Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

DUP handed Orange Order a veto on Haass

YOUR report on attempts to bring the Northern political parties back to the negotiating table for a further attempt to settle questions about the past, flags and parades is to be welcomed ('NI parties resume their talks on Haass negotiations', News, May 7).

However, your report on this new initiative – developed by retired US diplomat Dr Richard Haass – claimed the Northern Ireland parties failed to strike an agreement in the last round of talks, on New Year's Eve. Such a view is inconsistent with the facts.

Although the parties did fail to reach a consensus on the final set of proposals from Dr Haass, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance Party, in spite of some reservations, were prepared to recommend to their respective ruling executives acceptance of the Haass proposals. However, the make-up of the DUP delegation ensured no such agreement was ever a likelihood.

The selection of the Rev Mervyn Gibson of the Orange Order as a DUP delegate was an indication from the outset of the talks that the DUP would not accept any resolution from the Haass process which was unacceptable to the Order. To effectively allow the unelected Orange Order a veto on endgame political discussions on sensitive issues like parades, flags and the past – given the toxic atmosphere of Northern Ireland politics – is anathema to acceptable standards of negotiations between elected politicians on behalf of divided communities.

TOM COOPER

Dublin

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