Belfast Telegraph

David Ford fury at First Ministers over talks

By Steven Alexander

The Government should set a date for crunch talks on parades, flags and the past if the First and Deputy First Minister cannot agree one by the end of the week, the Justice Minister has said.

With the height of the marching season now less than three weeks away and the potential for serious disorder still looming, David Ford said it was scandalous that Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness can't agree a date.

Two sessions of three-day discussions were planned to try to reach agreement on the contentious issues of parades, flags and dealing with the past. They are intended to pick up where the failed talks chaired by Richard Haass last year left off.

But that was three weeks ago, and nothing has happened since, the frustrated Alliance leader said.

"Six months after the end of the Haass discussions we are no further on with these critical issues. If dates for the all-party talks are not agreed this week, then we will be left with no option but to call on the British Government to convene a new process with the involvement of the five parties and the Irish Government," Mr Ford said.

"Given the threat to community relations from another summer of unrest, it is scandalous that the First and Deputy First Ministers have left these issues sitting on the shelf. If they will not organise these all-party talks that they promised three weeks ago, then the British Government must take the responsibility of doing so.

"Six months of leaders meetings have achieved nothing. This cannot go on indefinitely."

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are both set to remain in Northern Ireland in case the Twelfth spirals into violence again this year.

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