Belfast Telegraph

Monday 30 November 2015

Washington and St Patrick's Day 'deadline' concentrating minds


Published 15/02/2014

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness with President Obama in the White House last year
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness with President Obama in the White House last year

Is the Washington factor now becoming a bigger part of these continuing talks, with perhaps the hint of a St Patrick's Day deadline?

One unionist, thinking out loud, certainly believes so, that there is now a push to get some "headline stuff" agreed and over the line.

The Executive party leaders and negotiators have been talking in recent weeks, trying to get something moving in the right direction.

But the public commentary involving Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness still suggests a kind of political tug-of-war, with republicans trying to pull the process towards implementation and unionists holding their ground in an argument on the need for more talking.

As that continues, there is a suggestion coming from within the talks that Washington is "snapping over the way Haass was treated".

The US diplomat and his talks vice chair Meghan O'Sullivan left here without a deal after spending months in consultation and negotiation and writing and rewriting proposals.

An Historical Investigations Unit was always part of the proposed deal, and now we read this paper from the Department of Justice on the merits of establishing it now.

Jeffrey Donaldson's comments suggest a package needs to be agreed across the three talks issues, that you can't have one without the others. And it is on the question of parades that he identifies the widest gap.

Given the complexity of the issues, any deal is going to be difficult to achieve.

But there is a view – whether it is denied or not – that the St Patrick's Day date is now concentrating minds.

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