David Cameron vows: no one-sided rewriting of the past
The Prime Minister has vowed that he will never sign up to any structure dealing with Northern Ireland's troubled past that "could lead to a one-sided rewriting of history".
Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, David Cameron also called for the parties to "finish the job" started by US diplomat Richard Haass and reach early agreement on flags, parading and the past.
Mr Cameron suggested that negotiations should start almost immediately, and be completed before the marching season gets fully under way.
"I now believe, with elections out of the way, there is a pressing need for a renewed push by Northern Ireland's politicians to finish the job," the Conservative leader wrote.
"The coming weeks before the parading season reaches its height will be crucial. So I am urging all the party leaders to seize this opportunity by getting down to the serious business of finding a way forward, through an intensive process to deliver an agreement."
Senior political sources say that the five executive parties will shortly be invited to the renewed talks, though the UUP may not attend. It pulled out of preliminary talks because it disagreed with the Haass proposals, particularly on dealing with the past. One DUP source said he expected them to start early next week.
One passage in the article addresses unionist concerns – but will not go down so well with nationalists and republicans.
"I understand the concerns of those who fear that new structures, particularly on the past, could lead to a one-sided rewriting of history in which the sole focus is on the British state and its agencies," the PM wrote.
"I have always said that no government I lead will ever be party to that. In fact I believe that an agreement on the past provides an opportunity to ensure that any new structures are balanced, accountable and transparent, not one-sided or partisan. It would also be a chance to ensure that victims are placed at the centre of any process."
Mr Cameron put progress on the three divisive issues in an economic context. He stated that "as Prime Minister I am deeply committed to doing the best for Northern Ireland... the Government and the Executive are working more closely than ever before to boost the private sector and bring more jobs here."
However the PM conceded that "the recession here was deeper than in other parts of the UK and the recovery is not yet as strong."
He added: "If we are going to build a genuinely shared and more prosperous Northern Ireland that can win in the global race then it is also essential that we tackle the legacies of our divided past. We have seen how disputes over parading and flags can result in appalling and unjustifiable public disorder that places a huge burden on the police."
Mr Cameron said that the 'on-the-runs' controversy had shown that "the past has the capacity to poison the political atmosphere and create a political impasse".
"That makes taking decisions on a range of important issues for Northern Ireland much harder to achieve. And of course we should never forget the pain that endures for the families of victims.
"We owe it to them finally to deal with these issues in a way that may help heal those wounds."
He put the main onus on local politicians but promised Governmental support.
"Over the coming weeks, the UK Government will continue to be fully engaged in supporting, encouraging and facilitating progress. Solutions cannot be imposed from outside," he wrote.
The main parties, except for the UUP, have continued to meet after the Haass talks broke up without a deal.
Last month, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore called for a new push to reach agreement.
However, Mr Gilmore has now quit after a disastrous election. And Richard Haass said on Friday that he will not be returning.