Belfast Telegraph

DUP 'spitting blood' at talks over Haass proposal on flags


Nerves are fraying as the Haass talks enter their final phase.

The DUP clashed with Dr Haass on flag-flying on civic buildings and the SDLP had an equally tense meeting with the Secretary of State on the past.

On Monday the parties will read a draft document prepared by the US team with a Thursday or Friday deadline set for a deal.

But as the final few days of talks begin, tensions are rising. The DUP crossed swords with Dr Haass on Thursday when the talks chairman consulted it about the flying of flags on civic buildings. Dr Haass pushed the DUP on the acceptability of designated days for the display of the Union flag at all council headquarters.

Nationalist as well as unionist councillors rejected this option.

Both unionist parties will only accept it if Belfast City Hall is made an exception and the Union flag is flown there constantly.

A DUP source refused to discuss what was said, citing confidentiality, but described delegates as "spitting blood".

Progress seems more likely on mechanisms to deal with the past, but here too there was bad temper and frustration when the SDLP met Theresa Villiers on Tuesday.

At the meeting, Alex Attwood accused Ms Villiers of "acting like an observer" to a process she should be contributing to.

He added: "The SDLP team believe the parties and the Irish Government may be moving to the same ground, at least on the issue of addressing the past.

"It is the British Government that is not moving to that ground...

"The British government has a very significant responsibility in addressing the past and it cannot be silent on that issue in coming days." Ms Villiers refused to do what he asked because she felt he wanted her to write a blank cheque – signing up to the Haass process without seeing the outcome.

Officials will see the Haass document in London on Monday, at the same time as parties in Belfast.

Last night Mr Attwood clearly believed that things were heading towards a modified version of the 2009 report on the past, compiled by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley.

The Eames-Bradley report's most contentious item was a £12,000 recognition to the family of everyone who was killed. That item would be removed in Mr Attwood's view, but he insisted that, with a few modifications, "the basic architecture of Eames-Bradley is the way forward".

The central feature was a £100m Legacy Commission and would be given five years to tackle reconciliation, justice and information recovery.

Eamon Gilmore, the Tanaiste, has endorsed this approach on behalf of the Irish Government.

Things to watch for...

1 FLAGS: Flag-flying on civic buildings is the big sticking point and there is no enthusiasm from unionists or nationalists for a new Northern Ireland flag.

2 PARADING: A tiered parades process looks likely. One tier, controlled by local politicians, would try to encourage dialogue and agreement on contentious routes. A second tier, perhaps a judge or panel, would take tough decisions where agreement wasn't reached in time. Sinn Fein wants a third level for appeals.

3 IMMUNITY: Parties are looking at incentives to offer, including targeted immunity from self-incrimination, in return for information on Troubles-era offences. This may be coupled with bodies to investigate individual murders and also examine themes, like collusion or attacks on border Protestants, emerging from the Troubles.

4 VICTIMS: There is support on improved victims services with more help for the wounded and bereaved.

5 FLAGS AND EMBLEMS ON OUR STREETS: A protocol regulating displays of flags on lampposts and other street furniture looks likely in a package on parading.

Belfast Telegraph


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