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There are no fisticuffs between McGuinness and myself – Paisley

(Irish News)

First Minister Ian Paisley has said he would like to see the IRA Army Council "done away with" – but he was making an effort to be able to talk to "these people" in a way that showed he was not out for their destruction.

Mr Paisley said the public in Northern Ireland were facing the situation and facing it very well.

"I do understand their feelings and there are more things they want the IRA to do," he said.

"I certainly want them to do more things.

"I would like to see the IRA Army Council done away with and I would like to see a lot of other things.

"I am making an effort to be able to talk to those people in a way that shows I am not there for their destruction but to get them away from the past and get them into the future."

The First Minister was asked why did more than 3,600 people die in the Troubles and the end result was power-sharing between unionists and republicans.

"To be brutally frank – they died because there were men and women prepared to take lives," he said.

"It was allowed to go [on] because the British government totally and utterly failed us.

"We were betrayed by the British government."

Mr Paisley paid tribute to those he described as "the finest police officers, the finest members of the UDR, the finest members of the [British] army and security forces" and said they had "all suffered terribly".

But Mr Paisley contended that the majority of these people have backed what he had done in going into power-sharing government "even though it was sore on them".

He said: "I appreciate how sore it is.

"I had to swallow my spittle and do things that I would never have dreamed of doing but I felt the time had come immediately the IRA said they would sign the pledge on [supporting] the police and that they would accept the rule of law and the courts.

"That was the time that [political] movement had to be made.

"It had to be a spectacular movement.

"It had to shake the people because if they had not hope then... they would never have had hope."

He was asked what were the key challenges for the executive, was the executive working and was Sinn Féin and the DUP in fact working together to the surprise of the general public?

"The general public will make its own verdict," he said.

"They will decide whether it is working or not.

"As far as I am concerned the government has been set up, the ministers are in place, this executive meets every fortnight and we are beginning to grapple with very, very hard problems this country now has.

"It will need all the patience and we will need all the grace to make a job of it. But I believe it can be done.

"There needs to be determination on behalf of those who have responsibility, to do the job to the best of their ability.

"This is no time for politicians to make excuses.

"We have a job to do and we must attempt to do it.

"If one attempt fails, another attempt has to be made.

"We are not in this job to pull the sticks up and go home."

The First Minister emphasised that they were in this job to stay put and get Northern Ireland back to a place of viability – a place where "no man is discriminated against because of his religion or beliefs but a country that accepts the rule of law, accepts the verdict of the courts and gives the police wholehearted support in keeping law and order".

Mr Paisley said that he finds among the people there is great heart and a great spirit among nationalists and unionists and everybody feels that here is a chance.

He was asked how he was getting on in his new job with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister.

"I have had no fisticuffs with him," Mr Paisley said smiling.

"He has not drawn anything to hit me with or fire it at me.

"We have been perfectly frank together.

"People must know it is not an easy relationship.

"It is not a love-in, it is a work-in.

"People think that we meet around a table and we shout.

"But the public would have heard long ago [if there had been a row].

"There is no row. The work has to be done.

"Both sides have what they believe are principles that they will not surrender."

June 10, 2007

This article appeared first in the June 9, 2007 edition of the Irish News.

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