Belfast Telegraph

Haass rules out role in new talks

US peace envoy Richard Haass has ruled out returning to Northern Ireland to broker a deal on parades, flags and the toxic legacy of the Troubles.

A visit by the former diplomat to meet Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore in Dublin provoked speculation that he could chair a fresh round of talks between party chiefs at Stormont after the local and European elections.

But after his meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs at Iveagh House, Mr Haas said while he remained interested in the process, his formal role has ended.

Mr Gilmore said Mr Haas had made enormous progress towards an agreement on the outstanding issues in December and urged party leaders in Northern Ireland to knuckle down over the coming weeks to complete the process.

"With the local and European elections in Northern Ireland now over, the party leaders are due to resume their talks next week," he said.

"On the eve of the renewed talks, I want to send a message of support and solidarity to the party leaders.

"This is the time for agreement."

Mr Gilmore previously said there was a window of opportunity between the elections and the loyalist marching season in July.

Previous attempts by Mr Haass to secure agreement between the five main parties in Northern Ireland on outstanding issues in the peace process ended without consensus on New Year's Eve.

Draft proposals remain on the table but there's been little to no progress in attempts among party leaders to forge a lasting deal.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have backed a blueprint but the Democratic Unionists and Ulster Unionists (UUP) have demanded significant changes.

The UUP has also withdrawn from the talks over the controversial deal that saw on-the-run (OTRs) republicans sent letters telling them they were not wanted by police in the UK.

The Alliance party said it would be happy with some necessary changes in the legislatives stages of passing the blueprint.

Amnesty International urged party leaders, and both the Irish and British governments, to work together for a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to help Troubles victims secure truth and justice.

"Enough is enough - parties and governments now need to deliver for all victims," said Patrick Corrigan, the human rights organisation's programme director in Northern Ireland.

"With elections out of the way, parties and governments must come together to finish the job started under the chairmanship of Richard Haass.

"The draft proposals must now be refined and built upon to ensure they are in line with international human rights standards and do not replicate Northern Ireland's current patchwork approach to the past."


From Belfast Telegraph