Belfast Telegraph

Obama's disappointment over Northern Ireland's Haass deal deadlock

By Adrian Rutherford

Barack Obama has taken a swipe at Northern Ireland's politicians over their failure to broker a deal during the Haass talks.

The US President said he was "disappointed" by the outcome and urged the parties to continue to work to reach agreement on flags, parading and the past.

He was speaking after meeting Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the White House.

However, the hoped-for talks between the President and the First and Deputy First Ministers didn't materialise, in what some viewed as a snub.

Instead, Obama appeared alongside Mr Kenny when he warned Northern Ireland must take the necessary steps to move away from the past.

"I was disappointed, the US Government was disappointed, that the all-party talks did not arrive at a final conclusion and agreement," he said.

"But we're urging the parties to continue to work and negotiate. And I know that the good influence coming from Dublin will help to encourage that, to move out of the past and get the kind of history – or the kind of future that Northern Ireland so richly deserves."

Obama was sporting a shamrock and wore a green tie ahead of the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations.

The President, whose great-great-great grandfather was from Moneygall, Co Offaly, also said he would like to return to Ireland.

Asked would he come back, Obama replied: "Oh, I'd love to – tell everybody in Moneygall I said hi."

He also said Vice-President Joe Biden would make a visit.

The President's appeals for progress in Northern Ireland followed remarks from Mr Biden.

The Vice-President said: "Richard Haass set out proposals on how to move forward, the all-party talks have not reached agreement yet, but out of those talks came some good substantive proposals that can provide the basis of progress going forward."

He added: "So we encourage Northern Ireland's political parties to keep going."

Responding to Mr Biden's comments, First Minister Peter Robinson welcomed the encouragement.

"The issues are unresolved and issues that we have to face up to, we have to find a solution to them and we are continuing to work until we do, so we're always happy to have encouragement when we come here to overcome the obstacles that are there," he said.

Martin McGuinness said the unresolved issues must be tackled.

"The fact he turned the bulk of the speech over to what was happening in the North of Ireland was very significant and I think we can see a certain level of dissatisfaction that we haven't concluded the work of Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan," he said.

"As Peter has said, rightly, and I have said also, these are issues that aren't going away. The past, parades and the whole issue of identity needs to be tackled. It is our duty and responsibility."

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