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DAVID FROST: Now for the peace process in Northern Ireland it always seems to be a question of one step forward and two steps back and this week appears to be no exception despite intensive discussions in Downing Street, the British government is expected to suspend the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly tomorrow and nobody knows when it might be reinstated. We'll be talking to David Trimble, the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in just a moment, the Irish Prime Minister also Bertie Ahern we'll be talking to him about what they want to see happen now. But first of all I'm joined by the Sinn Fein Deputy Leader, Martin McGuinness good morning.
MARTIN MCGUINNESS: Good morning David.
DAVID FROST: I don't know whether you've seen the Observer editorial, it usually takes a middle line on Northern Ireland but this morning, but it says here Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern says he will not enter a coalition with Sinn Fein while the IRA remains in existence, so Unionists in the North of Ireland might be forgiven for bemoaning the fact that they're asked to share power with Sinn Fein in Belfast while the IRA continue to beat, maim and gather intelligence on political opponents, police and prison officers. What's your response to that?
MARTIN MCGUINNESS: Well my response is that the North of Ireland has been particularly peculiar place over the course of the last 80 odd years, since Ireland was partitioned and there have been many armed groups in the North, I mean I do recall the fact that in 1997 whenever David Trimble and Geoffrey Donaldson walked into the talks, they walked into the talks with two armies beside them, one on the right side with the UVF and the other was the UDA and of course in the course of his journeys through our political process that the Rev Ian Paisley has had flirtations with all sorts of armed groups, including Ulster Resistance who imported large quantities of arms to the North of Ireland and then distributed those arms to both the UDA and the UVF. Now this is a difficult process for everyone, nobody said at the very beginning that it was going to be easy, the journey to peace is difficult but let me disagree with one thing that you did say at, at the introduction, whenever you said there is always appears to be one step forward and two steps back. I don't agree with that, I think where we are today compared to where we were ten years ago is a far different and a far better place and I have no doubt whatsoever if we can move forward decisively to embrace and promote the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement, where we will be 10 years from now will be a far better place than where we're at at the moment. And remember finally that if the people in the Middle East, the Palestinians and the Israelis had the type of process that we have at the moment I think they would be singing for joy in the streets.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of what John Reid said when he was here after the revelations of the police raid and so on, and referring to things like Castlerae and Colombia as well he said we need some straight answers on this in the coming week, we need to know from Sinn Fein and the Republican movement that this has stopped, that there will be no more of this. Again we certainly need answers from Sinn Fein and the Republican movement, the people of Northern Ireland need answers and certainly the Prime Minister will want answers, there has to be an assurance, they are no longer happening and will no longer happen. What is your answer to john Reid?
MARTIN MCGUINNESS: Well my answer is that we have an imperfect peace process, it isn't perfect but I think that in the course of the past week both Gerry Adams and I have been to Downing Street, we've spoken to, to Tony Blair and to John Reid and we've had a very thorough going discussion about all of these issues and about the crisis which we're faced into at the moment and, I mean let me say that I think that Tony Blair has made a very powerful contribution to the search for peace in Ireland. I think that he thinks that Gerry Adams and I too have made our own particular contribution to the peace process but we're all around this process long enough to know that there are going to be and have been in the past ongoing problems that we will have to manage. The question really is is it sensible to bring down the institutions that were established under the Good Friday Agreement rather than press on with making politics work and ensuring that the institutions continue to work in the interests of the people so that we can face all of those who are out there who in different ways have undermined the peace process for them to recognise that they have to face up to the need for them to make their particular contribution to all of this. Now I'm the Minister of Education in an Executive and have been Minister of Education for the last three years working alongside my Unionist and SDLP colleagues and I have found it a very important and very valuable experience because we're dealing with real issues that affect people in their day to day lives.
DAVID FROST: Let me just come in, let me just come in and if I may there, and make this point. That a lot of people are saying, not just Ulster Unionists but other people are saying the only thing that will kick-start this process all over again is for the IRA to say the war is over and to disband, now is that a realistic hope?
MARTIN MCGUINNESS: Well I'm working for all of that and I think that the progress that has been made in the course of recent years has been absolutely tremendous, I think the IRA have made a very powerful contribution to the search for peace. But you know I have to say as someone who comes from the Nationalist and Republican tradition, I think people are a bit fed up with this fixation on the IRA, now I'm not dismissing people's concerns about the existence of the IRA or indeed the ongoing campaign by Unionist paramilitaries against the Catholic community in Belfast but we have to cut to the chase here and we have to recognise that the reason we're in difficulty at the moment with our peace process is because of the inability of Unionist political leaders to come to terms with change.
DAVID FROST: Well alright...
MARTIN MCGUINNESS: ...let me make this point.
DAVID FROST: Yes alright finish the sentence, yes absolutely.
MARTIN MCGUINNESS: I do believe that there are Unionist leaders, particularly in the Ulster Unionist Party who do want to share power with Catholics and who are prepared to go along with the all-Ireland approach of the, that the North/South ministerial council represents. But I do have to say that they have capitulated in the course of the last two weeks to the rejectionist forces and those rejectionist forces, those rejectionist forces are opposed to the Good Friday Agreement because they're opposed to equality, they're opposed to All Ireland institutions, they're opposed to the Human Rights Commission and they, they are living in the past, they're resentful about the past and as we all know the past is a very difficult place to live in.
DAVID FROST: Right thank you very much indeed. Martin McGuinness thank you for joining us.
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