JOHN HUMPHRYS: Another beleaguered
party leader is David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader and Northern
Ireland First Minister. He survived yet another threat to his leadership
yesterday but only by reaching a compromise with those in his party who
are opposed to the peace process. The opposition is led by Geoffrey Donaldson
whom many would prefer to see as leader. Mr Trimble has now set a deadline
of January the eighteenth for the IRA to show that they are ending all
terrorist activity. But that could put the whole peace process in jeopardy.
Mr Trimble is in our Belfast studio. Good afternoon Mr Trimble.
DAVID TRIMBLE: Good day.
HUMPHRYS: You've actually given
in haven't you, given in to those in your party who never supported the
Good Friday Agreement, and in effect, Geoffrey Donaldson is now in control
of the party, isn't he?
TRIMBLE: No that's not the case
at all. In fact the proposal to engage in talks over the next three months
and if they are not successful, then to resign was my own proposal and
Mr. Donaldson's proposal was quite different, that was my proposal, and
the reason why I put it forward was exactly for the same reason that throughout
June and July I repeatedly told the Prime Minister that we simply couldn't
go on the way we are at the moment, where the transition, and bear in mind,
we only went into administration with Sinn Fein, the representatives of
the Republican Movement, on the basis that the Republican Movement was
going to abandon violence and commit itself to exclusively peaceful means,
and we did it to facilitate a transition. Now quite clearly, this year,
the transition has stopped and judging by the violence of the summer was
regressing. Now we couldn't, we could not sustain that position. In June
and July I was urging the Prime Minister to get matters sorted out, unfortunately,
come September, the position is no better and with no prospect of it getting
better and we just simply couldn't go on like that, that is why we felt
it was necessary to set, as it were, this very clear position forward,
it may very well cause a crisis, but then it will be a crisis similar to
that caused when I resigned last year, again because of the failure of
the Republican Movement to fulfil its obligations. So in effect, we're
stuck with the same position as we were last year. It's a pity, but it's
a consequence of the failure of Republicans to make progress.
HUMPHRYS: So what has to happen
then to stop you resigning again? When you talk about the transition being
completed this time, what are you talking about? Are you talking in effect
about the disbandment of the IRA.
TRIMBLE: Well that should be the
outcome. I mean if you commit yourself to exclusively peaceful and democratic
means then that necessarily means an absence of paramilitaries. You can't
say that you're committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means
if you're maintaining a private army and the private army is there, active
operating and maintaining its capability, so it necessarily involves the
agreement, and this is not me talking, this is the Belfast Agreement, which
we entered into four years ago, it necessarily involves an end to paramilitarism
in all its forms. Now we've had four years for this to happen, it's, insofar
as it's happening, it's happening very slowly indeed and we're saying we've
got to be in a position where it's demonstrably clear that we're approaching
the end of the transition. Now, there may be a little bit of flexibility
there, but let's be under no misunderstanding whatsoever, this isn't going
to be sorted by a fudge. This can only be sorted by there being very clear
unambiguous evidence of that transition approaching its end.
HUMPHRYS: And when you say a little
bit of flexibility, again to be absolutely clear about this, should the
IRA, the paramilitaries, be disbanded by January the eighteenth? Is that
what you're saying? If they're not disbanded by January the eighteenth,
you walk out?
TRIMBLE: If there is not a clear
end to paramilitarism. Now, you can have that disbandment in a number of
forms, in the nineteen-twenties, in the republic of what is now the Republic
of Ireland, the old IRA turned itself into a comrades association, it could
be that the people in the IRA move unequivocally into Sinn Fein and you
know, devote themselves to purely democratic activities, and there may
be other ways in which this can be done. I mean, that's what I mean about
a certain amount of flexibility on this, but it's got to be clear, the
agreement promised us a future that would operate by purely peaceful and
democratic means, that's what I want to see, so I want to see the agreement
fully implemented, the problem arises simply because Republicans weren't
implementing the agreement.
