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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  August 4, 2020 4:30am-5:01am BST

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the former king of spain, juan carlos, has left the country weeks after he was linked to an investigation into alleged corruption. his destination is unknown. he made the announcement in an open letter to his son, felipe, who became the monarch six years ago. president trump has again claimed the coronavirus outbreak in the united states is receding, and has criticised one of his own top medical advisers for saying the outbreak is now a greater threat than when it began. the us has the highest number of reported covid infections and deaths in the world, and latest figures show american cases rose on monday by at least 48,395. deaths rose by at least 582. key figures in the northern ireland peace process have paid their tributes to john hume, the catholic politician who has died at the age of 83. he received a nobel prize for his efforts in bringing about the good friday peace agreement in northern ireland, which brought an end to decades of sectarian violence.
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now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i am stephen sackur. in ireland, all the talk earlier this year was of a political earthquake, a radical nationalist party sinn fein won the most votes in ireland's general election. they promised to his smash the status quo. well, so much for that, in fact, ireland's two oldest parties formed a grand coalition and they are guiding the country through a global pandemic and brexit. my guest today is mary lou mcdonald, the leader of sinn fein. has her party missed their moment? mary lou mcdonald, in dublin, welcome to hardtalk.
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thank you. after the february election, when you and your party did remarkably well, you won the most first preference votes in ireland's general elections, you talked about a revolution at the ballot box. well, five months on, what has happened to the revolution? five months on, we are into uncharted and unprecedented times, no more than yourselves with a global pandemic with a public health emergency here, on our island and that has caused considerable disruption to people's daily lives but also to political life but i'm happy to report that, all of that disruption notwithstanding, the appetite for political change remains very strong across ireland, north and south, and i still hold firm of the them view that we are living through changing and changed times and times where i believe that significant movement in ireland, progressive movement, is possible and will happen and i include in that, of course,
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the constitutional question of a united ireland. yes, and i do not doubt for a second that you want all of that to happen but i'm looking at your words back in february after the election result came out and you talked about an era of new politics and better government and you said, "sinn fein will be at the core of that and i may well be the next taoiseach," that is, the irish prime minister. well, you overpromised, didn't you, and have under—delivered? no, i reflected the facts as they were then and the scenario, frankly, hasn't changed, and i still believe the appetite and mandate for change and for changed government, for sinn fein in government, exists, and of course you will know because you follow these matters very carefully that,
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after the election, the political establishment set about their work to keep change out and to keep sinn fein out and, unfortunately, they succeeded on this occasion but they are not going to succeed on every occasion, and our commitment to deliver the type of change that we were mandated on at february's election remains absolutely strong. i lead an incredibly strong, bright, energetic young team in the parliament in the dail, the parliament in dublin, and the scene is absolutely set for big political change and i believe that will include sinn fein in government in ireland, north and south and, ultimately, it will mean a referendum on unity and constitutional change. right, but let's talk about the missteps you have made along the way and, for one, many are wondering why you did not field more candidates because there are many experts who say, given the swing to sinn fein in february's election, if you actually put more candidates up in this multi—party, quite complex constituency system that you have, you might well have
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been able to form a government. so, that was a big mistake? it was. not pretending any differently. the context of it was quite a difficult set of elections the previous year in the european and the locals, so, i suppose we were endeavouring to cut our cloth according to what we considered would be our measure, but you are right, we should have, i should have seen to it that we ran more candidates and all i can say to you is i will not make that mistake again. no, well, 0k, that is pretty frank! let's talk about a deeper issue and that is, you, after the election, you had to figure out how to form a government and you had to at least consider whether you would work the two old established parties in ireland, fianna fail and fine gael. the truth is what we saw is that both of those old parties regard you still, sinn fein, as still a deeply toxic political organisation and you did virtually nothing to reach out to them.
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so, let me take that question in two parts, with an answer in two parts. firstly, despite the propaganda to the contrary, fianna fail and fine gail do not regarded us as deeply toxic. they regard and know that, in fact, increasingly, we are a deeply attractive political option for a growing section of irish society. they wish to keep us out of government, not because they believe we are not fit for government but rather because they know full well that we are more than fit for government. they know that we are ready and we have the policy platform, that we have the people and talent in the team that i lead and, increasingly, we have the strength and mandate.
