JOHN HUMPHRYS: But first Northern Ireland.
David Trimble summed it up in one phrase yesterday "We've done our bit
Mr Adams, now it's over to you". It was not the outcome that many people
had hoped for. True, the Ulster Unionists agreed to sit in an executive
with the old enemy Sinn Fein, so at least devolution can go ahead, but
- and it's a very big but - everything now rests on the IRA beginning
to get rid of its weapons within the next two months, because the Unionist
Council is meeting again in February and if the IRA have not delivered,
well then it's over. Mr Trimble has written a post dated letter of resignation
and handed it to his party. The chief negotiator for Sinn Fein is Martin
McGuinness, he'll be one of the two Sinn Fein ministers in the new government
and he's in our Derry studio. Good afternoon Mr McGuinness.
MARTIN MCGUINNESS: Good afternoon John.
HUMPHRYS: This is what you wanted?
MCGUINNESS: Well obviously I am very pleased
that the coming days will see the establishment, the creation of the power
sharing executive, the all-Ireland administrial council and the All Ireland
implementation bodies. I think that that is an important development.
Now at the same time I think that I have to express my very grave and
serious concern that over the course of the last eleven weeks myself and
Gerry Adams and others within the leadership of Sinn Fein have been involved
in detailed discussions with the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party
and the two governments as to how we can break the impasse and move forward,
and of course the result of that were the Mitchell proposals. What I heard
emanating from the Waterfront Hall yesterday bears no relation whatsoever
to the agreement that we made, so I think that it's important that everybody
keeps their word and I think that we all must face forward, we're living
in interesting and very hopeful times and I think it's incumbent upon all
of us to move forward in a very positive and very constructive frame of
mind. Tomorrow is going to be a very, very important day for all the people
of Ireland and I believe that we can move forward to create the circumstances
which will give us the justice, the equality and the peace that we have
long since been denied.
HUMPHRYS: So on Thursday the IRA
will appoint somebody assuming he or she is not already appointed, but
we will know the person who has been appointed on Thursday to liase with
General de Chastelaine, who is in charge of the de-commissioning process?
MCGUINNESS: Well, they have made a statement
to that effect, that they will meet for discussions with General de Chastelaine
and it is expected that that will happen in the aftermath of devolution
on Thursday and will happen on Thursday yes.
HUMPHRYS: And who is that likely
to be, could it be you. I hear stories that it might even be you?
MCGUINNESS: No, there's no prospect whatsoever
of it being me.
HUMPHRYS: Why not?
MCGUINNESS: Because I'm not a member of
HUMPHRYS: So we will know the name
will we on Thursday?
MCGUINNESS: Well I don't know. That's
a matter for the IRA. I think that that's really a matter between them
and General de Chastelaine. I think we will all have to understand that
as the result of the very great efforts of Senator Mitchell and the political
leaders and the two governments in the course of recent weeks that we have
actually ended up with an agreement, that this issue be given back to the
person who should have handled it in the first place, General de Chastelaine,
and of course both he and Senator Mitchell have been on the record in stating
that the issue of dealing with decommissioning is a collective responsibility.
It's a collective responsibility for all the political parties and the
two governments. They've also made it quite clear that decommissioning
cannot be imposed, that decommissioning must be a voluntary exercise by
the armed groups and I think we have to ask ourselves the question whether
or not the move made yesterday by the Ulster Unionist Party will make that
more easier or more difficult. I tend to think it will make it more difficult.
HUMPHRYS: In what sense. I mean
are you suggesting that perhaps this process will not begin on Thursday
as the result of that?
MCGUINNESS: Well, I'm not suggesting that
for one minute. I think that there is a sensible way to handle this issue
of decommissioning and I believe that from the perspective of the political
parties in the two governments there is a golden opportunity now for politicians
to take control, to make politics work, to remove all of the injustices,
the inequalities, the discriminations.....
HUMPHRYS: Indeed. You made that
point earlier, but I mean you also said - if I may just intervene, because
you did make that point earlier, but you also said that what happened
yesterday in Belfast at the Ulster Unionist Council made it more difficult.
