Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Haass talks: DUP leader’s approach is the least worst option

Dr Richard Haass said his proposals would leave people in Northern Ireland considerably better off - but they were rejected by the Ulster Unionists.
Dr Richard Haass said his proposals would leave people in Northern Ireland considerably better off - but they were rejected by the Ulster Unionists.

Peter Robinson needs to take the bad look off the failure of the Haass talks to reach agreement on any of three items they were set up to resolve.

The First Minister wants a soft landing — but the big question is whether this enterprise can ever fly again now that the momentum that kept it aloft has melted into recrimination.

People must wonder whether these proposals are being ceremonially dumped in a sea of flim-flam and fine words.

The situation is far from ideal but, given where we are, Mr Robinson’s approach appears the least worst option and, if he shows his sincerity, other parties may yet give it a chance despite their initial frustration.

Dr Haass himself thought so when he tweeted last Thursday that he welcomed Peter Robinson's support for a working group of the Executive’s five parties in order to narrow differences, and act where there is consensus.

It is a pity that the DUP and the other parties had not done this work during the Haass process, but walking away is a worse option than trying again.

Mr Robinson told his DUP party officers: “I agree with Dr Haass that the issues are of such importance that they need to be tackled now rather than later.”

If he is serious about that, he needs to reach out to Mr McGuinness — who is frustrated after swallowing hard to accept parts of the agreement — preferably before this weekend’s Sinn Fein ard chomhairle.

The European and local government elections in May are not a valid excuse for failing to make progress. The two parties steered through policing reforms in February 2010 even though they faced a Westminster election that May.

Mr Robinson’s promises to resolve remaining difficulties must now be tested against his actions.

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