Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 5 September 2015

Richard Haass talks: All parties must realise popular expectations

By Declan Kearney

Published 18/12/2013

Meghan O'Sullivan and Dr Richard Haass arrive for talks at the Stormont Hotel
Meghan O'Sullivan and Dr Richard Haass arrive for talks at the Stormont Hotel

The Haass talks have created a popular expectation for political progress.

While the negotiating issues are parading;  flags, and the past, this process is fundamentally about getting agreement on respect, equality, parity of esteem and the need for reconciliation.

These talks are the latest chapter in a long process of negotiation to resolve the remaining challenges facing our society.

Sinn Féin has approached this process responsibly and comprehensively, as in every previous negotiation.

We have sought maximum inclusivity. We argued no voice should be excluded, and that all sections of the community need to be involved.

That also extends to the two governments.

This British Government’s disengagement has been a constant feature of its policy towards the Peace Process. The British have accepted no responsibility for the issues, or contributed to finding solutions.  That’s not good enough.

Some others engaged in the process have been playing fast and loose with its integrity. Media reports indicate intra-unionist electoral rivalries are being played out, and perhaps at the expense of making real progress. That’s cynical politics, which has nothing to do with serious negotiations.

We all need to embrace a vision of how the Haass talks can enhance the peace process and continued transformation of our society. Electoral expediency or sectional interests should have no influence.

There is a real opportunity to create a new context.

All parties and the two governments should agree to unite, and move forward now to consolidate power-sharing and the political institutions; ensure economic reconstruction, growth and competitiveness; entrench equality; and, achieve authentic reconciliation.

These goals guide Sinn Féin’s negotiation strategy this week.

It is incumbent on all parties to realise the expectations of our people.

Those expectations can be realised if willingness exists to work together for reconciliation and economic prosperity.

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