Belfast Telegraph

Richard Haass: Northern Ireland's politicians should be realistic and implement my proposals

By Liam Clarke

Pressure on Northern Ireland's politicians to implement the final Haass proposals has stepped up a gear after the talks chairman said parties expecting an agreement exactly to their liking were "being unrealistic in the extreme".

The arm-twisting statement issued by Dr Richard Haass combined with others from the Government and the four main churches added new impetus to the stalled process to resolve Northern Ireland's most divisive issues – flags, parades and dealing with the past.

In a dramatic intervention, the former US diplomat and talks co-chair Meghan O'Sullivan yesterday expressed disappointment that the five Executive parties had made no progress since negotiations ended in disarray on New Year's Eve.

They appealed to the parties to set a timetable for the implementation of their final paper, in a statement that will be seen as an implicit rebuke to the DUP, UUP and Alliance – all of whom want a more selective approach.

"We are pleased that some of the parties of the Executive have endorsed the agreement in its entirety and agreed to move forward on its implementation," the talks chairs said.

"We are disappointed that all five have not done so. Unquestionably, there are details that need further refinement, but these details should be honed in the necessary legislation and during implementation."

Only Sinn Fein and the SDLP have endorsed the document and asked for total implementation.

"Our experience in Northern Ireland suggests that those who believe they can ensure that each and every element of the agreement is to their liking – and still secure five-party consensuses – are being unrealistic in the extreme," Dr Haass and Prof O'Sullivan added.

"Politics inevitably requires that each party accept some elements it views as disagreeable in order to advance the greater good; indeed, it is only through compromise that the parties will be able to collectively deliver the better future that the people of Northern Ireland demand and deserve."

They concluded by calling "on the parties to make clear... their timetable for completion of an agreement and urge them to move speedily toward its implementation".

Their intervention comes ahead of a debate in the Assembly on Monday afternoon in which Sinn Fein will propose the immediate implementation of the proposals.

Speaking yesterday in the House of Commons, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said it was essential that the talks momentum was not lost.

"It was, of course, disappointing that it didn't prove possible to achieve a comprehensive agreement within the timetable set by Dr Haass and it is clear that some of the parties have genuine concerns about aspects of what's in the final document," she said.

"The Haass process has seen much valuable work done and some real progress has been made.

"The momentum now needs to be maintained."

Further reading

Haass urges peace deal timetable

Haass talks: DUP leader’s approach is the least worst option

Haass: Robinson says more work needed for deal on parades, flags and the past

Haass: Onus on Peter Robinson to spell out what the successes for unionism are in document

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