26 April 2007 Edition
Interview : Six County First Minister Designate Martin McGuinness
Confident of general election success
New Ross has always been a strategic place in the South of Ireland. When 10,000 rebels poured into the streets of New Ross in the 1798 rebellion, crown forces knew that to lose New Ross could create a domino effect in which Waterford and Cork could also be lost to the United Irishmen.
The pikes have long since been decommissioned but New Ross and County Wexford is again a battleground for change in Ireland with Sinn Fein’s John Dwyer leading the charge. This time, according to Sinn Fein’s Chief Negotiator MARTIN McGUINNESS, the dominos will fall all the way to Leinster House.
McGuinness was in New Ross on Friday, 20 April as part of a tour of the South East and he took time out to speak to An Phoblacht’s PHILIP CONNOLLY.
Martin McGuinness says that from his travels around Waterford and Wexford last week he has witnessed an excitement and a vibrancy surrounding Sinn Féin’s election campaign.
“The growth and the health of the organisation down here and the planning that has gone into the campaign is very, very impressive. The people here certainly feel that they are on the threshold of an historic victory”, he says.
As for the election itself the Deputy First Minister designate says that the big story of the election is Sinn Féin.
“It has been the story of the elections for the last eight years North and South. I am very confident that we will do really well and that there are still a few surprises in store. The unprecedented success in the elections in the Six Counties and the entering into power sharing of all the parties will have a knock on effect nationally.
“The people of Ireland voted overwhelmingly for the Good Friday Agreement and they are overjoyed that it is now working out. This will definitely add to Sinn Féin’s popularity in this election”, McGuinness said.
Asked about the tiring, hard slog by the Sinn Féin leadership and activists, particularly in the past eight years, in getting the party to this point McGuinness says: “You wouldn’t be human not to get tired at times. Republicans by their very nature are a tough, determined bunch of people. But also, we have always been aware that behind all of the work we were doing, there was always building, in the background, a huge momentum for Sinn Féin. But the past eight years has seen huge movement forward towards a united Ireland.”
Just back from Downing Street, a trip that included Wexford candidate John Dwyer in the delegation, there remains outstanding business with British PM Tony Blair. Along with the opening of the Assembly and the historic power-sharing Executive on May 8, there is also the question of inward investment and governmental investment to sort out. The issue of collusion between the British state and unionist paramilitaries is also high on the agenda. The news that the names of up to 100 nationalists have been found in the possession of loyalist death squads has also to be dealt with.
“In my own constituency 13 workers have been informed by the PSNI that their names were found on these lists. The indications are that it is the UVF who are connected with it. A number of people have been charged in relation to it and appeared in court, one of which is an employee of the PSNI. Another is connected to the Royal Irish Regiment. So I think it very important that we discuss the issue of collusion with the British Government. Tony Blair has conceded that there have been all sorts of activities by elements of British intelligence in the past that created serious problems for the peace process. The fact that Tony Blair will probably be gone in the early part of next month means that we are unlikely to make much headway on this issue in the near future. I would not suggest that Tony Blair was ever aware of these activities but his predecessors certainly were”, McGuinness says.
Just how far unionists have come in recognising that both parts of the island are inter-dependent can be seen in the increase in trade between the two jurisdictions. The evidence is now quite apparent to every one in the six-counties.
“We have certainly won the argument on the all-Ireland economy. The unionist parties recognise that unionist people are investing in the South and similarly many business people, from Dublin, Cork, Galway and all over, are investing in the North. The economy does not recognise any border except for one or two areas like that of the Euro and Sterling.”
Another area proving disadvantageous to the island economy is the disparity in the area of corporation tax, with the rate in the South set at 12.5% and that of the North set at 30%.
McGuinness argues for harmonisation of corporation tax across Ireland. Representations have been made to Gordon Browne on the issue.
“This is, of course a work in progress and ourselves and Ian Paisley have discussed this and we are meeting with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to sort it out before the executive is up and running. There is resistance to it by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, but we have the agreement and goodwill of the Taoiseach on this, and it is just a matter of applying the pressure to see that that level playing field is achieved to attract the necessary inward investment”, he says.
At the recent Ard Fheis, Sinn Féin’s Wexford candidate spoke very authoritvely on the issue of MRSA and the Ard Fheis passed the motion to implement the Dutch model for dealing with MRSA in hospitals. But McGuinness says that the main problem facing both health services in Ireland is how widespread the virus has become. There have been positive moves in regard to educating the people who work in hospitals and those visiting hospitals to disinfect their hands on entering and leaving hospitals. But there is no doubt that the Dutch model is superior in terms of best practice – to isolate each case and area. But there is no point in having one system in the Six Counties and a separate system for the rest of the country. It just won’t work. We need a national strategy that will set a rigorous standard.”
There is no doubting that through the sacrifice of so many, Sinn Féin has gained the experience and success necessary to deliver for Ireland a future filled with more hope than any previous era in our history. Here in Wexford that experience has rubbed off on the party locally. The once sleeping giant of Wexford republicanism has been mobilised. Leinster House is on the horizon and well within range. The objective is the formation of a government for all the people of Ireland.
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
- It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
- There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.