Starting with the Last Word in the late 1990s, Eamon Dunphy pioneered a discursive style of radio that allowed interviewees time to state their case without interruption. It gave us a chance to hear the likes of Martin McGuinness – for the first time – not being on the defensive.
But that was then.
This was Sunday morning on Newstalk.
Martin McGuinness: “Gay talks about what I earned last year. I don’t know where he gets the £200,000 from because the wages of the deputy first minister in the North is £112,000 and I have earned that each year for the last five years but I don’t see it. It goes straight into a Sinn Fein account and I’m paid a subsistence out of it. And I am willing to allow my bank account to be opened and I’m sure Sinn Fein are willing to allow their bank accounts to be opened to show that that is the case. The person who drove me in my capacity as Deputy First Minister to Belfast every morning and back to do my job earns exactly the same wage as I get. Because I am not in it for the money. And I’m not a career politician. And I do believe that if people want to fight a presidential campaign, and I’ve resisted getting into dirt with the rest. If people want to fight a campaign, they should fight a clean campaign.”
Gay Mitchell:”Let me just deal with something.”
Eamon Dunphy: “Before you do, how much did you earn last year?”
Dunphy: “And how much did you claim in expenses?”
Gay Mitchell: “About the same.”
Dunphy: “The same. And any pension contributions?”
Mitchell: “I don’t know what the figure is but let me say this about Martin. OK? Martin brought up this figure. Your pal Martin brought up this figure. Well I don’t like your questioning. I think you’re asking..
Dunphy: “I beg your pardon.”
Mitchell: “Your pal Martin. You’re questioning this man in such favourable circumstances that I think you should be a little bit more impartial with how you’re conducting this interview this morning. Why didn’t you ask this man what was his MLA salary, on top of his ministerial salary?”
Dunphy: “In this conversation?”
Mitchell: “Why didn’t you ask him that question?”
McGuinness: “Can I answer that?”
[They talk over each other]
Gay Mitchell: “No I want to deal with some of the propaganda you’ve raised. You raised the issue of being on the average industrial wage. No one else. You brought up this issue. Here is the point. My salary is also paid into an account and I make donations to charity out of that. I do them quietly and everyone else in their lives does them quietly. This is the propaganda. Martin brings up these things and he wonders why…”
[They talk over each other]
Dunphy: “Excuse me, I’m chairing this.”
Mitchell: “Oh no, you’re not chairing this. You should be chairing this but you’re not chairing it. You’re interrupting one of us and not interrupting the other.”
Dunphy: “Hold on. First of all I didn’t interrupt you.”
Mitchell: “You did interrupt me.
Dunphy: “For the record and for the listeners’ record.. and people are much more intelligent than you think they are.”
Mitchell: “That’s another bias comment on your behalf. You should excuse yourself.”
Dunphy: “You’re the person, you’re the person who raised the subject.”
Mitchell: “Martin raised the subject. Martin has made a political issue of the fact.”
Dunphy: “In this conversation? Who raised this?”
Gay Mitchell: “Martin has made a political issue of the fact I raised questions of issues he has raised. Not the issues that Phil Hogan has raised. The issues Martin has raised. Martin…”
McGuinness: “Eamon, Gay, Gay..”
Dunphy: “Let him have his say, let him have his say…”
Mitchell: “Martin says he is on the average industrial wage but we know Martin drew £200,000 in salary last year and about the same in expenses.”
McGuinness: “How do you know that?”
Mitchell: “Because your salary as an MP, an MLA and a minister are a matter of record. Incidentally let me just go on about some of the other issues. Martin says he’s not running for Sinn Fein. We all know that that’s not true. Martin said he left the IRA in 1974, that’s not true. And here’s the situation, I went to address the committee at the centre in the Stormont Parliament on the day that the two DUP ministers resigned. And on that very day a DUP man came to me and said: “I won’t be going into the committee or address because it’s been chaired by a Sinn Fein man. Anyway the only way the problem will be solved is when Sinn Fein and DUP are in power together.” You are in power together after 30 years working the Sunningdale Agreement because the unionists and the SDLP have been sidelined. You have won the lottery north of the border and you want Martin, this is my view, you want to go to the Aras, where it’s a single person institution without telling us the truth about the questions I have raised.
And I’m raising these questions because you’ve raised them yourself. None of them are outside the political realm. These are questions you have raised. You in your press statement on your first statement, you keep saying it, that you’re on the average industrial wage. You drew a huge salary last year. If you want to give that to Sinn Fein, that’s your business. If I want to give it to Trocaire, that’s my business but don’t be going around with this..And when someone questions you about it saying ‘oh I’m being hit with a baby in my hands’.
McGuinness: “I have made it absolutely clear where the deputy first minister salary goes. And that can be proven conclusively, those books can be opened. Gay, on two occasions, mentioned that I draw an MP salary, I do not draw an MP salary. Why do I not draw an MP salary? Because the British government will not pay me because I am an abstentionist MP. I am someone who will not take an oath of allegiance to the Queen of England. And as a result of that the British Government and the Houses of Parliament have refused to pay me.”
Dunphy: “That’s fair enough I’d say.”
McGuinness: “Well that’s a matter for themselves. But that has been the case since 1997.”
Mitchell: “But what about expenses. Do you get expenses Martin?”
McGuinness: “Well now you’re changing tack.”
Mitchell: “Do you draw down expenses from them Martin? Answer the question. You’re saying you don’t get money from the Queen. It shows when you’re put to the test..”
[Talk over each other]
Mitchell: “It shows when you’re put to the test, the mask slips, the mask slips and we can see the nasty side to you Martin. DID YOU DRAW expenses from the Queen? DID YOU DRAW expenses from the Queen?”
McGuinness: “Well hold on.”
Mitchell: “You’re the one who said you don’t draw money from the Queen. Did you draw expenses from the Queen.”
McGuinness: “You think you’re going to win this argument by talking me down?
Mitchell: “I’m saying to you stop the propaganda. I’m not afraid of you Martin. I’ll cut you off…”
McGuinness: “You think you’re going to win this argument by talking me down?”
Dunphy: “OK. Martin, Martin, Gay. In the interests of our listeners I’m going to moderate this in my own way. And in programmes, radio programmes I’ve done down the years, going back many, many years, I don’t allow people to shout over each other and I don’t allow noise to get in the way of reason. So can we stop this nonsense, we’re going to take an ad break now..and when we come back from the ad break we’re going to have a proper conversation with, I hope, fairness and respect for the listeners of this programme.
Mitchell: “I notice eh, from the thing here, that you’re looking at me. You have to be fair aswell and chair this impartially.”
Dunphy: “I beg your pardon?”
Mitchell: “Eamon, Eamon, I’m asking you know please chair this impartially.”
Dunphy: “You’re still on air now you know that?”
Mitchell: “I know that.”
Dunphy: “What accusation are you making?”
Mitchell: “When you’re addressing those questions, you’re addressing them to me. We know that you’ve written about Martin very favourably. And all I’m asking you is..I came in here this morning because you told me there would be a fair debate here, just be fair.
Dunphy: “Can you point to the unfairness?”
Mitchell: “I think the interruptions of me this morning will show you’ve been one-sided.”
Dunphy: “OK – to ad break…”
Listen to full show here