Revealed: the private pact between Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have made a private pact to “stick together” regardless of street violence and dissident republican attacks, the Deputy First Minister claimed yesterday.
Mr McGuinness told a west Belfast festival event of the “secret agreement” between himself and First Minister Robinson in the aftermath of yesterday’s dissident bomb in Londonderry.
The senior republican met a number of senior loyalist figures including UDA leader Jackie McDonald and Red Hand Commando chief Winston ‘Winkie’ Rea.
“Peter Robinson and I have a private commitment that no matter what happens on the streets we are going to stick together,” Mr McGuinness told the gathering in the Falls Road library.
And he said those behind the 200lb homemade explosive device in his home city yesterday did not have a “hope in hell” of succeeding.
Admitting a high level of public disillusion with the Assembly, he said he believed after the next Stormont election it would begin to be seen to be delivering.
The mood music created by Mr McGuinness stood in stark contrast to this time last year when he was bitterly criticising his Stormont partner for spending too long in Disneyland — a jibe at the Robinson’s traditional holiday destination of Florida.
Relations between the two main men of the Executive remained frosty — particularly over the vexed issue of the devolution of policing and justice — until a further public spat at the North-South Ministerial Council meeting in Limavady in December.
But yesterday’s revelation of a personal commitment between them followed last week’s policy breakthroughs on the long-delayed ‘Shared Future’ strategy and agreement on use of the former Maze prison.
Mr McGuinness said he had always said the first term of the Assembly following the restoration of devolution was going to be difficult.
Until three years ago, he said, neither he nor Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams had ever spoken to Mr Robinson or his predecessor as both the First Minister and DUP leader, Ian Paisley, now Lord Bannside.
“But we are having all kinds of discussions now,” he told the ‘Peace Lines’ lunchtime event hosted by Belfast Telegraph journalist and security specialist Brian Rowan.
The self-confessed former IRA second-in-command said he was “absolutely convinced” that the momentum had now been achieved which would mean the Assembly would be much more productive after the next election, due in May of next year.
He said he had attended the George Best musical Dancing Shoes as part of an outreach to the unionist community and had been approached by a woman who had thanked him “for giving our children a future”.
“This is about giving our children a future,” he added, and those behind the Derry bomb “did not have a hope in hell of succeeding”.
The remarks were made at the unveiling of a special exhibition of some of Rowan’s original source and archive material including never-before-seen photographs — a mere fraction of the specialist journalist’s collection.
On his way into the event, Mr McGuinness spoke to waiting media and described those who planned the Derry attack as an “embarrassment” to the people of the city.
“It's about trying to undermine the peace process, about trying to undermine Sinn Fein's peace strategy,” he said.
“If they think they will destroy the political institutions the people of Ireland voted for, if they think they're going to destroy the working relationship I have with Peter Robinson, if they think they will undermine the peace process, they are living in cloud-cuckoo land.”