Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

We must tell our politicians to sort out mess

At the end of another frustrating week, some people might be accused of dwelling too much on the failure of the Haass talks. However, it is hard to ignore the sounds of acute disappointment in the BBC's interview with Dr Haass and our own interview with Professor Meghan O'Sullivan on Thursday.

Beneath the diplomatic language there was a core of steel, and much frustration. In Richard Haass's laugh ,when asked if he would return, and in Meghan O'Sullivan's observation that the politicians were out of step with the people of Northern Ireland, it was not difficult to understand the disappointment of these high-achieving Americans.

They were invited here by politicians to help in a crisis, within a deadline set by them, they gave up much time over six months, they lost most of the Christmas period, they listened to hundreds of people, and for what?

They produced a document which the majority of people here would undoubtedly support, but they were scuppered by the age-old inability of our politicians to compromise. Haas and O'Sullivan are highly able individuals hardwired into the American diplomatic process, and their report back cannot have made good reading or listening for the American government.

Most likely it further hardened the growing impression that we are an intransigent people beyond help, and this will do our image no good at all, especially when we need US investment more than ever to rebalance our economy.

In the meantime, perhaps Professor O'Sullivan has given us a clue which we would all do well to ponder. If there is indeed a fracture between our politicians and the majority of our people, it is time for us to make our demands more clearly known to party leaders.

Our churches, trade unions, other organisations and individuals have an important role in bringing our politicians back to the negotiating table, and demanding that they stay there until they find a solution.

The people are totally fed up with the politicians, and they cannot simply walk away from the mess they have created.

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