Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 April 2016

Recommenced cross-party talks following on from Haass an opportunity to end the doubt and drift

By Colum Eastwood

Published 12/06/2014

Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan pictured at the Stormont Hotel last December
Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan pictured at the Stormont Hotel last December

News of a renewed and intensive talks process will present the parties with an opportunity to put an end to the on-going doubt and drift.

The Haass/O’Sullivan talks which ended on New Year’s Eve left us with a sense that there was much done but more to do. The SDLP gave a general endorsement to the proposals on the basis that so much progress had been made and that outstanding issues could be worked out and resolved during the legislative process.

Victims and survivors became the strongest voice and the greatest authority during the Haass/O’Sullivan process. Their involvement and engagement in the process must be acknowledged and honoured. We owe it to them and to future generations to resolve our outstanding issues once and for all and to ensure that we are not continually imprisoned by our past.

The Haass proposals gave us a sound basis to proceed. The new process, where the parties are to meet for two three-day sessions, presents us with an opportunity that we cannot afford to squander.

The clock is against us. The marching season is approaching and tensions will inevitably heighten.

The SDLP have been clear all along. It is essential that that two Governments as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement must be in the room. They will have material legislative and operational responsibility for the outcomes of these intensive talks so their input and good authority is essential from the start. They played a key part in the Good Friday Agreement and must play a key part in these talks.

All of the parties to the talks have a responsibility to ensure that there is no more doubt and drift. All of our people deserve better.

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