Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Ford calls for Haass talks backing

Former US envoy Dr Richard Haass is chairing all-party discussions aimed at helping resolve divisions over parading, flags and the legacy of the conflict

Northern Ireland justice minister David Ford has called on politicians to ensure the success of the Haass talks.

Former US envoy Dr Richard Haass is chairing all-party discussions aimed at helping resolve divisions over parading, flags and the legacy of the conflict.

Mr Ford said nearly 700 police officers had been injured during sustained rioting linked to parades and protests since July last year.

"That toll of injury is a colossal statement of the debt that this society owes to members of the PSNI," he told the assembly, also acknowledging the role of mutual aid officers from Great Britain.

"It is a clear indication of the need we have to ensure that we do not just talk up the Haass process but commit to ensuring that the five-party talks succeed in resolving those difficult issues of parades and policing and the past and the sectarianism which underpins all of it."

Dr Haass, who was envoy to Northern Ireland during George Bush's presidency in 2001-03, was appointed to chair the new political talks initiative aimed at resolving three of the most contentious issues facing the power-sharing institutions at Stormont.

Supported by US foreign affairs expert Dr Meghan O'Sullivan, he has until Christmas to find common ground on three outstanding issues not dealt with by the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement - flags and emblems; parades; and dealing with the legacy of the past.

The ex-White House envoy drafted in to help resolve some of Northern Ireland's most divisive issues has said he leaves the region with a great sense of confidence.

He will return for further discussions next month.

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