Belfast Telegraph

Stormont deal: A little give and take broke the stalemate

By Brian Rowan

This time the Christmas talks story had a different ending.

After Eames/Bradley and then Haass/O'Sullivan, this third attempt to find a way of addressing the questions of the conflict years at last found agreement.The key negotiators have laid the building blocks that might just begin to make the future.

The detail of the process was described differently by the First and Deputy First Ministers. Peter Robinson said what we got is "many times better" than the Haass/O'Sullivan document, while Martin McGuinness said the architecture was "all Haass".

In the end, it will be what people make it. There is no point in a Historical Investigations Unit, an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval, an Implementation and Reconciliation Group and an Oral History Archive if they leave this place mired in the past.

In the wider frame of these talks, a deal based on money alone wasn't going to be a deal, so there was a need for something else to be showcased alongside the big breakthrough on finance and welfare.

In these talks, parades didn't get very far down the road and a Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition is parked more or less where Haass left this issue 12 months ago.

Dealing with the past, however, was one area that had the potential to be advanced.

Legacy inquests will continue as a separate process to the Historical Investigations Unit - a key Sinn Fein/SDLP demand. The themes and patterns that will eventually be part of a report on the conflict years have been left vague - settling unionist concerns.

It was on these two issues that the negotiations over the past played out in the final hours of the talks. Everyone had to give something to help make something.

There was something else different about yesterday - the tone set by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

They both know that things have to change on Stormont's hill and in their language there was no sense of points-scoring. In this negotiation, nobody got all they wanted.

Not long ago there was little hope that these talks would achieve anything. In the end, big steps were taken out of the Stormont stalemate.

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