Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness: I still keep in touch with Ian Paisley

Shared laughter between the then First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in May 2007
Shared laughter between the then First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in May 2007
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness show Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond how to play a Lambeg Drum
New York, New York: First Minister Ian Paisley and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness after they rang the opening bell at the Nasdaq in Times Square
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness have been photographed laughing together since taking office in May. Now some politicians say it's time to change the image
Ian Paisley, left, and Martin McGuinness, right, attend the opening of the New Victoria Shopping complex in Belfast
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and First Minister Ian Paisley
Bush, center, meets with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness Friday, Dec. 7, 2007, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington
Bush, center, meets with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness Friday, Dec. 7, 2007, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington
Bush meets with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness
Democratic Presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, shares a laugh with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness
Democratic Presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, with Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., center, meets with Northern Ireland leaders Ian Paisley, left, and Martin McGuinness, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007 on Capitol Hill in Washington
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., right, greets Northern Ireland's leaders Ian Paisley, left, and Martin McGuinness, center, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007, on Capitol Hill in Washington
Northern Ireland leaders, Ian Paisley, right, and Martin McGuinness, left, talk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007, with Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., second from right, and Rep. Jim Walsh, R-N.Y.
Ian Paisley, left, and Martin McGuinness hold a news conference in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007
Things are looking up: Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in New York look around Times Square after visiting the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007
Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in New York after they rang the opening bell, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007
Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in New York after they rang the opening bell, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007
Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are seen off-stage at the Nasdaq Stock Market broadcast center in New York after they rang the opening bell, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007
Martin McGuiness, third from left, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, and First Minister Ian Paisley, third from right, are joined by business leaders as they ring the opening bell at the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007
Martin McGuiness, left, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, and Ian Paisley, right, First Minister, react after ringinging the opening bell at the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, right, greets Northern Ireland First Deputy Minister Martin McGuiness, left, as Northern Ireland Bureau director Norman Houston, second from left, and Irish First Minister Ian Paisley look on during a luncheon sponsored by the Northern Ireland Bureau in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007
Northern Ireland's First Minister Ian Paisley, left, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, right, and AVX Corporation CEO and President John S. Gillbertson pose at a luncheon hosted by the Northern Ireland Bureau in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007
Pictured from left to right, Kieran McLoughlin, president of the American Ireland Fund, Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chairman of the American Ireland Fund, the two leaders of Northern Ireland's newly devolved government, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, First Minister Dr. Ian Paisley, Junior Minister Ian Paisley Jr., Duncan L. Niederauer, CEO of the NYSE Euronext, and Nigel Dodds, MP MLA, Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, during a photo opportunity at the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Dec 3, 2007 in New York.
Loretta Brennan Glucksman, left, chairman of The American Ireland Fund, and Junior Minister Ian Paisley Jr., right, join the two leaders of Northern Ireland's newly devolved government, First Minister Dr. Ian Paisley, center right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, center left, as they hold the gavel for a photo opportunity at the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Dec., 3, 2007
First Minister Dr. Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, left, speak to the media as they depart the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Dec., 3, 2007.
Pictured from left to right, First Minister Dr. Ian Paisley, his wife Eileen, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, say goodbye to a NYSE representative as they depart the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Dec 3, 2007
The two leaders of Northern Ireland's newly devolved government, First Minister Dr Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, left, depart the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, in New York.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, center, and Martin McGuiness, right, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, listens as Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland's First Minister, speaks during a meeting at City Hall in New York, Monday, Dec. 3, 2007.
Martin McGuiness, left, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland's First Minister, center, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, react as they listen during a meeting at City Hall in New York, Monday, Dec. 3, 2007. Paisley and McGuinness are on their first US trip together to drum up business for Northern Ireland's economy.
Duncan L. Niederauer, center, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, presents a gift to the two leaders of Northern Ireland's newly devolved government, First Minister Dr. Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, left, at a breakfast held by the American Ireland Fund, at the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Dec., 3, 2007. The two leaders made a joint presentation to a business audience of the case for United States investment in Northern Ireland.
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness
First Minister Dr Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness take a break during the opening
Ian Paisley
Former DUP leader Ian Paisley reacts to questioning from the media outside Castle Buildings
Ian Paisley at DUP HQ in 1985. The party leader held a sledge hammer to depict his 'smash Sinn Fein' message
Former DUP leader Ian Paisley wearing the traditional red beret of paramilitary group the Ulster Resistance in Ulster Hall
Ian Paisley leaves Crumlin Road jail in the 60s
Ian Paisley at a protest rally at Carrickfergus Castle in 1971
Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson are taken away by police in Armagh after protesting a vist by Charles Haughey in 1980
Ian Paisley demonstrates at Stormont in 1981

