Belfast Telegraph

The trust that I built up with McGuinness has been lost, says Robinson

By Gareth Cross

Former First Minister Peter Robinson has said that he and former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness never had a severe falling out with each other when they worked in government together.

He also said the trust and working relationship he built up with the late Sinn Fein MLA has been lost by the current crop of leaders.

He also blasted Gerry Adams' comments that violence would still be justified in certain circumstances in order to achieve political aims as "dangerous and wrong".

"It sends a message to dissident republicans that there is such a thing as justified terrorism and there isn't," he said.

The former DUP leader said he believes that had the late Mr McGuinness not taken ill, things could have been different in Northern Ireland politics.

"When Martin walked away he was very frail. I think a healthy McGuinness would have taken a different position," he said.

"He was someone who wanted Stormont to work and wanted to make progress.

"Every day we were having to negotiate - not just on the big issues - and we were able to make compromises every day."

He continued: "We had disagreements of course ... overall at that time we never had a shouting match or fell out to the point we couldn't pick up the phone and talk.

"We still held each other's confidence, if those issues go public before an agreement can be reached both sides are damaged.

"The ability to keep confidence is a big loss in the current time. There have been a lot of 'he said, she said' issues which have damaged the confidence the parties have in each other."

Mr Robinson was speaking to BBC NI's Stephen Nolan show in what was his first major interview since retiring from politics.

In the wide-ranging discussion, Mr Robinson said he felt the media had been very hard on current party leader Arlene Foster given her experience of IRA violence, and she deserved more credit for how it had affected her life.

He talked of how he had thought long and hard before voting for Brexit, saying that while it was "disruptive" currently, it would be beneficial in the long run.

Mr Robinson, a stalwart of Northern Ireland politics for over three decades, said any deal to resurrect the mothballed Stormont institutions had to give more to unionism than the failed 'deal' that fell apart earlier this year.

He said that the DUP felt able to trust Sinn Fein during his time in government but that the republican party was determined to bring down Stormont last year.

"It wasn't really RHI because they've drifted to other issues and would have found another excuse," he said.

"Any new agreement has to be more broadly based. I don't think there was an awful lot in it for the unionist community to be a good deal.

"It satisfied Sinn Fein but unionists have issues they wanted to be resolved too; you have to have a balance. You would think the only people who have problems at the present time are republicans, that's not the case."

He added: "Compromise is part of it, you don't succeed if simply looking after your own position. You have to remember that the other party has a constituency, it's not sufficient to solve your problems.

"All I know is we don't have an Assembly, an Assembly a lot of people put hard graft into getting up and running and Northern Ireland is worse off for it."

Following on from Mrs Foster's comments she would leave Northern Ireland if there was a united Ireland, Mr Robinson said unification would not happen.

"The DUP needs to be reaching out to everyone," he added. "The long-term preservation of the Union depends on making Northern Ireland a comfortable place for people not from a Protestant or unionist background."

Belfast Telegraph

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