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Sunday, 5 November, 2000, 12:42 GMT
Deputy First Minister, Seamus Mallon
DAVID FROST: Well this week the Northern Ireland Executive meets for the first time since the First Minister, David Trimble, announced that he was effectively banning Sinn Fein members from formal meetings with their counteparts from the Republic of Ireland. The legitimacy of the ban is likely to be challenged at Thursday's meeting and there will be calls for the formal meetings, the so-called cross-border bodies, to continue with Sinn Fein representatives still carrying out their liaison roles as before. David Trimble's deputy, the SDLP's Seamus Mallon is in our Belfast studio right now. Seamus good morning.

SEAMUS MALLON: Morning David.

DAVID FROST: It says they're likely to be challenged on Thursday, is what David Trimble has done likely to be challenged right now by you?

SEAMUS MALLON: Oh yes, I think it's very clear that what he has done is counter to the agreement, the Good Friday Agreement, counter to the, the legislation on which it is based, it is breaking the programme for government that we produced two weeks ago, all of the parties produced that together and it is breaking our own ministerial code that binds all the ministers in our Executive. So I don't think there is any doubt whatsoever that it is a breakage of all of our rules and it's a breakage of all of our rules in such a way that runs against, completely against the whole basic thesis of the Good Friday Agreement and that is inclusivity and all parties working together and here we have an example of one party being excluded, excluded for reasons that have nothing to do with the institutions themselves but one of the issues that has been outside of those institutions yet has bound those institutions in a very debilitating way.

DAVID FROST: Do you agree though that when David Trimble says that Sinn Fein haven't come through in the way that they'd indicated?

SEAMUS MALLON: Oh yes I believe very clearly that in effect we have got two issues here, one is the working of the institutions and I can tell you that these institutions are very difficult to handle given the set of circumstances we have in Northern Ireland. It's even more difficult when you have a situation when they are being tampered with and actually broken because of an issue outside of the institutions, that issue of course is the issue of decommissioning and we have got a situation in June at Hillsborough after we all met there with the two governments, where in effect a commitment was given by the Sinn Fein that there would be engagement between the IRA and the International Commission. Now that has happened in a very cursory way, it has got to be substantive and I believe that it is necessary that the IRA re-engage with General de Chastelaine so that that issue can be dealt with. But I repeat those are two separate issues, once you link them into the political process in terms of the institutions then it is the institutions suffer and by definition it is David Trimble himself and myself and the political parties who have no control over decommissioning who suffer in this debate.

DAVID FROST: And in fact the reason that you attended Friday's North-South meeting was to show your moral support, was it?

SEAMUS MALLON: It was to show that I am standing by the agreements that I signed, by the programme of government that I was part of, by the schedule of meetings for North-South that I agreed along with David Trimble as did other members of the Executive. It was to show my support for this part of the institutions which is an inherent part of the set of institutions we set up subsequent to Good Friday. I stand by those agreements, I'm not going to be pushed off them by any section, political section, within Northern Ireland because I believe it is only by using and working those institutions properly that we will get the type, ultimately get the type of proper political working relationship that we need.

DAVID FROST: Now how can you actually in practice stop David Trimble doing this, I mean what would it take on Thursday or Wednesday or Friday, how can you change David Trimble's actions, change his mind?

SEAMUS MALLON: Well the reality is you see it is a joint administration, he and I are jointly the heads of it and that is the legal position. He has a veto I have a veto, he has chosen to use his veto and I think that's a mistake. I think it's a mistake for in a two veto situation for that veto ever to be used in this way. So there is no¿there's no pressure that I can use to say to David Trimble, look you must do this and I certainly am not going to engage in threatening the use of another veto that I hold, I'm not going to do that because it would be bad for the political process.

DAVID FROST: Right so you're, so you're not going to go for a veto for that specific reason, is there a danger that the executive could stall over this, that we could have another suspension and could the peace process stand another suspension of the assembly?

SEAMUS MALLON: No I don't think the executive will stall, I think people are beginning to realise this was a tactical mistake by David Trimble and I think we'll be able to iron it out secondly I don't think there will be a suspension for this very good reason, we've had two suspensions already both of those suspensions have arrived at the same type of position that is a lack of clarity as to what is going to happen in relation to the resolution of decommissioning. And thirdly the third part of your question, I don't believe that the body politic could withstand another suspension, you cannot simply turn off and turn on the taps of institutions like we have and hope that they will survive. I do not believe they will survive it and I don't think it will happen.

DAVID FROST: Seamus thank you very much, that's very clear, thank you for joining us this morning.

SEAMUS MALLON: Thank you David.

DAVID FROST: Seamus Mallon there.

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