the longest-running problem in British and Irish history and I believe that the means by which we can tackle it have already been laid out, that is to resolve the problems between London and Dublin, between Catholic and Protestant, between Belfast and Dublin. Those are the essential elements and what has happened, because over the years they were not resolved is the consequence of those problems has been the gun. So we have not only to address the essential underlying problems by civil rights, by equality, by making sure that all citizens in Northern Ireland have the same rights but we also have to deal with the consequences of not having addressed that for years which is the gun. So they go hand in hand. Can we resolve it? I fervently believe we can and certainly my political life, as long as I'm here will be committed to that end.

PETER SISSONS:
Well, that's fine but on the day of the referendum of the Good Friday agreement three years ago, and many people have voted in the light of what he said, Tony Blair said representatives of parties intimately linked to paramilitary groups can only be in a future Northern Ireland government if it's clear there will be no more violence and that the threat of violence is gone. That does not just mean decommissioning but all bombings, killings, beatings, and the targeting, recruiting and all the structures of terrorism. Is that no longer operative? Have we quietly forgotten that? Can Sinn Fein go on in government forever while the IRA string you along?

JOHN REID:
No, it hasn't been forgotten and only last week for instance I announced that I was monitoring the situation as regards one Loyalist group. And remember it's not just the IRA here who have guns, there are all sorts of groups on both sides of the community and many of those guns have been used under the glorification of politics for criminality. Yes, it is the case that that still remains the objective as it does to resolve the political problems. But you see there are those people who say that the only answer to this is a security response and we can have a security response and we can have an organised crime task force and we can tackle the question of weapons but it isn't sufficient. We also need to tackle the root causes of what has been a decades-long dispute and that's what we're trying to do politically

PETER SISSONS:
And Dr Reid, if you can't do that in the next six weeks will you roll it over at the end of that for another six weeks in the hope of something better being dripped down by the IRA?

DR:
Well I'm regret the position that the circumstances in which we found ourselves. People know these were not of my making. They were essentially because of a breakdown in trust and agreement between the parties. I think it's wise to use the forthcoming period to do everything we can to make sure that we don't get the position you're outlining and not to try and jump ahead and calculate

PETER SISSONS:
I've got to stop you there. Thank you very much John Reid.

END


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