Well, in what sense more difficult. I mean what we are assuming is that
the process will begin, the IRA will nominate somebody and the process
will begin on Thursday. Are you casting any doubt on that at all?
MCGUINNESS: No, I'm not casting any doubt
on it, what I'm saying very clearly is that what happened yesterday at
the Waterfront Hall is very clearly outside the terms of the Good Friday
Agreement and is most definitely outside the terms of the agreement that
we made with Mr Trimble and others in the course of recent days. Now all
of that was a very carefully choreographed approach. It was a step by
step approach and I think the people have seen this unfold between their
eyes. Now, what we need to do as political leaders as we face into what
is going to be a very, very important week in the history of this island
and for all the people of Ireland, is be very cool, be very calm, very
collected, very stoical about how we move forward.
HUMPHRYS: So how...
MCGUINNESS: .. we in Sinn Fein intend to
do all of that, so we now need to see as a matter of urgency, and I expect
we will see it in the coming days is the establishment of the institutions
and politicians pressing on to implement the agreement that should have
been implemented over eighteen months ago.
HUMPHRYS: Right. Politicians pressing
on, the institutions set up, yes, but how quickly do you expect to see
the arrangements on decommissioning agreed between the IRA and General
John de Chastelaine?
MCGUINNESS: Well I fully expect that the
IRA representative will be appointed next Thursday and as far as I am concerned
that matter is then a matter between the IRA and indeed all the armed groups
and General de Chastelaine. They should be left on their own. From our
perspective as politicians, our job is to drive, be the engine of the political
process. Our job is to show people on the ground that politics work.
Our job is to create the circumstances and conditions which will make it
possible for the armed groups to destroy their weaponry or decommission
or whatever they want to do in a voluntary way.
Now the difficulty about
the Ulster Unionist approach is that we have seen over the course of the
last eighteen months a very combative, very confrontational, full of ultimatums
and demand approach which didn't work. Absolutely clearly did not work.
Now the difficulty about the step taken yesterday by the Unionists is
that it clearly was not in my opinion a decisive step forward, it was a
jump forward to uncertainty. We need to remove that uncertainty, we need
to know that there is going to be devolution, that the institutions are
going to be created, that they are going to continue and that the politicians
are going to work in an honest endeavour to create the conditions which
will make it possible for the armed groups to decommission, that is what
Sinn Fein is committed to.
HUMPHRYS: And Peter Mandelson made
it very clear this morning that he expects you and Mr Adams as leaders
of the Republican movement to make sure that decommissioning does come
MCGUINNESS: Well the Good Friday Agreement
makes it absolutely clear that there is a collective responsibility on
all of the participants. There is no singular responsibility on Sinn Fein
to deal with this issue but we are absolutely committed to playing our
part along with Mr Mandelson, along with Mr Trimble, along with all of
the other political leaders to create the conditions which will make it
possible for the armed groups to engage on a voluntary act of decommissioning.
Now our job in the meantime is to press on with the political process.
I think that we also have to consider over the course of the coming weeks
and months whether or not it is beneficial raising this issue, this issue
of decommissioning over and above all other aspects of the Good Friday
Agreement. I think there has been a serious blunder, a serious mistake
over the course of the last eighteen months that this issue was allowed
to gain the dominant position that it gained. Our job over the coming
weeks is to ensure the politics is working and the politicians are doing
their job. That's what we're committed to.
HUMPHRYS: And to making sure that
all weapons are decommissioned by the end of May.
MCGUINNESS: Well our policy in Sinn Fein
is to remove all of the injustices, all of the inequalities, all of the
conflict and all of the guns from Irish politics. Were absolutely committed
to achieving that yes.
HUMPHRYS: And you would expect
to start, you would expect the IRA to start that by the end of January
which is what the Ulster Unionists want, perfectly understandably.
MCGUINNESS: I expect the Ulster Unionists
to keep their word.
HUMPHRYS: No, I'm asking you what
you expect of the IRA because you are after all connected with the IRA.
