The Guardian December 6, 2000


Martin McGuinness on Ireland's peace process
"Make politics work"

"I am convinced that if we can continue to make politics work and show 
the benefits of that for the people, then ... that will greatly enhance the 
peace process", said Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's Chief Negotiator, 
speaking at a press conference in Sydney last Saturday.

"We are yet in another crisis with the peace process at the moment", said 
Mr McGuinness. This is because of the activities of the forces of 
rejectionism [those who reject the Good Friday Agreement] within Unionism 
and the actions of both the British Government and David Trimble who leads 
the Ulster Unionists.

Mr McGuinness was part of the team who negotiated the 1998 Good Friday 
Agreement, and is one of 18 Sinn Feen representatives elected to the 
Northern Ireland Assembly, where he serves as Minister for Education. He is 
also a Westminster MP (abstentionist).

He expressed his pleasure at visiting Australia, the first Sinn Fein 
Minister to do so.

"I think generally ... Australians are very keenly interested in the peace 
process in Ireland and anxious like all the rest of us to see that 
successfully concluded."

"We achieved an agreement against all odds and we've been battling for the 
last two years to see that agreement fully implemented", said Mr 
McGuinness.

"We need to get away from this sense of crisis within the process, and 
people do need to recognise that we should join in common cause to defeat 
the rejectionists on all sides who wish to destroy the work that we have 
been involved in in recent years."

Mr McGuinness is in Australia to thank the many people and support 
organisations for their solidarity.

He is meeting with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and other political 
leaders and hopes to impress upon them "the need ... to continue to 
encourage the British Government to do the right thing by Ireland.

"The key person in the whole equation in my view, from our perspective in 
Sinn Fein, is the British Prime Minister.

"He has to stand firm, he has to make it absolutely clear to the 
rejectionists within Unionism and ... within the British establishment that 
the peace process of the Good Friday Agreement is the only way forward."

Answering a question on decommissioning of weapons, Mr McGuinness said it 
was used as an excuse by rejectionist Unionists, who seek to undermine the 
peace process.

These same Unionists, he said, had no difficulty whatsoever when the Good 
Friday negotiations began, welcoming to the negotiations representatives of 
the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association, 
organisations that were previously involved in the killing of Irish 
nationalists.

"Of course, these organisations have been armed by elements within British 
military intelligence, and I think that within the community that I come 
from people have been convinced for some considerable time that there are 
still elements within British military intelligence who are as opposed to 
the peace process on Ireland as the rejectionist Unionists are."

Demilitarisation

"Many parts of the north of Ireland are effectively being oppressed by a 
very heavy British Army military presence.

"... we've had this debate within the peace process about what is the best 
way to defend the Good Friday Agreement. Is it with thousands of British 
soldiers in our countryside, in our towns and villages or is it with the 
power of the people?

"We believe the power of the people is much more powerful than the British 
Army...

"We believe that by, if you like, encouraging further demilitarisation, 
that that actually strengthens the ability of people to embrace the peace 
process and to face down rejectionists on our side who would wish to 
destroy it."

Getting on with the job

"One of the most important things that's happened in the course of this 
year was the fact that the power-sharing Executive that is made up of 
Unionists, Nationalists and Republicans was able to agree to a draft budget 
and a draft program for government...

"The Assembly in Belfast at present is debating both a budget and a draft 
program for government and we expect in the coming weeks that all of this 
can be passed at the Assembly and that we can then press on to deal with 
the real issues that affect people and their daily lives.

"We have to keep this going, and in keeping it going be confident that we 
can set before people a whole new range of opportunities to enhance their 
prosperity, their economic prosperity, their political circumstances, their 
social circumstances, and to continue to beaver away and work hard at 
making politics work.

"That's the task before us. All of the other difficulties that have been 
thrown out of the middle of this equation can easily be overcome if 
politicians work together...."

"I work to see an end to British rule in my country, I want to see a united 
Ireland, I want to see all of the people of Ireland work together to bring 
about the new Ireland that we've all been working for in the course of 
recent years.

"It still can be done even with this latest crisis and difficulty, we can 
still manage to pull this off if we work together and if we join together 
to face down the rejectionists, whether they be Unionists or the Irish 
Republicans who are hell-bent on destroying the peace process.

"There is incredible hope and expectation all over Ireland that we can move 
forward to end the injustices of the past, allow people to work together 
within communities and end division on the island of Ireland."

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