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mary lou mcdonald, i have to put you the words of the current prime minister, teoiseach micheal martin, he said this at the time of the government formation crisis, he said, "a fundamental issue that we in fianna fail have with sinn fein is that they do not operate to the same democratic standards held by every other party in irish politics." well, anybody familiar with fianna fail, the party that the now teoiseach leads, will appreciate the irony of that statement. fianna fail is a political organisation that has been deeply embroiled in controversy and profound corruption, the tab for which has been picked up by the irish public and we are not likely to forget all of those episodes. let me restate the position again. the facts are that sinn fein has grown. we have grown in stature, we have grown in numbers, our mandate has grown across the island just as it did a century ago in a previously historic times and that is the thing, in all truth, that unnerves the taoiseach, and that is politics and be
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that as it may, it will not deflect or deter me or my colleagues from the very substantial political work that we have to do. right, but haven't you in many ways made it easy for micheal martin and other irish representatives of the old guard, the establishment, because even now, you fail consistently to come clean about sinn fein‘s relationship with the ira. that is the fundamental problem and it remains so today. no. in fact, i think the nature and origins of the conflict which of course are contested as to what happened and why it happened, much less who was right or who was wrong
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and in the conflict of ireland is very, very well chronicled. i think there is no secrecy around the fact that sinn fein is an irish republican party, that we are for a united ireland. there is no mystery around the fact there was a war in ireland that the ira participated in. none of that is shrouded in mystery. i would tell you what is very clear also is that for more than 20 years now we have carved out a vibrant and enduring political pathway for everybody, people from all persuasions and backgrounds, to participate in politics. and to ensure that the political dispute, the constitutional dispute, is mediated peacefully and democratically and can i say, that along with others, as you know, sinn fein and successive sinn fein leaderships now been involved in fostering and nurturing that very valuable peace deal. as you know, ireland has been following the fallout of the funeral of a very senior ira man, bobby storey, who was the head of intelligence for the ira in a period that began in the 1990s, an extraordinarily important figure in the irish
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republican army. you went to his funeral. how carefully did you consider before you decided to go to a funeral which, clearly, because we all saw what happened, it clearly broke all the regulations and guidelines in northern ireland about covid—i9 and how people should gather or not gather. you are right to record the fact that bobby storey was a very significant figure in irish political life and i think will endure as a name in irish political history and he was a person much beloved, not only in his native belfast but across the island and not
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surprisingly there was a very big sendoff, a huge funeral for him, as you say. beloved by people like you, mary lou mcdonald, but not beloved by the unionist community in northern ireland and you know that much better than i do. well, yes, that is true but you find in any part of the world, much less a part of the world where we have deep and entrenched political conflict, you'll have public figures who are loved by one section a not so by the other. i don't think that's a uniquely irish thing. the point is this, leaving aside what you think of bobby storey and others think about bobby storey in northern ireland, do you think you are above the law because quite patently, many, many dozens of people turned up at that funeral in close proximity, broke all the rules, arlene foster, the head of the devolved administration in northern ireland said it was completely unacceptable and her deputy, the sinn fein leader in northern ireland, michelle o'neill, she says, she should not have been there and it was entirely wrong that people like you and she flouted the rules.
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i do not believe i am above the law. farfrom it and, as to the virus itself, i actually have been sick myself with the virus. i was really quite ill so i better than anybody understand the value and necessity for public health restrictions and for respecting them and, for what it's worth, as you asked, on the down question, the cortege was limited to 30, as per regulations, and i was asked to read at the chapel at the requiem mass. i was happy to do so. we were masked and we were socially distanced. the difficulty arose was because bobby was a political figure, a huge number of people came out onto the streets and that was to be anticipated. in fact, the organisers of the funeral, at the family's request, live—streamed the event and it was watched
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by a 250,000 people. so, the numbers were big but they were potentially much bigger and i happen to think that the organisers of the funeral, working with the family, did their best to maintain the public health standards but i will accept absolutely that it is very difficult when people come out onto the pavement, onto the streets, to pay tribute to someone, and we seen it in other instances. that becomes extremely challenging, not least in terms of social distancing. let us to think about what you did and the impact of it. 0ne unionist commentated and said it was in effect a state funeral for gerry adams‘s loyal right—hand man at the top of the ira. he said it was a state funeral organised in a state within a state. you are the leader of sinn fein. you chose to go. you wanted to be the leader of the republic of ireland. you wanted to be taoiseach. if you had managed to become taoiseach, would you still have gone to the funeral? yes, i would.
