Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Haass initiative: Cracks threaten a return to the past

When this dialogue first began in Cardiff in May, the backdrop was the Belfast City Hall flag row and the street violence that followed.

The idea was to try to rebuild broken relationships across communities and with the police.

But Cardiff didn't make things better. We've all watched the summer crash – that collision and damage linked to parading, protests and policing.

And so there are those who dismiss this process as a waste of time, a poor second in importance compared to the upcoming Haass initiative.

Loyalists are particularly nervous about the talks. As Jackie McDonald and John Bunting took their seats yesterday representing the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), they were taunted on Twitter from inside their own organisation.

"God will bless the peacemakers, not those attending (yesterday's talks) who are attention seekers and time wasters," the UPRG in west Belfast tweeted.

This part of the organisation is closely associated with the on-going protest at Woodvale linked to the Twelfth decision not to allow a parade to pass Ardoyne.

So what do we read into these developments? The only conclusion is that further cracks are appearing within the UDA and at the very top of that organisation.

Another loyalist not connected to the UDA said: "There are things being said within the community that we haven't heard for a long time, and we're having to say to people, 'do you know what that means, the consequences?'."

The clear inference is that there are those talking about the old ways of 'war'. Yesterday, senior police, politicians, republicans and loyalists sat in the same room with academics and community representatives to try to find a way out of the mess.

But there are others playing in it – a dangerous game of brinkmanship that could have deadly consequences.

As the talking continues, that's the danger on the streets.

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