Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

UK 'must help fund peace deal'

Martin McGuinness has warned that if progress is not made in the inter-party talks in the next three weeks or so, then a peace deal might not be reached

The UK Government has a huge responsibility to provide funding to help implement any potential deal emerging from the latest peace process negotiations in Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness has insisted.

Stormont's Deputy First Minister claimed the administrations in Washington and Dublin were also of the view that London should make a contribution in the event of an agreement on how to deal with the contentious issues of flags, parades and the legacy of the past.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said the Government could not make any guarantees that it would release additional support to the region but said any bid would be considered "very seriously".

Stormont is currently locked in political impasse on a draft deal to resolve the three divisive issues.

Former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, who chaired a six-month talks process in a bid to find agreement, has proposed a blueprint settlement that has yet to achieve consensus.

While Sinn Fein and the SDLP want to implement the Haass document as it stands, the DUP and UUP want significant elements re-negotiated.

The Alliance party want the plan implemented but want to make what, it insists, are necessary changes as it goes through the legislative stages at Stormont.

The leaders of the five parties are due to meet again tomorrow in a bid to make progress.

If the broad architecture of the Haass plan was accepted it would necessitate the establishment of a range of new public bodies.

Mr McGuinness told the Assembly that the onus was on the British Government to contribute financially to implementation.

"I think there is a huge responsibility on the British Government in particular to recognise that in the event of agreement being reached that they should make a financial contribution towards the establishment of these important bodies to deal with what are very contentious issues within the process," he said.

"I would contend that whatever price that would be paid by the British government would be minimal in the context of resolving issues that cause great aggravation in our community and have, by their existence, created all sorts of difficulties within these institutions.

"I met with the British secretary of state recently and that issue was raised. I have also raised it with the (Irish deputy prime minister) tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, who I have been in contact with and also met recently, and I think that it's also clear from the interest taken by the White House and by the State Department that there is very clear recognition that in the context of an agreement being reached that the British Government should make a financial contribution towards the resolution of these issues."

Mr McGuinness has already warned his political rivals in Stormont that if progress is not made in the inter-party talks in the next three weeks or so, then a deal might not be reached.

Today he said local politicians needed to change public perceptions that they had failed.

"I think there is huge responsibility on all of us to find a way forward on these three contentious issues," he said.

"I think it is incumbent on all of us to be positive and constructive and to recognise that the lot of politicians among the general public isn't great, and I find that embarrassing.

"I think what we need to do is show the public right across society that we have the ability to tackle these difficult issues.

"We have tackled even more difficult issues than this in the past."

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