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bobby was, apart from anything else, was a person i counted as a friend. he was a person i respected deeply and held in very high esteem and high affection. why would i not have gone? as to the unionist commentary... what message? as for the message about it being a state in a state, that message is, quite frankly, rubbish. it was a funeral of a very well known, prominent person. it was also the funeral of a husband, father and grandfather. and there was, and remains, a grieving family in the midst of this scenario. bobby happened to be extremely, exceptionally popular and that's why people came out, notjust sinn fein people, by the way, but the people of west belfast and belfast more generally to clap him on and to him his send off. they loved him. that's it. i'm just wondering what many people in ireland would make of a leader who wants to lead the country, who also thinks it's entirely acceptable to go to the funeral
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and laud and ira man, who many see as having the blood of dozens of people on his hands. well, i'm not sure that people see that. i would challenge you on that. but i would also say to you that the entire logic of the irish peace process was to create a forum and a platform for inclusive politics, and that means everybody being involved in a political route, and that includes former combatants, republican, loyalist and unionist, and state actors by the way. so, the fact that somebody like bobby storey was involved in politics and a political programme, i would suggest to you is the measure of the success of our peace process and nothing else. i asked you if you were really coming clean about your relationship with the ira in sinn fein right now. you said you were. what do you make of the fact that the irish police chief appears to believe that actually the military command of the ira is still calling the shots over people like you, the political leadership
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of sinn fein? well, that's wrong and i can assure you that anybody who knows me or has had any dealings with me will absolutely appreciate that i'm not somebody who allows others to call the shots for me or overwhelm myjudgement or my actions. the report that you refer to actually said the following: "intelligence reported from former ira persons unnamed, that they believed that that was the case." so it is... we have an expression in irish in our own language, and it goes... speaks irish. "a woman told me that a woman told her." and that's the quality of that particular allegation. it's false, it's wrong. the guard, the commissioner stands over the report in which that content features — and i'm not surprised at that — i mean, he was in the psni at the time, and i respect
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he will defend that position. but bear in mind, i'm the leader of sinn fein and i speakfor myself and i'm accountable for my actions and i'm a very clear—headed single—minded individual and nobody pulls my strings, stephen, i can assure you. well...but the point is how much authority have you got? you said that one of your own key politicians in the north of ireland, conor murphy, was going to retract words that he issued years ago about the murder of a 21—year—old in northern ireland, and he had said that 21—year—old had been involved in criminal activity and smuggling. he went on to deny he'd ever said it, but the tapes show he did say it. you, in the midst of a controversy about this this spring, said you would force conor murphy to retract his words. he hasn't retracted his words. it suggests to me that people like him don't actually take your authority that seriously. well, i think you're stretching things by quite a level there. why?
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in that case, conor withdrew the remarks that he had made in respect of that unfortunate young man who lost his life so brutally many years ago... no, no, he did not retract in the way that you said he would. can ijust remind you, and if you've researched the matter, you will know this — that similarly, a former taoiseach and former prime minister in dublin had similarly made remarks similar to what conor had said, and he also withdrew them. that's where that matter stands, and i am very hopeful that the quinn family will meet with conor at some stage, because i do believe that where hurt has been caused, that those matters need to be mended to the best of our ability, and it proves challenging at times, but nonetheless, it's an important matter. well, some would say that your words are more emollient and are better at bridge building than other senior figures in your party, which again, brings back the question of your authority.
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just one more question on that. francie molloy, a sinn fein mp — another senior voice in the party. he tweeted this month: "we were sold a pup with the good friday agreement. no commitment there from either dublin or ireland to deliver for nationalists or republicans. it was all just a bluff." is francie molloy‘s contempt for the good friday agreement shared by you? no, and in fairness to francie, i think he was articulating a frustration that i've heard from a number of people, from nationalists, north and south, and it's this, that the political establishment, whether in london or dublin, content that now is not the time to talk about unity, now is not the time to set out, as they should, the criteria for the calling of the border poll, and i won't mislead you that has caused a level of frustration amongst people.
