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Driving Mr McGuinness

Mark Devenport | 14:28 UK time, Friday, 8 June 2007

The main political news today is Peter Robinson's decision to stop giving Sinn Fein money in order to directly employ their own drivers. One can imagine why republican ministers didn't in the past want to use civil service drivers. Now, unless the Finance Minister's decision is overturned, they will have to use the government car pool drivers or pay for their own. It could lead to a few good anecdotes along the lines of "I had that Martin McGuinness in the back of the car once..."

It reminds me of one freezing day in January 2005 when I was reporting on a Sinn Fein delegation getting a supposed "dressing down" from Tony Blair at Chequers. The encounter took place in the wake of the Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney.

I wanted to catch Gerry Adams for an Inside Politics interview and the only way to do it was to get into his car on his way back to Heathrow. Much to the bemusement of the waiting camera crews, I jumped into the vehicle as if I was part of the Sinn Fein delegation.

We then conducted our 15 minute interview with a bit of difficulty as the Sinn Fein people carrier swung around endless tight corners on the narrow roads through the Chiltern Hills. After finishing, I asked to be dropped off at the next village we came though. Gerry Adams' press officer conveyed the request to the driver, then the Sinn Fein President added "drop him off by all means, but there's no need to slow down". I think he was joking...

On the topic of ministerial cars, I am told a new fleet is on order and they are Skodas. At least they're not Trabants.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:45 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Susie Flood wrote:


The proposal to force all Ministers to use Government car pool drivers is another piece of Peter Robinson insensitivity that will pose significant risks for Sinn Fein Ministers. Robinson knows full well that the car pool drivers have not been trained in getaway driving techniques for evasion and escape. Disgraceful!


  • 2.
  • At 09:58 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I'm surprised they didn't make a 'green' statement by having a Toyota Prius fleet...

  • 3.
  • At 03:46 PM on 13 Jun 2007,
  • Owen McManus wrote:

The issue of Sinn Fein having their own drivers is one that poses a couple of interesting questions.

If the issue is that in nature of wasting money, then perhaps our MLA's might like to explain, what they were doing picking up pay checks over the last few years.

Secondly, as Susie in Carryduff points out, if there is an issue of being trained in evasive driving techniques, then there could be none more qualified, than West Belfast's current joy rider population, who have been successfully escaping from the police for years.

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