Belfast Telegraph

Ambition is needed in Haass talks

By Joe Byrne

The Haass negotiations must be embarked upon by the participating parties in good faith in order to maximise their potential outcome.

The negotiations deal primarily with three of the outstanding issues parked at the time of the Good Friday Agreement: flags, parades and the past.

These have soured the political atmosphere and effectively paralysed the devolved machinery of government.

They are a symptom of the wider failure to embrace the spirit and values of the agreement.

The result has been the stalemate that Dr Haass has been invited to address and the weariness of the public who are frustrated and fatigued by the street disturbances and mayhem of the past year and the antics of the two larger parties in the executive, the DUP and Sinn Fein.

We all have a shared interest in working out a comprehensive answer in the Haass process – one based on common sense and mutual respect.

In Dr Richard Haass and vice-chair professor Meghan O'Sullivan we are fortunate to have very experienced and skillful professional diplomats.

The political parties must now measure up to the challenge of the public's demands and deliver on the ambitions of our people.

Our young people, in particular, deserve it in terms of their needs and aspirations, as well as victims and survivor groups, business associations, trade unions and the community and voluntary sector.

The SDLP is acutely aware of our responsibility in this regard and we will do all in our power to engage and participate positively.

The issues of flags, parades and the past undoubtedly constitute a difficult menu – given the past year.

However, the public deserves the commitment and effort of the parties to contribute constructively to the Haass negotiations.

The parties must go for it with ambition and resolve to deliver the comprehensive outcome that would give us all new hope and the fresh start promised in the Good Friday Agreement.

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