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Breakfast with Frost Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Interview with John Reid MP, Northern Ireland secretary
John Reid MP, Northern Ireland secretary
John Reid MP, Northern Ireland secretary
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: JOHN REID MP JUNE 9TH, 2002

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

DAVID FROST: Terrorism of course is something with which we're all familiar, we're all too familiar with it in this country in terms of particularly Northern Ireland. Militant wings on all sides in Northern Ireland have perpetrated violence and caused untold heartache over the last few decades. Although progress has been made politically there are still outbreaks of violence on the streets. This weekend a Catholic school in Belfast, East Belfast was damaged in an arson attack following a week of sectarian violence in the region. There have been major standoffs in the Short Strand area where Catholics and Protestants live side-by-side, rival Loyalist and Nationalist factions clashed in riots and launched petrol bombs on nearby houses. The Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid has spoken to both sides to try to find a resolution for the conflict and he's here with us now, John good morning.

JOHN REID: Good morning to you David.

DAVID FROST: All that list there of the things, the violence, there has been an explosion of violence which is obviously bad news, I mean there could have been more deaths and that would have been even worse news, why, why do you think suddenly there should be this inter-community violence?

JOHN REID: Well I think the first thing is that it's not suddenly, to put this in context most of the areas where this has been occurring it's been going on not just as the troubles but for around 200 years, there have been books written on the Short Strand and other areas so the fact that people see this, they assume that the whole of Northern Ireland is continually like this, it isn't, there's two things going on. One is a peace process with a vast majority of people in Northern Ireland are busy building a decent future for themselves and then we've got certain areas where there is the hatred, the bitterness, the legacy, the bigotry, the sectarianism which is deplorable but it's not a new thing. What I think is, is more worrying is the general lack of confidence that we're now getting in the process, enormous efforts have been spent in, in moving the peace process forward, there have been enormous benefits but there are obviously still activity, orchestration of violence by the paramilitaries on all sides and that is very worrying. It is particularly important that we have clear and unambiguous commitment to exclusively democratic means, not only by the paramilitaries in general but particularly by Sinn Fein who are partners in government.

DAVID FROST: Right but at the same time it would seem that the paramilitaries on the Protestant side have been active than the paramilitaries on the Republican side. Looking at all the reports?

JOHN REID: Well I think in recent weeks that is, that is very difficult to sustain, I mean there have been five Loyalists on the Loyalist side who have actually been shot in the past ten days. Yesterday there was under-car bomb, a terrible, deplorable, cowardly act on a new recruit to the police force, a Catholic which appears to have been put there¿

DAVID FROST: Well was that...was that a deliberate attempt to scare off Catholics from joining the new police force?

JOHN REID: Yes it was an it appears, it appears to have been done by dissident Republicans, it appears to have been done and what we've got to realise is these people are frightened, they not only use fear and terror in order to get their own way but they're actually themselves in the grip of the fear, that democracy will supplant their power to force events by the use of violence. So what we need to move this process forward is a confidence that everybody involved in it is absolutely committed to a democratic way of resolving issues. As the Irish Prime Minister said, there is no room in a democracy for a private army that is still active even upon ceasefire, active in targeting or training or attempting to acquire weapons and there must be no ambiguity at all about this because if there is the other partners in this agreement will gradually lose all confidence.

DAVID FROST: And do you think you can make sure that this is, you can't do everything but this is in fact not another bloody marching season, is there something extra you can do or David Trimble suggested...

JOHN REID: Well we can, we can provide the security but at the end of the day this will not be solved by security and by guns on any side of the equation, it will only be resolved by the un-ending commitment to political dialogue. Now if anybody has problems with managing this process and I understand that the Republicans have come a huge way, a huge way, they have made major compromises but they can't stop halfway and if there are problems at moving the process forward let's be honest about it and talk about it because it's only through that discussion that we can resolve these issues.

DAVID FROST: And what about the new Lord Mayor of Belfast, if you'd had a vote would you have voted for him?

