Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Richard Haass sticking to 'year end' deal on flags, parading and the past

Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan are to hold 10 sessions this week with the Executive parties at the Europa Hotel in Belfast

US diplomat Richard Haass has restated his goal of a political agreement on issues of flags, parading and the past by the end of the year.

The team led by Dr Haass is back in Northern Ireland this week to begin intensive negotiations. as part of a two-week drive involving the Executive parties

The talks are focused on the unfinished business of the peace process – specifically the issues of flags, parades and the past.

Writing on his Twitter account, talks chairman Dr Haass restated the "year's end" deadline and described the goal of agreement as both "desirable and doable".

Last week, the negotiating teams from the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance met in a working group to address 'homework' set by Dr Haass and talks vice-chair Dr Meghan O'Sullivan.

As exclusively revealed in the Belfast Telegraph, one question put to them was: "What might a process to design and validate a new Northern Ireland flag look like?"

Questions were also asked on parades and the past.

Ulster Unionist negotiator Tom Elliott rejected any suggestion of an amnesty or changes to the flag.

"An amnesty is out," he said.

"A truth commission is out, certainly as Sinn Fein would see it.

"And any replacement of the Union flag as our national symbol is out," Mr Elliott said.

The Haass team is also due to meet the Progressive Unionist Party this week.

Party leader Billy Hutchinson said: "There will be no tampering with the Union flag. It is the flag of the United Kingdom."

The Haass/O'Sullivan team have pencilled in 10 sessions with the Executive parties this week – meeting each of them twice.

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