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Negotiations on flag flying doomed to fail

Published 13/09/2016

Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw ('Making progress on issue of flag flying', Write Back, September 9), in seeking a way forward to deal with the endless disputes surrounding the displays of flags and emblems, suggests the best way forward is through legislation.

I seem to recall being down that particular road before. Previous plans to bring the Northern Ireland parties back to the negotiating table, courtesy of new initiatives developed by retired US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, ended in failure.

Although the political parties did fail to reach a consensus on the final set of proposals from Dr Haass, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Ms Bradshaw's Alliance Party, despite 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, representing 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 Orange 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

Chair, Irish National Congress

Dublin

Belfast Telegraph

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