The Deputy First Minister has revealed he still speaks to Ian Paisley — more than a year after the former DUP leader left office.

“Ian has my mobile number and I have his,” he said. “It’s fair to say we have a good on-going personal relationship.”

Mr McGuinness said he would talk to his ex power-sharing partner “now and again”.

The senior Sinn Fein man said he had phoned Mr Paisley, for example, when requests had come, mostly from sections of the media, requesting them to appear together again.

“I always look back on our period together with great fondness, we had the ability to work together,” he disclosed. “I would speak to him now and again on the telephone — and this is coming from someone who despised Ian Paisley for most of my adult life.

“But during the course of the year when we were in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister it was quite obvious to the public that we had the ability to be cordial and even friendly with each other.”

Mr McGuinness said he believes his former arch-enemy set an example for everybody in our society “about where we need to go”.

“Ian Paisley, if he rings my office, it is answered straight away,” he said.

“Sometimes people come forward with different ideas, mostly from the media, about the prospect that we might do certain things together in terms of interviews and so forth.”

Mr McGuinness insists he has a good — but different — relationship with Peter Robinson

“Peter is a different personality from Ian Paisley but in my time in this office I have always understood the importance of treating people with respect.”

Mr McGuinness said he has good relations with every minister on the Executive, but in the Assembly there are “one or two” SDLP MLAs who do not talk to him.

“If they pass me in the corridor they do not even say hello, even now. I am very philosophical about all of that.

“Peter and I have a good personal relationship and we clearly showed prior to the last meeting of the Executive that we had the ability to crunch down on issues that were a source of division between us.”

While there are “huge challenges” ahead for the Executive, not least in terms of the economy, Mr McGuinness revealed: “There was a batch of issues that had been the source of disagreement and the fact that we were able to agree is something we can take considerable succour from.

“Apart from policing and justice we also cleared quite a number of papers that were presenting some difficulty for us in the run-in to that meeting, but as a result of the effort made by both parties we saw the DUP and Sinn Fein crunch down on a number of issues and reach agreement. I take some comfort from that. Many people out there in the community would wonder in the aftermath of the European election whether or not this process was going to stall or move forward and I think the work by the Executive at the last meeting certainly presents a good omen. But that alone is not enough. We need to keep going, to continue to forge agreements between us.”

He refuses to go into detail but, apart from the policing and justice draft legislation, the meeting also put through rates measures to help households and small businesses, a public consultation on co-ordinated funding for victims and survivors of the Troubles and planning policy on renewable energy, as well as regional transportation and an energy ‘action plan’.

Mr McGuinness recalls what he views as a key moment when he and Mr Robinson visited the Press Association offices in central Belfast last Christmas.

“Normally we are driven right up to the door, but the streets were thronged and I couldn’t get up to the door with people coming up and telling me they were from the Shankill, Rathcoole or Lambeg and saying ‘can I shake you hand’ and ‘youse are doing a great job’. These were not people who had converted to republicanism but that clearly showed me that, yes, there is diminishing opposition but the overwhelming majority want to see these institutions working, though working better.”

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