24 February 2006

Paisley Is Still 'Bigoted, Sectarian'

Derry Journal

Friday 24th February 2006

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness told the 'Journal' yesterday that SDLP leader, Mark Durkan is "no John Hume'. And the Mid Ulster M.P. hadn't too many kind words either for DUP leader, Ian Paisley, claiming that the long serving unionist leader was "still just as bigoted, sectarian and opposed to peace as he had always been through his long and negative political career."

The rising temperature of the political debate was only too apparent as Mr. McGuinness claimed that Mr. Durkan had colluded with both the British government and the DUP to exclude his party from talks. "Given the fact that Mark Durkan has whinged about the need for an inclusive process I was very disappointed that he was prepared to collude with the British and the DUP to exclude Sinn Fein. One thing is very clear -he's no John Hume."

The veteran republican was adamant that the process was now at a crucial stage and either there was a return to a devolved Assembly and Executive or the whole thing was shut down and the two governments began a "joint process" to replace it. Stating that he and Gerry Adams would be meeting the Taoiseach on Wednesday and British Prime Minister, Tony Blair on Thursday, Mr. McGuinness said he anticipated very frank discussions. "We are seeking real answers as to where the governments are taking this process. Now is the time for the British to put it up to the DUP. Either they are prepared to do business or they are not. If Paisley is not willing to work with the rest of us then not only should the salaries stop, the Assembly should be abolished and the governments begin a joint process to govern the North."

Mr. McGuinness said it was "make your mind up" time for Mr. Blair. "This week we saw another example of Paisley putting it up to everyone, including Mr. Blair. The whole focus by Paisley and other members of the DUP on long silent IRA guns while they remain silent on murder and violence amongst loyalists is self evidently ridiculous."The big challenge to Mr. Blair and the rest who say they want to restore the institutions is that Sinn Fein needs to be part of that process and it should be made clear that the only people preventing progress are the DUP badly led by Mr. Paisley."

Describing some of the DUP leader's recent utterances as "downright despicable," the Derry man said he regarded his recent comments about Irish president, Mary McAleese, as beyond the pale. "The reason I find it despicable is I think I have a more accurate assessment of what he is really about here: he's worried about the ongoing excellent work President McAleese and her husband Martin are doing in building bridges with loyalism. I think Paisley is attempting to scare off those loyalists who want cordial relationships with the rest of us."

Mr. McGuinness said he put Dr. Paisley's interventions this week on a par with his "sackcloth and ashes" speech in late Autumn last year which scuttled any chance of an agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein on the possibility of going into government. "I think it will become clear very shortly whether Paisley will do business. The wider unionist community knows a deal needs to be done. I think there is a growing recognition amongst unionists that they are going backwards under the leadership of Dr. No."

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