McGuinness accuses DUP and UUP of ‘dancing to the tune of extremists’
SDLP leader says Ian Paisley must not be allowed to rewrite history
Ian Paisley: TV programme triggered sharp reactions, with nationalist politicians saying that Dr Paisley was refusing to face up to the alleged part he played in fomenting sectarian division going back to the 1950s. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA
Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has accused the DUP and Ulster Unionist Party “of dancing to the tune of extremists” by failing to move forward on the Haass proposals concerning flags, parading and the past.
Mr McGuinness, after a 90-minute meeting with the four other Northern Executive party leaders at Stormont yesterday, insisted that some form of resolution over the Richard Haass proposals must be achieved in the short term.
The five leaders – Mr McGuinness, Peter Robinson of the DUP, Dr Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP, Mike Nesbitt of the Ulster Unionist Party and David Ford of Alliance – have agreed to meet again next Tuesday in pursuit of a solution.
Mr McGuinness said he was not interested in negotiating some 344 elements in the 39-page Haass paper which First Minister Peter Robinson said he has identified. Mr McGuinness said it was now up to the DUP and UUP to detail where the problems lay and for the leaders to resolve them.
“What I said very clearly to Mike [Nesbitt] and to Peter [Robinson] is that you are the people who have the problems with the Haass proposals. You need to put up on the table the issues that are of concern to you and we can explore that,” he said. “The elephant in the room . . . is whether or not unionist political leaders are prepared to confront the extreme elements within their community who they are letting set their agenda on Haass to date and former members of the RUC and other crown forces lobbying the DUP and the UUP to prevent truth recovery processes which are victim-centred.”
Making politics work
Mr McGuinness said when he mentioned extremists he was n
ot just referring to loyalists, but to dissidents as well. “The best way to deal with extremists is to make politics work.”
Some politicians and commentators have argued that any possible unionist movement on Haass cannot happen until after the European and local elections in May. Mr McGuinness insisted he was not prepared to wait that long.
Separately, the SDLP leader has warned that former first minister the Rev Ian Paisley, now Lord Bannside, “must not be allowed to rewrite history”.
In the wake of Monday night’s BBC documentary on Dr Paisley, Paisley: Genesis to Revelation, Dr McDonnell said it was a shame that the former DUP leader did not use the programme to apologise for his previous “words and deeds”.
“Ian Paisley must not be allowed to rewrite history and distance himself from the consequences of his firebrand language and actions,” said Dr McDonnell.
The second of the two-part series in which journalist Eamonn Mallie interviews Dr Paisley is scheduled to run on Monday. That programme is expected to contain criticism by Dr Paisley of his successor as DUP leader and First Minister Mr Robinson.
The first programme triggered sharp reactions, with nationalist politicians saying that Dr Paisley was refusing to face up to the alleged part he played in fomenting sectarian division going back to the 1950s.
Dr McDonnell, who stood unsuccessfully against Dr Paisley when he was first elected to the House of Commons in 1970, was critical of the former first minister’s TV remarks.
He queried how Dr Paisley could distance himself from the UDA leadership during the 1974 Ulster Workers Council strike that brought down the Sunningdale powersharing executive. He said that one of his “most disgraceful statements” in the programme was the implication that the Irish people brought upon themselves the 1974 UVF Dublin-Monaghan bombings in which 33 people were killed.
“Additionally, accusations that the Civil Rights movement in which members of the SDLP played a key part was ‘tied up with threats [and] part of the overall cauldron that was being heated by parts of the community to get their own way’ beggars belief,” added Dr McDonnell.
On RTÉ radio former SDLP deputy first minister Seamus Mallon also queried issues on the programme, such as how Dr Paisley could claim he was opposed to discrimination of Catholics.