Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Meghan O'Sullivan and Richard Haass' peace vow: 'We're not going away, you know...'

Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan arrive back in Belfast for one last attempt to broker agreement between the parties Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker

Whether it is a deal or no deal, or a mixed outcome, we haven't seen the last of Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan.

The two have to get back to their day jobs but are still prepared to devote time to Northern Ireland on a less sustained basis. For instance the proposal on flags envisages a year-long process by the Commission on Identity, Culture and Traditions to examine the issue along with the case for a Bill of Rights and the position of the Irish language.

Dr Haass, who travels frequently, envisages keeping in close touch with that and meeting people, if it is considered helpful.

So may Professor O'Sullivan.

They may also be available to the implementation body to assist in its task of assessing progress.

Both of them have, Dr Haass said, been in touch with "officials at the highest levels of the British, Irish and American governments".

They can be expected to act as advocates for the three governments to support the Executive, financially and morally, in implementing the agreement.

They see agreement here as something that can be applied, with modification, to other troubled regions. This is something which they will clearly be eager to promote and be associated with.

If, instead of success, there is no agreement or only a partial one, they see that as a serious setback.

"It would mean deep disappointment among the public and quite possibly lead to a future of more frequent and more intense protest and disruption. And having no agreement would mean a future that had to exist without the benefit of a thorough viewing when it comes to the past," Dr Haass said on Saturday. Despite this he would still do his best to push the process forward.

"In the absence of an agreement Professor O'Sullivan and I will, early in the new year, issue our own report that addresses all the issues that have been central to this negotiation and we will give our thoughts in such a context, not in a way that reflects the consensus of the parties but rather that reflects a joint consensus between us," he stated.

He suggested they may also be prepared to allocate responsibility for blockages in the process.

"We are prepared to speak truth to power if it comes to that, but we would much prefer to have power itself embrace a road map for its own future," he added.

Both of them believe that such a report would help ensure that the time spent in the last six months of discussions was not entirely wasted.

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