MCGUINNESS: No, I am not connected to the
HUMPHRYS: Oh come on - you say
you're not a member of the IRA fine, but I mean the idea that there is
no relationship between you and the IRA is preposterous isn't it.
MCGUINNESS: Well I mean this is the old
debate, the old agenda. Let's not get into that..
HUMPHRYS: ..that's why I'm trying
to get over it...
MCGUINNESS: ..let's deal with the reality
I expect over the course of the coming days..
HUMPHRYS: ..yes I am asking you
what you expect, precisely.
MCGUINNESS: I expect General de Chastelaine
to do his job. I expect General de Chastelaine to be allowed to do his
job. I expect David Trimble not to interfere in that process and I expect
David Trimble to work with the rest of us to create the conditions which
will make is possible for the armed groups to decommission under the terms
of the Good Friday Agreement - that's our job.
HUMPHRYS: Exactly, so you want,
you personally as a leader of the Republican Movement, you want the IRA
to begin decommissioning by the end of January. That is what you want?
MCGUINNESS: Well I am committed to making
the Good Friday Agreement work in all its aspects......
HUMPHRYS: So the answer's yes......
MCGUINNESS: Nobody...let nobody be under
any doubt or illusion about all of that. The question for us is whether
or not as political leaders we can accomplish that. We have seen eighteen
months of failure. Now, I'm not into recriminating about all of that,
I think that we are on the threshold of a far far more hopeful age in
the history of the island of Ireland.
HUMPHRYS: So do you believe you
can accomplish that, that is to say the IRA beginning to decommission by
the end of January? Do you believe that can be accomplished?
MCGUINNESS: Well that's a responsibility,
a collective responsibility for all of the parties. It's totally and absolutely
wrong for people to put that question in terms of what Sinn Fein can deliver,
in terms of what Gerry Adams......
HUMPHRYS: I'm asking whether you
believe it will happen?
MCGUINNESS: Our job collectively, Mr Mandelson,
Mr Trimble, all of the other parties - our job is to create the conditions
which will make it possible for the armed groups to decommission..
HUMPHRYS: ..so is it possible it
MCGUINNESS: Can we be successful? - I believe
that if we implement in good faith the Good Friday Agreement that it is
possible to achieve that objective but, you know, the jury is out on where
the Unionists are at. I give them credit for the decision that they took
yesterday but I think that people should not under any circumstances enter
new elements into this that have not been agreed between us in the course
of our discussions in recent days.
HUMPHRYS: So there is a possibility,
this is what you're saying to me, so I am quite clear, there is a possibility
that is will not happen. Is that what you're saying?
MCGUINNESS: No that's not what I'm saying.
I am looking forward to success, to the successful implementation of all
aspects of the Good Friday Agreement and I am working to that end. Now
I believe that my primary responsibility at this time is to make politics
work, is for politicians to seize control. I do think, and I think it
is important to point out, that I think that the approach adopted over
the course of the last eighteen months in dealing with this issue of decommissioning
from the Unionist side has been detrimental to the objective they say they
wish to achieve. So our responsibility I think is to point out to the
Unionists that there's a sensible way to proceed here. Let's not fill
this full of ultimatum and demand because if it does it makes our job all
the more difficult.
HUMPHRYS: Right, let me ask you,
just a few seconds left if I may, are you worried about splinter group,
people who have splintered away from the IRA over the years? The INLA,
the Real IRA, Continuity IRA, some disaffected Provisionals - are you worried
that they may get together and make trouble?
MCGUINNESS: Well I mean it is well known
that there are people who reject the approach that Gerry Adams and I and
others within the Sinn Fein leadership have adopted over the course of
the last number of years but the reality is that they don't represent
anybody. The reality is that we can say without fear of contradiction
that we in Sinn Fein and the SDLP and the Irish government do on this occasion
absolutely represent the entire nationalist community on the island of
Ireland. I believe that anybody who has intention whatsoever of usurping
the democratic wishes of those people are making a serious mistake.
HUMPHRYS: Martin McGuinness thank
you very much indeed.