Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 3 May 2015

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Haass talks: Clock ticking as task gets tougher

Those Sinn Fein papers released yesterday give us an idea of just how difficult a negotiation this is going to be.

Unionists want the Parades Commission scrapped, republicans want it strengthened.

Then there is the controversial proposal of two flags or no flag.

And that's before the talking gets down to the past – the poisonous issue everyone accepts presents the biggest challenge within this ambitious initiative.

But the Haass/O'Sullivan team is focused, insisting that the negotiating job is completed within its timeframe and that there will be agreements on the table before Christmas.

Is it all too much to hope for? It is too early to say.

The real moments of decision will come in that fortnight of hothouse talks planned for next month.

This phase of the negotiations is to give Haass and O'Sullivan some better understanding of where they think they can take the Executive parties on these three huge issues.

In just a few weeks' time the talking will be condensed into firm proposals, and that is when we get to the real moment of decision.

Haass has big hopes for this process.

But can he take the parties with him?

It is a huge ask.

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