Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

UUP rejects Haass proposals as unviable and unworkable

Mike Nesbitt: We don't believe that Haass has cracked it
Mike Nesbitt: We don't believe that Haass has cracked it

Ulster Unionists have rejected the final report on resolving Northern Ireland's most divisive issues by US diplomat Richard Haass as "unviable and unworkable".

The party's ruling executive last night dismissed the proposals n flags, parades, and dealing with the past after a two-and-a-half-hour meeting in Co Antrim.

Leader Mike Nesbitt said afterwards: "We don't believe that Haass has cracked it, but we still hope to see a positive resolution to these issues."

But he added it was now up to Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to "sort out the mess" arising from the Haass negotiations.

Mr Nesbitt also said it was clear that First Minister Robinson and Deputy First Minister McGuinness – who commissioned the process led by Dr Haass and his vice-chair Meghan O'Sullivan – were not "on the same page".

"Peter Robinson seems to want a working group to discuss the issues further while Martin McGuinness wants a working group to implement the existing document," he said.

The UUP chief, however, said his executive would meet again next month to examine any agreed way forward from the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers.

The outright rejection came after Dr Haass yesterday published a summary of his proposals online and argued they offer a better future for Northern Ireland on issues that will become more difficult to resolve as time goes on.

While the DUP has yet to give its verdict, more than 90 members of the UUP executive from across Northern Ireland gathered at the Hilton Hotel in Templepatrick and afterwards issued a statement.

"This executive believes the Haass document is not viable and therefore unacceptable," it stated.

"This executive further calls on OFMDFM to sort out the mess resulting from the process they initiated."

Mr Nesbitt again accused the Alliance Party of "opening a Pandora's box" by attempting to cherry-pick the proposals in the closing stages of the talks. And while Mr Nesbitt had indicated that at one stage agreement was 80-90% achieved, the UUP stepped back from that position after seeing the seventh draft of Dr Haass' proposals, which became the final text.

He said there was "a catch-all element" to the criteria for new parades structures which could have affected the frequency of future marches.

Meanwhile, a week after the Haass talks broke up without agreement, the DUP's negotiating team had been due to brief party officers yesterday. But there was no confirmation that the meeting had taken place.

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