Belfast Telegraph

Cleric urges progress on peace deal

A senior cleric has urged political parties in Northern Ireland to reach agreement on dealing with the past.

Former Church of Ireland archbishop Lord Robin Eames said the dark legacy of the past needed to be unravelled once and for all.

All sides in Belfast are scrutinising a revised proposal from a former US diplomat brought in to help reach agreement on issues unresolved by the peace process.

Lord Eames said: "Our dark days, as we call it, are constantly eating away at our hopes for the future, and my hope and prayer is that the Haass talks will produce some formula that will allow us to see justice as well as unravelling this morass in the past.

"A new generation is now in Northern Ireland that has not had to endure what we have seen in the past - they have a right to look forward to a future where there is some sort of security, stability and hope."

He told the BBC: "I believe this Haass process has the opportunity now, if only we have the courage politically to grasp these possibilities, to put these things to bed."

Lord Eames led a previous attempt to deal with the toxic legacy of the past.

Talks chairman Dr Richard Haass has given the five Northern Ireland Executive parties revised proposals on how to deal with parades, flags and the fall out from more than 3,000 conflict deaths.

The latest draft document may recommend a separate process to deal with flags.

An earlier version was rejected by unionists who had major concerns, particularly over its provisions for the controversial emblems. Restrictions a year ago on the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall sparked weeks of sporadic loyalist violence.

This latest set of proposals will form the basis for more round-table talks on Monday.

Dr Haass has pledged to leave no stone unturned in a bid to secure a deal before Christmas Eve.

On Friday he said the next 72 hours would be "crunch time" in the negotiations.

The former White House envoy to the region, who is chairing talks between the parties in Stormont's mandatory power-sharing coalition, acknowledged that more progress had been made on parades and the past than on flags.

Dr Haass, who is working alongside vice-chair Dr Meghan O'Sullivan, a US foreign affairs expert, said the onus on striking a deal rested firmly with the local politicians and stressed that no party would be able to achieve everything they wanted.

But he insisted the proposals on the table were much better than retaining the status quo and predicted they would get the backing of the majority of people in Northern Ireland. He said he did not believe he was asking anyone to sign up to anything that was unreasonable.

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