Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Dublin and London must stop Haass impasse deepening: Sinn Fein

Louth TD Gerry Adams has addressed the Sinn Fein ard fheis in Wexford
Louth TD Gerry Adams has addressed the Sinn Fein ard fheis in Wexford

The British and Irish governments must prevent the Stormont stalemate over flags, parades and the past becoming a vacuum, a Sinn Fein leader has warned.

National chairman Declan Kearney told his party's weekend ard fheis, held in Wexford, that the peace process has reached a "defining point".

His strong language was being seen as an indication that the stand-off with the DUP over Haass could yet develop into a more serious political crisis.

Senior figures attending the event refused to be drawn on the party's strategy if the on-going post Haass talks fail to reach agreement.

But party president Gerry Adams also said London must follow on from Dublin in making clear the Haass document proposals should be implemented.

Mr Kearney told the conference: "The decision by some to try and exert a veto at this stage in our peace process has the potential to create a vacuum. The two governments share a massive responsibility to stop that happening."

He also said on-going "significant conversations" involving churches, trade unions, business, academia and the voluntary sector on the way forward needed to be widened – and called for the Civic Forum to be re-established.

"A defining point has been reached in the peace process. It is no longer an option to simply manage the peace, while extremists peddle wreckers' agendas. Only an authentic reconciliation process will foster the new relationships and trust we need," he added.

Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir also spoke about "risk taking peacemakers" .

He said: "The most radical places I visit in the city aren't the offices of political parties but the places where faith groups gather. There I hear talk about the poor, the vulnerable, the lonely, the sick, the imprisoned and homeless."

The two-day event was dominated by the party's election push in the Republic where European and local government elections also take place in May.

On Northern Ireland, Mr Adams repeated his willingness to meet with Orange Order leaders to discuss contentious parades.

"I am happy to meet with the Orange Order at any time to discuss these matters. I want to see the Orange treating its Catholic neighbours with respect. I want to see it upholding law and order. The Orange Order of Ireland is one of our national traditions," he said.

Mr Adams had already unequivocally apologised to the family of a Garda officer killed by the IRA who asked for a plaque to be removed from Wexford Opera House during the event.

Relatives of detective Seamus Quaid said they could not endure a SF representative sitting in the remembrance seat they dedicated in the building.

The 43-year-old was shot dead in the county on October 13, 1980.

Belfast born IRA member Peter Rogers was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death but it was commuted to 40 years imprisonment and he was released under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

His family also protested at Wexford District Council's decision to hold a welcoming reception, and the plaque was taken down.

STORY SO FAR

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have generally endorsed the Haass proposals on flags, parades and dealing with the legacy of the Troubles but the DUP and Alliance are unhappy with major elements of the plan and Ulster Unionists have dismissed the final Haass document as 'unviable'. However, the five party leaders have been continuing to meet together since talks chaired by Dr Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan broke up on New Year's Eve without agreement.

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