HUMPHRYS: So no IRA, therefore
it follows, no weapons in any bunkers, they'd all have to be cleared away
and there would have to be demonstrable evidence of that.
TRIMBLE: That's right, and that's
why we have a decommissioning process, and that decommissioning process
as you know has so far produced very little, because the paramilitaries,
and it's not just the IRA, the other paramilitaries are at fault in this
too, they have only co-operated with the decommissioning process to a very
limited extent. Clearly we want to see that speeded up.
HUMPHRYS: Well you say you want
to see it speeded up? I thought you were telling me a moment ago, correct
me if I'm wrong, that you want to see it completed by January the eighteenth,
completed by January the eighteenth, otherwise you walk out?
TRIMBLE: There's no reason why
that can't be done. There's absolutely no reason why...
TRIMBLE: ...there's no technical
problem with this. The only problem...
HUMPHRYS: ...political problems...
TRIMBLE: ...the only problem has
been a lack of will. The only problem has been that the paramilitaries
haven't been prepared to do it, and if they're prepared to do it, there
isn't a problem, and you can speak to John de Chastelain the Head of the
Decommissioning Commission, and he'll confirm to you that from a point
of view of actually doing it, it only takes, it'll only take a few weeks.
HUMPHRYS: But you're a practical
politician, if above all else, can you seriously see Gerry Adams sitting
down with the man who happens to be running the IRA at the moment and saying,
look old boy, that's it, it's all up now, by January the eighth, we close
it all down, we clear out all the bunkers, we get rid of it, I mean it's
not going to happen is it?
TRIMBLE: Well over the last four
years Mr Adams should have been telling the Republican Movement what they'd
signed up to. Over the last four years Mr Adams should have been preparing
them for the inevitable. And if has, then there isn't a problem, and if
he hasn't, then obviously there's a problem. What is clear, what is absolutely
clear, is that after the violence and the disturbances of the last summer,
this process cannot be sustained as things stand at the moment...
HUMPHRYS: ...beyond January the
eighteenth, so that if there is not complete decommissioning by January
the eighteenth, you walk out of the government, that is your position?
TRIMBLE: John it took quite a bit
of persuasion, to persuade people to give the process this further opportunity
to succeed. The reality is because of the violence, because of the failure
of Republicans, there has been a very serious leaching away of confidence
in the process. People believe they've been fooled. People believe that
there's never going to be change for the better. Now it's up to those who
have been dragging their feet to remedy that and to show that it's going
HUMPHRYS: Right so the answer to
my question is yes, and, and Gerry Adams, when he says this is a wreckers
charter, what he means of course is it wrecks the Good Friday Agreement
in his terms and it's all over. The peace process is effectively then,
this phase, this, this peace process the only one that we have, is at an
end, isn't it?
TRIMBLE: Well Mr Adams and his
friends said that last year before my resignation last year, so let's see
what happens this time.
HUMPHRYS: Yes but you gave in last
time. I mean, when I say, you gave in, there were concessions made last
time, what you're saying this time, is no concessions, either they clear
out all of those weapons or...
TRIMBLE: ...I didn't give in last
time, sorry John, I didn't give in last time, I only went back into Office
after decommissioning began.
HUMPHRYS: Quite. But this time...
TRIMBLE: ...now what has happened,
that, that was a year, nearly a year ago, in the interval between, when
we, we obtained after the first act of decommissioning on the basis that
a decommissioning process had begun, and since then, in the eleven months
since then, what, one further act? And then nothing? Now Mr Adams can't
have that. He knows quite clearly that I resigned last year because of
the failure of paramilitaries to decommission so they start decommissioning
and then when I go back into Office they stop. Well there's only one consequence
to that. I mean, if we're going to have this in/out, in/out process sobeit,
but I would much prefer to see things being properly fixed and that is
the objective we've set.
HUMPHRYS: David Trimble, thank
you very much indeed.