Belfast Telegraph

Haass must tread political minefield

Editor's Viewpoint

If Richard Haass wants to see the depth of emotion stirred by parading in Northern Ireland then his first port of call after he touches down at Belfast International Airport should be the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast.

Already there for 61 days, the protesters have vowed to remain until they can complete the banned march past Ardoyne to Ligoniel. The Orange Order's County Grand Master for Belfast George Chittick says that this is not another Drumcree because they are staying put unlike that protest which eventually petered out. That is strong language given the events which surrounded the Portadown protest.

Some people have suggested that the issues of parades and flags will be easier to resolve at the Haass talks then how to deal with the legacy of the past. They base their optimism on the fact that deals on parades were nearly brokered before.

But this summer has seen the temperature rise politically and the big question now is are the Orange Order and republicans willing to compromise. Unless all sides enter the talks with a determination to succeed, then it will be difficult to find a resolution.

It could be argued that the Orange Order is not representative of feelings in the wider unionist community, but the issues they raise feed into feelings in that community that their Britishness is being eroded and that republicans and nationalists gain all the concessions. However misguided that opinion is, it is widespread, often fuelled by politicians keen to make a point for political ends.

Dr Haass must help alter that perception if his talks are to stand any chance of success.

How can the US diplomat convince unionists that their allegiances are being protected while simultaneously accepting that republicans have a right to pursue their diametrically opposed ambitions? If he can solve that riddle then he's a winner. But it's a very big if.

Belfast Telegraph

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