Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 4 October 2015

Unionist refusal to compromise over Richard Haass talks doesn't represent wider society in north

By Declan Kearney

Published 09/01/2014

Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan pictured at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast
Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan pictured at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast

Two important realities emerged from the Haass talks.

Firstly, compromise was, and is possible in relation to all the issues under discussion, despite the difficulties. Secondly, significant sections of political unionism are now refusing to embrace those compromises.

That will compound the disappointment of the greater number people who hoped this process would contribute to new political progress.

The Haass proposals fell short of Sinn Féin’s preferred outcomes. But, in multi-Party negotiations not everyone gets everything they want.

Sinn Féin’s negotiation team assessed that these proposals, on balance, can provide our community with a roadmap to move forward.

This week republican leaders and activists are meeting across Ireland to consult upon a recommendation that Sinn Féin should formally endorse the Haass proposals at our Ard Chomhairle on Saturday, January 11.

Sinn Féin members, supporters and victims and survivors in the republican community will be encouraged to embrace these compromise proposals in the interests of the greater good.

Imagine if the DUP and UUP were to show the same positive leadership.

Instead, the extremes of political unionism and orangism are setting the political pace for both parties. That doesn’t represent the aspirations of all unionist people; those citizens who accept equality with their republican neighbours; embrace parity of esteem; and, agree the reality of many narratives about the past shouldn’t deny us all a new future.

Political unionism needs to step away from unionist and Orange extremists.

Unionist rejection of wider society’s support for the Haass proposals must not be allowed to create a political vacuum.

Last week Theresa Villiers spoke about the need to ‘maximise the momentum created’. This British Government has been disengaged from the peace process for some time. It now needs to take responsibility for bringing real momentum back into both the peace and political processes here.


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