Belfast Telegraph

Final draft on dealing with Northern Ireland's past released after failure on agreement

By John Mulgrew

The final failed draft document from the Richard Haass talks on dealing with Northern Ireland's past has been released.

The document was released after a marathon last might of negotiations - which continued until 5am on Tuesday morning broke up without agreement.

Prime Minister David Cameron had Northern Ireland's politicians to "keep going" after months of peace talks chaired by former US diplomat Richard Haass failed to result in a deal.

The talks were aimed at securing long-sought resolution to outstanding peace process issues in Northern Ireland.

Dr Haass was given until the end of the year to strike a deal on flags, disputed parades and the legacy of the Troubles, but was unable to attain consensus among Stormont's five main parties.

Among the many political sticking points, the document deals with areas covering new arrangements in dealing with parades, public events, culture and identity along with 'contending with the past'.


The seventh draft outlines the setting up of a new body to deal with the issue of parading, namely The Office for Parades, Select Commemorations, and Related Protests.

The final draft says the new institution would serve a "strictly administrative function intended to efficiently facilitate the vast majority of parades and other events that are non-contentious".

Organisations wishing to plan a parade or commemoration must inform the new body no later than than "25 working days before the planned event".

It shall be a non-departmental public body, supported by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

The body director is to be appointed by OFMDFM.

"The office shall be an administrative, non-partisan, and non-judicial body with authority for accepting event notifications, facilitating community dialogue, andreferring parties to outside mediators, as described below. It shall have no authority tomake adjudications."

Along with a process of "community dialogue and mediation" the draft proposes another body - The Authority for Public Events Adjudication - as a separate institution dealing with adjudication over parades and events in "cases where disputes remain".

It will be made up of seven members, along with a chair, who will be legally qualified.

A code of conduct for parades is also set out - in a similar vein to those already in place under the Parades Commission.

Flags and emblems

With the flying of flags having become an increasingly contentious issue once again in recent months, the final failed draft said parties reached "no agreement" on proposals regarding the flying of flags at government buildings and official sites.

That included keeping the Union flag at City Hall on designated days only, a new flag for Northern Ireland and the prospect of "circumscribed role for the sovereign flag of Ireland in conjunction with the Union flag".

Discussions on flags and emblems "unofficially in a public space" - also ended without agreement on "any approach to unofficial flags, other than reaffirming that paramilitary flags and other paramilitary displays must be banned".

Commission on Identity, Culture, and Tradition

There was agreement on the setting up of a commission to deal with a "conversation" about the role of "identity, culture, and traditions in the life of the citizens of Northern Ireland".

The final draft said: "The primary function of the Commission on Identity, Culture, and Tradition will be to hold structured discussions in public throughout Northern Ireland on a wide variety of issues related to identity, culture, and tradition.

"Discussions may have different foci; some may be held simply to highlight diversity, while others may bringacademics and other experts to examine what identity, culture, and tradition mean inthe context of a multi-cultural society."

Dealing with the past

The most complex and far-reaching section of the Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan talks was the issue of dealing with Northern Ireland's troubled past.

Among proposals was ensuring support for victims and survivors of the Troubles.

The report says two talks are "essential" in that area;

- ensuring that a range of high-quality services exists for those who need them

- ensuring that those individuals have a full understanding of the services available and can pursue those for which they are eligible

Aside from the already established Victims & Survivors Service, it proposes a Mental Trauma Service - in order to "attend to the substantial unmet need of victims in this area".

One of the failures of agreement in this area was over "who should be considered a victim".

The parties failed to agree on the issue.

"Our understandings of the word ‘victim’ in this context were closely tied to our different narratives of the conflict, which are not presently reconcilable."

The seventh draft also outlines the creation of another body to examine the past.

That would include a Historical Investigations Unit - a new body with "additional powers above those currently held by the Historical Enquiries Team will provide a more effective service" for families who believe they have not received justice.

The Independent Commission for Information Retrieval - another body aimed at dealing with past Troubles crimes - could also offer some form of limited immunity/anonymity to those coming forward with information.


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The full report - which was the seventh draft given to the five main political parties - can be accessed here.

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