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but it brings us back to the basic point — you're not in power. micheal martin is currently in power, sharing power with leo varadkar. they've both made it plain that they think your view of when a border poll might happen is completely unrealistic and deeply divisive, and the truth is if you look at polls today, sinn fein is no longer the most popular party in the republic of ireland, and the government is deemed to be doing well on the most important pressing issue of all, which is handling covid—i9. your moment appears to have passed. well, see, the wonderful thing about a democracy and about political life is that, you know, we set out our stall, political leaders rival, political actors make all sorts of assertions and will have their debates, and then the people decide. and that's at the core of the journey to irish reunification. the people will, ultimately, call this one. it is entirely legitimate and it is entirely in accordance with and in keeping with the good friday agreement to say out loud we want a united ireland, we want
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an end to the partition of our island, which has been so injurious to our social, political and economic fortunes, and we want to talk about that, and, yes, we want a referendum. but you know better than i that right now there is more to politics than just talking about a border poll, and the irish people, like all others, have had to struggle with covid—i9. and the fact is if you look at the impact on ireland, the central bank has just warned that the crisis is going to blow a 20 billion euro plus hole in the state's finances, growth is gone, the economy might shrink by 8.3%, half a million jobs may be lost. ireland's economic crisis is as deep as most countries, and yet sinn fein is still wedded to a massive, massive spending plan on healthcare, on 100,000 new homes. isn't it time for sinn fein to wake up and smell the coffee and realise that the programme
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you took to the irish people is no longer relevant post covid ? well, we're wide awake and it's a long time since we smelt the coffee and, in fact, the covid emergency highlights the absolute imperative and urgency to deliver those very things that we discussed in the course of the election campaign. with whose money, mary lou mcdonald ? i know, you raised the issue of housing, and let me address it. we have a housing crisis on the island, we've a whole generation locked out of home ownership, we have people who can't make their rent, who have no prospect of a secure roof over their head, we've people living in awful overcrowded conditions, and one of the lessons of this public health emergency is that not alone is a secure roof over your head a human right and a democratic right, it's also a public health imperative, because your home now is your shelter, it's the place where you self—isolate. it's all about stimulus, it's about repairing economies through growth. ireland's not unique in that, farfrom it, and sinn fein
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is certainly not unique, although we were very much ahead of the pack in recommending and advancing that type of economic recovery long before others. but the proposition, surely, is that a time of covid—i9 crisis with the reality of brexit and the end of the transition looming at the end of this year, what the irish people appear to believe and want right now is the stability of this grand coalition they've got rather than the radicalism and the uncertainty that might come with sinn fein. that is a political landscape you're going to have to adapt to. well, i mean, you're making an assertion there that, certainly, i would contest. i would suggest to you that the government that we got was certainly not the government that many, many people envisaged or voted for. but the truth is also that irish people expect that the basics are gotten
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right, they expect that they can have decent public services to rely on, they except that they have stable, secure work and a decent level of income. not to live an extravagant lifestyle, but to live a decent and a good life, and i believe that all of those things are deliverable and i would suggest to you if they're not deliverable, if there are people in political life who say that those things are a bridge too far, that those are ambitions that are too high for working people, well, then i would suggest to them that they shouldn't be in political life, and if you're not in government to deliver those things, well, then i think you've no business in government. final very quick point — do you think your window of opportunity, your moment has slipped through your fingers? no, i think we'rejust beginning, and i think there are those who would say to you for purely self—interest that the moment of change has gone in ireland, that it's over, but i would say by response, well, watch this space because it's onlyjust beginning. mary lou mcdonald in dublin, thanks very much forjoining me on hardtalk.
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thank you. hello there. we've got mixed fortunes of weather for tuesday. it does look like like low pressure moving into northern and western parts of the uk will bring quite a lot of cloud, wind and also rain. it's going to be very wet for parts of northern ireland and western scotland through the day, but it will be drier the further south and east that you are, with more sunshine and it will feel warmer too. so this is the culprit, this area of low pressure, moving in off the atlantic, starts to bring the rain initially to northern ireland, and then to scotland.
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there's quite a few isobars on the chart so it's going to be pretty windy too. so initially that rain, heavy. you can see the brighter colours in there for northern ireland, pushing across the irish sea, into the far north of england, but mainly into scotland. and it's western scotland, the western highlands, which is going to see the rain really piling up by the end of the day. a windy day to come as well — 40, maybe 50 mile an hour gusts across the north—west. a breezy day further south but, like i mentioned, the further south that you are, the better chance of staying dry, seeing the sunshine and feeling warmer. 23—24 degrees here. bit disappointing further north — the mid to upper teens celsius. through tuesday night that rain begins to slip its way southwards a bit, into much of northern england, into north wales as well. there'll be further spots of rain further north, but drier across southern areas. we'll start to import a milder, more humid air mass from the south—west, so temperatures not falling much below 15 degrees for tuesday night. into wednesday, we've still got this area of low pressure and the weather fronts. again, it's going to be a breezy day. there'll be a lot of cloud, and some mist and murk across northern
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and western areas. looks like we'll start to see some rain also pushing across the irish sea, into wales and the western parts of england but, again, the further south and east that you are, although breezy, it's going to be dry with increasing amounts of sunshine. and we're really importing some warmer air now, so 25, 26 degrees is possible. a little bit warmer as well further north. what happens is, towards the end of the week, these weather fronts become squeezed out and fade away as this area of high pressure builds in over the near continent, and then we really start to tap in to some hot air, which is across spain and france, on the southerly wind, and that warmth advance its way northwards, pretty much across the whole country through thursday and in particular into friday. so a warmer day thursday for all and friday, with some good spells of sunshine. it will turn hot again in the south—east. probably the peak of the heat through friday and into the start of the weekend.
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