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We Need To Talk About Martin
His entry into the Presidential race came as a bombshell, throwing many political commentators, as well as the Fine Gael party, into a tailspin. It has also been the catalyst to a surge in support in the opinion polls for Sinn Féin. So who is Martin McGuinness? What is he like as a man? And can a self-confessed former IRA leader convince the Irish peope that he has what it takes to be the President?
Olaf Tyaransen, 21 Oct 2011
What’s been the greatest moment of your life?
Well, I suppose there have been many great moments. Like the day I married my wife.
Are you still in love after all this time?
After 37 years, four children, and five grandchildren, absolutely. The day my four children were born… I married a very special person. My wife Bernie could handle all that we’ve been through over the course of almost four decades. I married her just after the introduction of internment, although I had known her before that. It’s been a hard struggle for the two of us and I think that it’s more than a great achievement that we’ve managed to come through it unscatched. The births of my children were also great days, and my grandchildren. But if you’re talking about a political sense, the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement, the fact that the British Prime Minister was able to say to me, “Martin, I’ve read my history and I know that successive British government were as responsible for what happened here…” – this was in Belfast he said it – “…as anybody else.” That was a big admission by Tony Blair.
The day the Agreement was signed must have been a standout moment.
I remember there was a bit of a delay, we thought that the Agreement had been made on the morning of Good Friday and it ran on through the day. I had two encounters in the corridor that day. I met David Irvine and Billy Hutchinson, and I said to the two of them, “Are you two guys ok with these North/South institutions?” And David said, “Martin, look, we’re grand, we’re ok.” And then I met Martin Mansergh and asked what was the delay, and he said, “Look, the Ulster Unionists are just coming to terms with the realisation that they’re going to be in government with you.” We eventually sat around a table with Senator George Mitchell, and we were all asked if we consented to the Agreement. Some people consented and some people said they would consult with their parties, but it was quite obvious at that stage that we were heading towards an agreement which would see us all go out to the people, to ask the whole of Ireland to endorse the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement and they did, and that was a massive highlight. And then as a result of that, I became Minister of Education, another big event, an incredible experience.