Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Talks to ease tensions planned

Northern Ireland politicians are being invited to cross-party talks in the wake of the Union flag disturbances

Politicians on all sides in Northern Ireland are to be invited to private talks in Cardiff next week in a new attempt to ease sectarian tensions on the streets of Belfast.

Police confirmed that meetings would take place next weekend. Academics from the University of Ulster are also believed to be involved in the new initiative.

The moves follows serious trouble in Belfast over Christmas and New Year after the city council's decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag to designated days.

Security chiefs are also increasingly worried about the prospect of further violence in the coming months linked to disputed parades close to loyalist and nationalist interface areas.

The Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have also announced the setting up of an all party working group with an independent chairman to discuss flags, parades and how to deal with Northern Ireland's past.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said they would be meeting with key stakeholders in Cardiff to discuss a range of issues in relation to policing in Belfast.

A statement added: "The attendee list has not yet been finalised. As a Police Service, we believe it is important that we listen to the views expressed by our stakeholders and the community. We also want to ensure constructive lines of engagement are established and remain open.

"There are no further details at this stage."

A spokesman for the Progressive Unionist Party, the political wing of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, some of whose members were centrally involved in the street disorder, confirmed they had been invited to attend. No decision had been made.

He said: "There is a lot of scepticism about what can be achieved in such a short space of time, but it is better than doing nothing. Therefore, I think the space needs to be given for the initiative to take place."

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