Belfast Telegraph

Nationalists in war of words
McGuinness and Durkan clash in television row

By Noel McAdam
11 February 2005

Senior Sinn Fein negotiator Martin McGuinness and SDLP leader Mark Durkan have clashed on national television, accusing each other of lying.

Presenter David Dimbleby threatened to close down the Question Time programme last night as the two senior nationalist politicians shouted each other down.

Mr McGuinness accused Mr Durkan of "never opening his mouth" over the formation of the Independent Monitoring Commission which was outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

But Mr Durkan repeatedly said: "It's lies" and then pointedly told Mr Dimbleby not to keep interrupting him.

The former Deputy First Minister said the formation of the commission had been on the basis of a separate Government paper, along with the issue of the "on-the-runs", and his party had opposed the legislation in Parliament - where Sinn Fein remains absent.

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, also on the programme, said Mr Durkan's version of the issue was right.

The lengthy exchange, which earned a rebuke from the chairman Mr Dimbleby, received a series of critical texts from interactive viewers.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy, also a panel member, said he had not completely made up his mind on the governments' response to the sanctions recommended by the Independent Monitoring Commission report.

He is due to make a statement in the House of Commons the week after next.

In the BBC Northern Ireland programme Hearts and Minds, also shown last night, SDLP Assemblyman Alex Attwood told Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly that there was an essential difference between the two parties over criminality.

But Mr Kelly chided Mr Attwood and said he did not represent a majority on the island of Ireland and should not be attempting to speak as President of Ireland.

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