Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Richard Haass: Onus on Peter Robinson to spell out what the successes for unionism are in document

Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan pictured at the Stormont Hotel
Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan pictured at the Stormont Hotel

The Haass process seemed to be following a predictable pattern with a series of hothouse negotiations long into the night and early hours of the morning in order to meet a deadline.

Why we always need to have arbitrary deadlines is never fully explained. Deadlines are just accepted as part of the "peace process" choreography of which the public is, understandably, fed up.

TUV was the first party to produce a detailed response to Haass listing 22 flaws in the proposals and last night the UUP labeled the document "unacceptable".

Haass, like the now forgotten Unionist Forum, was sold to Unionists as a way to address their concerns. It ended up asking them to concede ground to Republicans and offering nothing in return.

On flags does anything in Haass move us any closer to the Union Flag being restored to its rightful place above City Hall? No. At best Haass recommends the status quo.

On parades does anything in Haass move us closer to Orangemen in north Belfast or Portadown being able to complete their marches? No. The Haass proposals would see the establishment of a Parades Commission Mark 2 with the addition of even more bureaucratic hurdles.

Is there anything in Haass to prevent another IRA parade in Castlederg or somewhere similar? No.

On what the Executive parties describe as “the past” (a term which, as outlined in last week’s blog, I object to) does Haass bring us closer to the day when terrorists will answer for their crimes before the courts? No. Haass proposes “limited immunity” which will allow republican and loyalist terrorists to provide their own self-serving version of “the truth” without any danger of it resulting in them having to answer for their crimes before a court of law. Additionally, as Catherine McCartney and the mother of Paul Quinn have pointed out Haass contains nothing at all on victims of paramilitaries after 1998.

Haass offers unionism nothing on flags or parading. Many innocent victims have already made it clear that they have no interest in "limited immunity" either, whatever DUP chief negotiator Jeffrey Donaldson may believe about the scheme.

Peter Robinson has rejected suggestions that the talks were a failure. The onus is therefore on him and his party to spell out clearly and in simple terms what the successes for unionism in the document are.

Replacing the Parades Commission with the Orwellian sounding Authority for Public Events Adjudication doesn't seem like much of a success to me.

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