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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
Does it bother you that yourself and Paisley are known as ‘the chuckle brothers’?
I think it was Danny Kennedy of the Ulster Unionist Party who coined that phrase. It was done to score a political point or to demean us. I think it worked against him and worked very much for Ian Paisley and myself. People like the fact that Ian Paisley and I could sit down together and have a decent, civilised relationship. It was Ian Paisley that said to me on the first occasion that we sat down, “Martin, you know, we can rule ourselves, we don’t need these people coming over from England telling us what to do,” and that was common ground. And Ian Paisley went on to say things that you would never have thought Ian Paisley would ever have said. For example, after the first meeting of the North/South ministerial council in Armagh, when the Taoiseach came up with all his ministers and we brought our ministers, and Ian Paisley and I and Bertie Ahern had to go out to talk to the media. Ian Paisley said, “We need to end the old divisions and the old hatreds and build a better future for our children.” They were remarkable days, absolutely.
If you became president of Ireland and had to meet the Queen of England, could you respect the fact that her sovereignty includes the six counties?
Well, if I am honoured by the people of Ireland to be elected as their president, I would be president of Ireland. I suppose the question then is, “Well, where is Ireland?” I spoke at a meeting in Omagh in Country Tyrone last night to 500 people in the new theatre, 300 people were turned away. Tyrone is as Irish as any other Irish county. Derry, where I come from, is as Irish as any other Irish county. But there are people there in the North who have a different allegiance, and it’s fair enough. If they want to have an allegiance to the Queen of England, let them have that. So there are people in the North who will give their allegiance to Ireland, and to the President of Ireland, and that’s fair enough. We need to be big about these things. We need to be generous, and we need to recognise that Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson have different allegiances to me, but we also have a common bond and our common bond is making the peace process work. So I would meet the Queen.