Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Parties must seek compromise

The Haass talks on the contentious issues of flags, parades, and the past are moving up several gears from today with hothouse discussions due to begin. It seems slightly odd that the proposals put forward to the politicians are only being seen by them and that the public is generally being kept in the dark.

Perhaps this allows those engaged in the talks to take a more considered view without the immediate pressure of comments from all sorts of disparate groups.

However this newspaper has been able to uncover some of the suggestions put forward for discussion and they contain some bold ideas along with some tried and trusted formulas.

Of course what will appeal to one party will be seen as a non-runner by another – at least initially – but past experience shows that when the talking gets serious and the shuttle diplomacy gets into full swing, movement is always possible.

Our first impressions are that flags – for all the DUP's seemingly outright rejection of those proposals – are an issue that parties could be prepared to compromise on.

Similarly with parades, at least in bringing forward new structures and ideas.

The acid test of course will come if various groups opposed to any change continue to defy whatever the politicians sign up to.

It is likely that the parties will find some words of accommodation on dealing with the past, but whether that will mean real change is another matter, given the difficulties that the legacy of the Troubles present.

It has always been a long shot that these contentious issues could be resolved within the tight time-frame that has been given to the Haass talks.

It is also unrealistic to expect him to come up with some magic solutions that everyone can sign up to.

What these talks are really about is finding out how our politicians have matured in government and how they can search for accommodation on very difficult issues.

The public may well give the greatest credit in future to those who genuinely seek compromise, even if all the issues cannot be fully resolved but are allowed to evolve towards a settlement.

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