JOHN REID: Well I didn't have a vote and I'm certainly not going to put myself in a position of second guessing Belfast City Council or the Assembly or the Executive in Northern Ireland. What I would say is this, that Alex Maskey, who's the new Lord Mayuor there, the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor deserves to be judged on his actions. He has said he will act on behalf of all the people of Belfast and I think like anyone else who is elected to that position we should give him a chance and see if he does that and if he does that there'll be nobody more pleased than me.

DAVID FROST: And what about back here, why is it John, that you and John Prescott are not enjoying all the crocquet and jacuzzis down at the hotel and you're not there that is appalling?

JOHN REID: I'm terribly sorry to disappoint you David I was there.

DAVID FROST: Were you?

JOHN REID: I'm afraid there was no croquet, there was nothing on the lawn but there were some very useful discussions, last night for instance I had long discussions with Bill Clinton who made...

DAVID FROST: I'm glad you corrected that because all the papers didn't include your name in the list and John Prescott, was he there?

JOHN REID: That's probably because I don't spin David, John wasn't but I wasn't at the last one, I mean John has been at these before and I think it's symptomatic these stories of a sort of culture in the media which concentrates on personalities and froth and so on and what was happening was that a number of people from European as well as from the United States, Democratic party in the United States, a number of people from the centre-left who are interested in progressive policies got together to look at what was happening, to, to look at some of the huge issues that face us, the inter-dependence globally, the insecurity that that brings to people, how we can act better together and of course Tony Blair is, is the prominent leader now in power of that the centre-left progressive politics in the world. Bill Clinton who's made a major contribution was there, I was there on this occasion along with Patricia Hewitt and one or two other ministers, on previous occasions other ministers have been there. So there's no story again.

DAVID FROST: Well it's, it's very good to get it...but no jacuzzi?

JOHN REID: No I'm afraid no jacuzzis no croquet at all.

DAVID FROST: Billiards?

JOHN REID: No billiards, no none at all, getting up on a Saturday morning and working throughout the day talking about real politics, not so much the froth and the personalities. There is a serious point here about what we were trying to do, for generations people were offered the choice between a political party that believed in a strong economy and generally on the right in Britain and a political party that believed in social justice and fairness and the third way was an attempt to say, and New Labour manifested this, you need a strong economy in order to have social justice. But the economy isn't strong, you don't produce the wealth in order to help the...

DAVID FROST: But are we going to have more, hear more about the third way and so on?

JOHN REID: Well there is no doubt that the most progressive forces in the world at present are the people who are trying to find a way that is different from the, a choice between the old Tories who believed in a strong economy and free enterprise and old Labour who believed just in social justice. We believe in both and many of our partners, including the new democrats...

DAVID FROST: I must just give you a chance to respond to the, I read out to Iain Duncan Smith earlier on the Mirror quote which is shabby, shameful, disgraceful and the Times saying this is not a major scandal and he had some very trenchant things to say. Presumably you go with the Times version?

JOHN REID: Well if you're asking me if we have made mistakes in government, yes we have David, they have not been the corrupt and crooked things which have ended up with Tories in jail but we have made mistakes but I also think that, that there is a media culture which concentrates on the personalities and on the froth now. Every time I come on a programme to communicate it's regarded as spin, every time I criticise another politician it's a government smear. Every time someone makes a donation to the Labour Party it is sleaze. Now what that does is it doesn't just harm the Labour Party it brings the whole of politics into disrepute and politics is an honourable trade, most of us are trying to get a better health service, better education for the people of this country, that's politics and that's what we should concentrate on.

DAVID FROST: I must leap in there and hand you back to Bill. Thank you very much John.

DAVID FROST: John some Scots tell us they're not supporting England, anyone but England some Scots are doing, what's this Scot doing?

JOHN REID: Well I didn't have the jaccuzzi and I didn't have the croquet but I did watch the England game along with Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander incidentally, other Scottish Ministers. I wish England well, I could be sarcastic and say it's good to see a British team doing well but the Scots have got the Parliament, the Welsh have got the Assembly, the Northern Irish have got the Assembly so give England their World Cup.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed, that's positive words at the end of a positive week. Less positively we won't be here next week because of the World Cup in fact being at this very hour but we'll be back the following week at our usual time of nine o'clock and we shall be looking out for you. Good morning.

END

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